Dubai to host stage race in 2014

Arab emirate launches stage race, may build mountain to accomodate a climbing stage

Not to be outdone by its neighbors Qatar and Oman, the United Arab Emirates has announced that Dubai will host a stage race in early 2014.

The race will be organized under the Dubai Sports Council with the help of Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport and likely slot into late February in the racing calendar next season.

According to a report in the Spanish daily MARCA, the race will help the emirate’s efforts to push to host the Olympic Games in 2024.

Four riders — Ryder Hesjedal, Alberto Contador, Tony Martin and Vincenzo Nibali — attended an exhibition race held Friday night under the lights on an outdoor horseracing track in Dubai.

Martin faced off against an Arabian pure bred while Contador was fastest in a one-kilometer sprint-off against Hesjedal and Nibali.

Dubai has watched as first Qatar and then Oman have unveiled stage races that have attracted top cyclists and the media’s attention to the desert nations largely off the cycling radar.

Both races have become popular as early-season destinations for riders, especially the classics specialists looking to top up form on the high-speed, wind-blasted roads. Luxury accommodation at the five-star Ritz-Carlton in Qatar and a luxurious compound in Oman take the edge off the long travel.

Dubai promises to better the efforts of its neighbors and has even suggested it will construct a mountain in its flat desert landscape to accommodate a climbing stage for its debut Tour of Dubai.

Dubai has already constructed a cycling center with more than 50km of bike-only roads and trails that cyclists can ply safely away from cars.

Backed by petro-dollars, Dubai will certainly have the purse strings to attract top riders with appearance fees. To set the tone, the riders on Friday donned jerseys designed by Versace.