Abarca Sports, the managing company of Movistar Team, has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Saudi Cycling Federation, the Spanish WorldTour team announced on Monday.
The agreement will see both sides “exchange experiences” and work together to develop bike racing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In a statement shared on Movistar’s website, the team said: “The Saudi Cycling Federation and Spanish Abarca Sports (Movistar Team) signed an agreement today in the presence of Mr. Abdullah Alwathlan the President of the Saudi Cycling Federation and Mr. Eusebio Unzué the President of Abarca Sports and General Manager of Movistar Team.
“The agreement aims to develop technical staff, enhance cooperation on training programs, exchange experiences, hold regular workshops and support events, races and activities in the Kingdom for years to come.
“The cooperation between the parties aims to jointly develop cycling projects in the Kingdom at all levels."
Neither the term of the partnership nor its financial value were disclosed.
The agreement is not Saudi Arabia’s first venture in the sport of cycling. Last July, Australian team BikeExchange-Jayco signed a two and a half year deal with AlUla, a boutique tourist destination in the north west of the Middle Eastern country.
In a statement shared at the time, BikeExchange-Jayco general manager Brent Copeland said: “The mutual respect and alignment of values are great for GreenEdge Cycling and it will be exciting to see how our partnership can help AlUla to grow awareness among the passionate cycling community as a luxury heritage destination.”
In 2020, Saudi Arabia teamed up with Tour de France organisers ASO to launch the Saudi Tour, a five-stage 2.1 category race that dates back to 1999. The most recent edition, held in and around AlUla, was won this February by Lotto-Soudal rider Maxim Van Gils.
Saudi Arabia’s investment in cycling comes as part of Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” initiative, which seeks to diversify the oil-rich state’s ventures and reputation around the world.
In March last year, The Guardian reported that Saudi Arabia had spent at least $1.5 billion on sporting events including golf, tennis and horse racing. Later that year, a consortium led by the country’s Public Investment Fund acquired Newcastle United Football Club for £305 million ($409 million).
Amnesty International's latest report on Saudi Arabia highlights a "crackdown" on "rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly" in the country.
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