“Abu what?” That is what I asked my sister, when she told me about the Abu Dhabi Tour. A new race somewhere in the desert. But where exactly is that somewhere? Well, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is the second most populous city of the country, after Dubai. The city is built on an island, next to the Persian Gulf. It is known for its large resources of oil and gas and therefore it is one of the richest cities on this planet. Recently, the government announced that they are planning to invest in industry, retail, tourism and real estate. See, you don’t have to go to school to learn about geography, or learn about the economics of a country. You just have to watch cycling races. And check Wikipedia and Google Maps for the facts, in my case.
We all know that the UCI wants to ‘develop’ the cycling sport all over the world. But people, why on earth in a hot desert climate. Do I need to repeat myself? A hot desert climate! Hot. Desert. Climate. The UCI says that the goal is “to develop the sport in emerging countries across the world with support for our continental confederations and our national federations”. They also want “to help facilitate a commercially more successful sport, strengthening cycling as a whole and to develop new audiences for our sport”.
Hey. Look. New audience. A camel.
Okay, that is not fair of me to say. Of course it is great that the UCI tries to develop the cycling sport. Involving the Middle West is only a good thing. This race will be the fourth major race in the Gulf region after the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Oman and the Tour of Qatar in the first part of the season. Also, the organisation of this race, the General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, gave some reasons as to why there should be a race in Abu Dhabi. The government’s plan is to double the number of cycle paths in the city by 2020. Therefore, they like to spark the interest of cycling fans worldwide. And they want to change the behaviour towards cycling in the country.
In the future, they even want to be included on the WorldTour calendar. They have great ambitions and they will be part of the WorldTour by next year, I’m sure of that. They even ‘invented’ a gala dinner to impress the UCI. Tomorrow, on the 11th of October, Abu Dhabi will host the UCI Cycling Gala to celebrate the ending of the WorldTour season. It takes place at the Yas Marine Formula One Circuit and begins with an award ceremony to honour the best riders of the season. After that, there will be a dinner. And a desert. Dessert, I mean. I would not have made this mistake if it wasn’t for all these photos of riders in the desert on Twitter. Just one more warning for the riders. Watch out for camels over there. On a road. In a desert. Abu what?
© Sam Bewley, Valerio Agnoli, Danilo Wyss, Davide Cimolai, Tim de Waele and Carlos Verona in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, October 2015