The new UAE Tour will get underway with a cast of heavy hitters next February. Organizers announced at this week’s race presentation that Chris Froome (Sky), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) would make the start of the inaugural edition of the event, formed out of the combination of the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Froome, twice a winner at the Tour of Oman, never competed in either UAE race, making next year’s planned participation a change of pace for the four-time Tour de France winner.
“It’s a new race on my calendar so something that’s completely new to me, but it should be a fantastic, well-rounded event with a team time trial and two uphill finishes as well,” Froome said.
The first edition of the UAE Tour will run from February 24 to March 2. The seven-stage race will visit all seven Emirates on the way from the start in Abu Dhabi to the finale in Dubai. There’s something for everyone along the route, which will feature a day for the puncheurs and three for the sprinters in addition to the time trial and the climbers’ stages.
Well-known climbs from both predecessor races will feature in the event, with the peloton set to take on the Jebel Hafeet in stage 3 and Hatta Dam in stage 4. Valverde rode to the overall win at last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour with a stage win atop Jebel Hafeet.
Like the Abu Dhabi Tour before it, the UAE Tour is a WorldTour event, and it is set to command a WorldTour-caliber start list. Joining the likes of grand tour stars Froome and Nibali will be sprinters Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), as well as world time trial champ Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida), all of whom have won stages in at least one of the two predecessor events.
Viviani was the overall champion at last year’s Dubai Tour, but may find a GC bid a tall order in the UAE Tour, which may have too much climbing to see a sprinter on the final podium.