The organiser of the Tour de France has announced a new stage race taking place in Saudi Arabia.
ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), the company behind dozens of sporting events including the Tour and Paris-Roubaix, has confirmed the inaugural Saudi Tour will take place over five stages early next season.
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The 2.1 category race will be held from February 4-8, with racing around Saudi capital Riyadh and the surrounding desert hills.
CEO of ASO Yann Le Moenner said: “We are involved in the emergence of a new racing scene in the Middle East, which corresponds to the riders’ demands at the beginning of the year.
“The creation of the Saudi Tour and its sustainable installation in the calendar is part of this movement.
“This new race both represents and exciting organisational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders and a nice opportunity for the television viewers who follow the race to discover new landscapes.
“This is also for us an occasion to contribute to the development of cycling across the Kingdom.”
The organisers said that Riyadh will host the inaugural edition, with urban circuits being combined with desert and canyon scenery, offering a mix of stages for the sprinters and the punchers.
ASO added that crosswinds will also play a significant part in the racing, and that Flemish Classics-style riders will be ones to watch.
President of the Saudi Cycling Federation, Sabah Al-Kraidees, said: “It is an honour for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Cycling Federation to host an international sporting event of this magnitude.
“The Saudi Tour is a great opportunity to publicise the country’s varied territories and historic sites and to let visitors discover our sense of hospitality.
“For this first edition, world-class riders from around the world will ride on the surrounding roads of the capital, Riyadh. This initiative fits perfectly with the ambition of Saudi Arabia to promote the Kingdom beyond its borders while promoting sport and especially cycling.”
The Saudi Tour will be the latest edition to the Middle East racing calendar, alongside the Tour of Oman, a 2.HC category race organised by ASO, and the UAE Tour, a WorldTour race run by Giro d’Italia organiser RCS.