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It’s not the first pro women’s race to be held in the UAE, after the one-off 2.2 Dubai Women’s Tour in 2020 won by the now-retired Lucy van der Haar, but it is the first at WorldTour level.
As with most of the racing in this part of the world, flat, open, sprint stages are to be expected, but it’s not just the fast finishers who will get their day.
Teams will want to bring their best climbing talent too for the GC battle that will be decided on the summit finish up Jebel Hafeet on stage three.
Even the flat stages aren’t entirely safe, however, with the potential for crosswinds to break the race up and wreak havoc for GC contenders and sprinters alike.
The race is four stages long, starting Thursday in Dubai on stage one, and finishing in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The contenders: the first major WorldTour test
Although the Women’s WorldTour officially got underway in Australia, UAE Tour is the first time that we will see the majority of the WorldTour teams race against each other with 13 out of the 15 Women’s WorldTeams attending, and with some of the top riders.
A sprinter’s paradise, it’s no wonder that some of the fastest women in the peloton will travel to the Middle East for this race. Top of the billing is the fastest woman on two wheels, prolific sprint winner Lorena Wiebes with her new team of SD Worx.
It will be the first chance for Wiebes and her new team to test out their leadout and get used to the new setup.
Wiebes’ former last woman Charlotte Kool will be going head-to-head against her ex-teammate for the first time with the same lead out that Wiebes enjoyed at Team DSM including Franziska Koch and former British national champion Pfeiffer Georgi.
Two other riders who will be testing out their new team setups are Maria Giulia Confalonieri, who recently moved from Ceratizit-WNT to Uno-X, and British sprinter Alice Barnes who, after five years at Canyon//SRAM, is now with Human Powered Health.
Having moved up to the WorldTour from Valcar Travel & Service, Italian Giro Donne stage winner Chiara Consonni will want to impress at UAE Team ADQ’s home race.
Elsewhere, Movistar’s Emma Norsgaard will be hoping for a chance to test her sprint against the likes of Wiebes, with whom she has been a close rival in the past.
Norsgaard was recently beaten in a sprint, however, at the 1.1 Women Cycling Pro Costa de Almería by Arianna Fidanza of Ceratizit-WNT who will also line up in the UAE.
Also read: Marta Cavalli keen to make up for lost time
Teams are also bringing their best climbing talent for the GC race that will be decided on stage three.
German national champion Liane Lippert, who is on good form having recently placed second behind teammate Flootrje Mackaij at the Vuelta CV Feminas, will line up for Movistar.
FDJ-Suez bring Italian climbing talent Marta Cavalli while Team Jayco AlUla have options in both the sprints and GC between Georgia Baker and Kristen Faulkner.
As well as having the best chance at the sprints with Wiebes, Team SD Worx also brings talented Kiwi climber Niamh Fisher Black.
Newly minted Women’s WorldTeam Fenix-Deceuninck bring Swiss pure climber Petra Stiasny who placed fifth on the summit finish to Thyon 2000 at the Tour of Romandie last year behind some of the best climbers in the peloton.
One such rider was Elisa Longo Borghini, who will also line up in the UAE for Trek-Segafredo as she builds up for the spring.
The course: Wind, sand, and echelons
Stage 1: Port Rashid to Dubai Harbour, 109km
Stage one starts from Port Rashid but the peloton won’t stay near the coast for long as the race heads inland towards the Ras al Khor wildlife sanctuary. There won’t be any bird-watching today, though, the only thing the riders will need to look out for is the potential for crosswinds on the wide, open roads.
The race heads back towards the coastline and the base of the man-made island of Palm Jumeirah for the inevitable sprint finish in Dubai Harbor.
There are two intermediate sprints on this first stage which will determine who will wear the black jersey on stage two, the first after 55km at the Meydan Racecourse, and the second with 20km to go at Dubai Sports City.
Stage 2: Al Dhafra Castle to Al Mirfa, 133km
For stage two the race moves up the coast, starting inland from Al Dhafra Castle before heading along a series of stretches of long, straight roads towards Mirfa Coast and another finish right next to the sea.
As on the previous stage, (and a copy-and-paste feature of this race) crosswinds may determine the day. The stage also features two more intermediate sprints after 34.1km and
Stage 3: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium to Jebel Hafeet, 107km
After two sprint stages it’s time for the climbers to get their day on stage three with the classic UAE Tour climbing stage up Jebel Hafeet.
Starting from the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in the city of Al Ain the peloton will complete a circuit around the city, including two intermediate sprint points, before heading out towards the climb for the summit finish.
At 10km long with an average gradient of 7 percent Jebel Hafeet is no easy feat and will serve as a GC sort-out amongst the climbers. The climb winds through wide, hairpin bends with
gradients peaking at 11 percent at 3 km from the finish. There is a short descent in the last km before a final ramp upwards to the finish line.
The sprinters, meanwhile, will want to save themselves for the final hit-out on stage four.
Stage 4: Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy to Abu Dhabi Breakwater, 119km
A final chance for the sprinters on stage four around the city of Abu Dhabi taking in Khalifa City and Khalifa Port as well as the Yas Marina, Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Corniche before finishing at Abu Dhabi Breakwater in what is most likely to be a third and final sprint stage of the week.
As in previous stages, two final intermediate sprints are up for grabs after 47.9 km and 77.8km.
How to watch
All four stages will be broadcast live on GCN+/Eurosport from 12:00 CET.