The introduction of the Dubai Tour last year extended what has become something of a season of races in the Middle East during February. From Sunday February 8 to Friday the Tour of Qatar will be held, a race now firmly established in the calendar, and following that is the Tour of Oman, which in the last few years has seen the first showdown of the season between the biggest GC names.
First up, though, is the least established of the three: the Dubai Tour (February 4-7). Last year’s debut edition betrayed traits of a race yet to establish an identity for itself, with the four days of racing producing a very predictable three bunch sprint finishes and a time-trial.
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Taylor Phinney (BMC) comfortably won the overall after winning the opening time-trial stage and defending his overall lead without much of a challenge, while no other sprinter was able to prevent Marcel Kittel from winning all three flat stages.
Unfortunately, this year’s route hasn’t differed much, despite being upgraded from 2.1 to 2.HC status. In fact the format is basically the same as 2014, with each stage starting at the Dubai International Marine Club water sports complex, and heading to different destinations across the city. Once again the high-altitude points of the race will not be any hills or mountains on route, but rather the towering skyscraper hotels that the riders will be staying in.
The one major difference in this year’s route is the removal of the time-trial in favour of yet another flat stage. As the only stage to cause substantial time gaps between the riders, last year’s time-trial shaped the overall classification, with the top five on the day going on to finish as the top five overall. In its absence, this year’s edition is likely to instead be decided by the bonus time offered at the end of each stage, making it likely that the overall will be challenged for by sprinters.
Their first showdown will be at the Union House Flag, where stage one will finish after four laps along the shore in the city. Stage two takes a larger detour eastwards outside of the city, but returns to finish by the luxurious Atlantic hotel resort for what is likely to be another bunch sprint.
Stage three features the parcours most likely to disrupt the procession of bunch sprints. The organisers have deemed it a ‘medium mountain stage’, but that may yet prove an exaggeration given that heavyweight sprinter Kittel won its equivalent last year. Nevertheless, there are plenty of obstacles for the riders to tackle that could encourage some competitive racing, including the Hajar Mountains and some desert roads that will be more exposed than those in the inner-city.
Normal service resumes for stage four, which confines itself to the flat, built up part of the city and lasts just 123km, the shortest in the race. Should the previous stage have seen no-one gain any serious time, then a mad pursuit of bonus seconds in the finale could make for a chaotic and exciting finish.
Dubai Tour 2015: Stages
Stage one, February 4,Dubai International Marine Club to Union House Flag, 145km
Stage two, February 5, Dubai International Marine Club to Palm Jumeirah (Atlantis), 187km
Stage three, February 6, Dubai International Marine Club to Hatta Dam, 205km
Stage four, February 7, Dubai International Marine Club to Burj Khalifa, 123km
Dubai Tour 2015: Teams
Ag2r La Mondiale
UAE National Selection
Dubai Tour 2015: TV Coverage
The Dubai Tour will be aired live on British Eurosport, with daily highlights.
Dubai Tour: Recent winners
2014: Taylor Phinney
Dubai Tour: Last year’s top ten (2014)
1. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing in 9-31-33
2. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 15 secs
3. Lasse Norman Hansen (Den) Garmin-Sharp at 17 secs
4. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 23 secs
5. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing at 30 secs
6. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Giant-Shimano at 30 secs
7. Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar at 37 secs
8. Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale at 40 secs
9. Peter Velits (Svk) BMC Racing at 42 secs
10. Dylan Van Baarle (Ned) Garmin Sharp at 42 secs