Race focus: three stages dedicated to the sprinters
Exciting bunch sprints are expected for Stage 2 – The “Special Olympics World Games” Abu Dhabi Stage, Stage 5 – the Sharjah Stage, and on the final day, the Meraas Stage.
Here are the stage routes, the sprints’ details and the favorite riders.
Abu Dhabi, 12 February 2019 – The Middle East races have become hot favorites for world’s best sprinters. Here, sprinters of the highest calibre – including Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Elia Viviani, Dylan Groenewegen, Caleb Ewan, Giacomo Nizzolo, Alexander Kristoff, John Degenkolb and Sonny Colbrelli – have achieved important victories during the last five years of the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Tours.
Amongst the inaugural UAE Tour’s seven stages, where the all-rounders are most likely to win the overall General Classification category, the sprinters have to seize their opportunities in the stages that favour them, with only three days that don’t feature mountains.
They are: Stage 2, the “Special Olympics World Games” Abu Dhabi Stage, starting in Yas Island and finishing at the Big Flag; Stage 5, the Sharjah Stage, that runs from Flag Island to Khor Fakkan; and on the last day’s Meraas Stage, when the riders will start at the Dubai Safari Park and finish in the City Walk district.
Many of the leading sprint contenders are expecting to fly to the Emirates for the UAE Tour’s fight of the fastest wheels. So far the list includes 2018’s most successful rider and Dubai Tour winner, the Italian Elia Viviani; double Dubai Tour overall champion and stage winner at all three Grand Tours, the German sprinter Marcel Kittel, the Abu Dhabi Tour and multiple Grand Tour stage winner, Australian Caleb Ewan; the Dubai Tour overall champion and winner of 30 stages at the Tour de France, the Manxman Mark Cavendish; the UAE Team Emirates’ new signing, the Colombian Fernando Gaviria and his team mate, the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (stage winner at last year’s Abu Dhabi Tour), and the Giro d’Italia stage winning Irish sprinter Sam Bennett.
Even the Grand Tours would be proud to have so many fast men on the start list! Let’s look at the stages that are tailor-made for them:
Monday 25 February
From Yas Island to Abu Dhabi Big Flag
Start village: Yas Island – Yas Mall
Sign-on: 10:50 – 12:00
Alignment: 12:10 (2,500m Transfer)
Finish line: Abu Dhabi Breakwater / Big Flag – Estimated time: 16:30
For further information: https://www.theuaetour.com/stages/stage-2/
Raced around the streets of the city of Abu Dhabi, Stage 2 follows one of the classic Abu Dhabi Tour stages. For three years in a row the race ended at the Big Flag. In 2016, first on the finish line was the Manxman Mark Cavendish, with the Italians Elia Viviani and Andrea Guardini on the podium. In 2017 Marcel Kittel beat Caleb Ewan and Cavendish in a photo-finish after a thrilling bunch gallop. In 2018 it was an all-German podium, with Phil Bauhaus outsprinting compatriots, Marcel Kittel and Pascal Ackermann.
In 2019, for the first UAE Tour, the stage will start from Yas Mall with the first part of the route in the northeast part of the city heading towards Khalifa Port, where there is a U-turn on the pier. The riders return to the city along Channel Street and then ride through from Yas Island to Saadiyat Island, past the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Corniche until the reaching the finish line at Abu Dhabi Breakwater for what is expected to be the first sprint of the 2019 race.
Fossil Rock, also known as Jebel Maleihah, is located an hour’s drive from Sharjah city
Thursday 28 February
From Flag Island to Khor Fakkan
Start village: Sharjah – Flag Island
Sign-on: 11:00 – 12:10
Alignment: 12:20 (2,500m Transfer)
Finish line: Khor Fakkan – Estimated time: 16:40
For further information: https://www.theuaetour.com/stages/stage-5/
This stage, that connects the Arabian Gulf with the Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman), is another opportunity for the sprinters. The start is new, with the riders moving from Flag Island and passing through the University of Sharjah towards the desert and the celebrated Fossil Rock. Then the route hits the Hajar Mountains before reaching Kalba, and the peloton will follow the coast north through Fujairah, up to the finish line in Khor Fakkan, where a bunch sprint is expected.
A similar route made for thrilling racing during the Dubai Tour years. In 2016 the sprint on the Indian Gulf, set in Fujairah, was won by the German Marcel Kittel; second and third were Mark Cavendish and Giacomo Nizzolo. A year later, the Dubai Tour’s Stage 3 saw the peloton split into echelons, fighting desert crosswinds – yet the race came back together for another bunch sprint finish, won by another German, John Degenkolb. In 2018, Fujairah witnessed Mark Cavendish’s only victory of the season, ahead of Nacer Bouhanni and Marcel Kittel.
Saturday 2 March
From Dubai Safari Park to City Walk
Start village: Dubai Safari Park
Sign-on: 11:50 – 13:00
Alignment: 13:10 (7,300m Transfer)
Finish line: City Walk, Estimated time: 16:40
For further information: https://www.theuaetour.com/stages/stage-7/
The UAE Tour’s final showdown is through the streets of Dubai, based closely on one of the most popular features of the Dubai Tour. Here Marcel Kittel and Elia Viviani won in 2017 and 2018 respectively, before receiving the Circle of Stars on the final podium. After starting from the Dubai Safari Park the route then grafts on to the familiar course through the Dubai Design District, Mushrif Park, Al Mamzar Beach, Deira, and Rashid Port to reach Jumeirah Road and finish in Citywalk. The final stage is definitely one for the fastest wheels!
Photo Credit: UAE Tour