The new 2017 year will see a dramatic Middle Eastern shift. The region debuts in the top WorldTour series with not one, but two teams: Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
The numbers of the second edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour are impressive – and the 2016 event won by Astana’s Tanel Kangert saw a growth in many respects one year on from the inaugural edition. That growth includes a promotion to the WorldTour for 2017; the third Abu Dhabi Tour will take place from 23 to 26 February 2017.
The 1st edition, held in 2015, was won by Esteban Chaves, while Tanel Kangert took 2nd edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour.
The race was part of the Asia Tour in the first two years of its existence, yet, the 2017 edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour is on the UCI World Tour calendar. Elia Viviani and Mark Cavendish took most stages in the Abu Dhabi Tour, namely two. The Italian did so in 2015, Cav in 2016.
The UCI has granted the Abu Dhabi event WorldTour status for the next three years, saying it reflects the quality of the Abu Dhabi Tour, which is a four-stage professional cycling race organised by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) with the collaboration of RCS Sport.
His Excellency Aref Al Awani, ADSC’s General Secretary, said: “This status upscale is proof of the commitment and sheer hard work delivered by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and our partners. We hope the global media attention it brings will also help build Abu Dhabi’s growing credentials as a significant cycling destination taking us centre stage in a discipline which is increasingly capturing the attention of the sporting world and local communities.
“Cycling is a sport which meets our objectives of nurturing local heroes and spreading a culture of healthy, active lifestyles among the entire community – resident or expatriate, young or old. Once our local cyclists have the chance to see the world’s best in action, and honoured, we hope to further inspire their own aspirations”.
Romain Bardet has been forced to alter his 2017 programme after the reduction in length of La Méditérannéene race in February. Keen to rack up the race kilometres, Bardet will instead delay his planned start by three days, heading on February 14 to the six-day Tour of Oman, where he finished runner-up last year. That will extend his stay in the Middle East as the Abu Dhabi Tour, beginning four days after the culmination of Oman, was always part of his schedule.