Understanding the UAE Tour: Flat Stages, Sprinters and the Points Competition

16 Feb 2020

As the one and only WorldTour race in the Middle East, the 2020 UAE Tour, scheduled from 23rd to 29th February 2020, attracts the world’s best riders. Its variety of stages and terrains means that there are opportunities for many different types of riders to succeed. 

United Arab Emirates, 16 February 2020 – Beyond the UAE Tour’s overall competition – the rider who gets to the end of the seventh stage in the quickest time is the General Classification (GC) champion, and winner of the Red Jersey (sponsored by Emirates) – there are other ‘competitions within the competition’, including the Points Competition. It is signified by the competition leader wearing the Green Jersey (sponsored by Mubadala). Sprinters are the specialists who chase the Points Jersey.

Sprinters’ Physiology
Sprinters are typically the taller, heavier riders who output greater power. Check out the physiques of the Germans, Pascal Ackermann (1.82m), and the recently retired Marcel Kittel (1.88m), who powered his way to eight stage wins in the Dubai Tour, winning the Points Competition and GC in 2016 and 2017.

There are some exceptions, including former World Champion Mark Cavendish, who won the Points Classification at the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour. At 1.75m ‘Cav’ is one of the smaller, yet most successful sprinters and is set to debut at this year’s UAE Tour. Winner of the 2019 UAE Tour’s Stage 4, Lotto Soudal’s Caleb Ewan (1.65m) is another compact contemporary.

The sprinters rely on team members to protect them and deliver them to the final few hundred metres, forming a line to push the pace and create a platform, known as a ‘lead-out train’. Sprinters’ delivery is part planned, part reactive. They create immense power – upto 2000 watts – which they must deploy at the right time. Not too early so they burn out before the line, but not too late that their rivals get away, ‘drafting’ behind team-mates to reduce drag and conserve energy until they ‘launch’.

Watching a bunch sprint is one of the most exciting spectacles in sport, as riders hit speeds up to 65kph (40mph).

How the Green Jersey Points system works
Winning stages is what motivates sprinters, along with any Points Competition they can win in the major races such as the UAE Tour. They are awarded points for the first ten positions at the end of each stage. Points are also awarded for the first four riders in Intermediate Sprints (with its own classification and Black Jersey, won last year by Stepan Kuriyanov of GazProm-Rusvelo), held at strategic points on each stage.

UAE Tour 2019 – Previous Sprint Stage winners
Stage 2, Flat (184km, Yas Island to Abu Dhabi)
Winner: Fernando Gaviria (COL)
2nd: Elia Viviani (ITA), s.t.
3rd: Caleb Ewan (AUS), s.t.

Stage 4, Hilly (197km, Palm Jumeirah to Hatta Dam)
Winner: Caleb Ewan (AUS)
2nd: Matteo Moschetti (ITA) +2sec
3rd: Primož Roglič (SLO) +2sec

Stage 5, Flat (181km, Sharjah to Khor Fakkan)
Winner: Elia Viviani (ITA)
2nd: Fernando Gaviria (COL), s.t.
3rd: Marcel Kittel (GER), s.t. 6 points

Stage 7, Flat (145km, Dubai Safari Park to Dubai)
Winner: Sam Bennett (IRL)
2nd: Fernando Gaviria (COL), s.t.
3rd: Caleb Ewan (AUS), s.t.

The Points Jersey was worn by Jos van Emden (Team Jumbo – Visma) after he crossed the line first on Stage 1’s Team Time Trial, then Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Stepan Kuriyanov (GazProm – RusVelo) and by the eventual winner, Elia Viviani (Deceuninck–Quick-Step).

2020 UAE Tour Sprint Stages
With 2020’s modified route for the UAE Tour there are four stages likely to feature a group sprint finish:

Stage 1 – DUBAI SILICON OASIS STAGE – The Pointe – Dubai Silicon Oasis (148km)
From Palm Jumeirah the route heads towards the Al Qudra area, followed by a desert section before returning to the city of Dubai shortly ahead of the finish. The last 300m are perfect for a bunch sprint.

Stage 4 – EMIRATES NBD STAGE – Zabeel Park – Dubai City Walk (173km)
The popular walkway through Dubai’s streets now also becomes a favourite racing route. This stage crosses Mushrif Park and Motor City before the final bend at 500m where it enters the 8.5m wide City Walk which will see the group sprint finish on block paving tiles.

Stage 6 – ADNOC STAGE – Al Ruwais – Al Mirfa (158km)
The ‘desert stage’ takes the E11 road before entering the final 18.9km circuit of Al Mirfa for three laps. The final kilometers feature roundabouts which can present opportunities to catch competitors out ahead of the finish line on 8m wide asphalt.

Stage 7 – ABU DHABI STAGE – Al Maryah Island – Abu Dhabi Breakwater (127km)
The final stage, around the city of Abu Dhabi, follows a classic route from the Abu Dhabi Tour. It passes the Great Mosque, Khalifa City, Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Corniche before arriving in Abu Dhabi Breakwater for the final dramatic sprint finish which will conclude the Points Competition.

The Sprinters to Watch in 2020
Fernando Gaviria, UAE Team Emirates (age 25, 1.8m)
The Colombian has won five stages and the Points Classification at the Giro d’Italia, two at the Tour de France, and one at the first UAE Tour. He has started 2020 strongly, winning three stages at the Vuelta a San Juan.

Caleb Ewan, Lotto-Soudal (age 25, 1.65m)
The Australian has won sprint stages in the Giro, Tour and the Vuelta a España, along with stages at the 2019 UAE Tour and 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour. Ewan started 2020 by winning two stages at the Tour Down Under.

Dylan Groenewegen, Team Jumbo-Visma (age 26, 1.77m)
The Dutchman won stages at the Tour de France in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Dutch national championships in 2016 and the brutal Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Belgian Classic in 2017. Groenewegen finished second Overall in the 2017 Dubai Tour and returned in 2018 to win Stage 1.

Sam Bennett, Deceuninck-Quick-Step (age 29, 1.78m)
The Irish champion has won three stages at the Giro, and two at the Vuelta. After winning the final stage of the 2019 UAE Tour he has started 2020 with wins at the Tour Down Under and Australia’s Race Torquay.

Pascal Ackermann, Bora-Hansgrohe (age 26, 1.8m)
2019 was a breakthrough year for the 2018 German champion, winning two stages at the Giro d’Italia along with the Points Classification.

Arnaud Démare, Groupama-FDJ (age 28, 1.82m)
The double French national champion has stage wins in both the Giro and the Tour plus victory in the 2016 Milano-Sanremo.

Mark Cavendish, Bahrain-McLaren (age 34, 1.75m)
One of the most successful cyclists ever, Great Britain’s former Road World Champion Cavendish has won the Points Classifications at all three Grand Tours, including 30 stages at the Tour de France. He won the Points Classification and GC at the 2015 Dubai Tour, and the Points Classification at the 2016 and 2017 Abu Dhabi Tours.

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