UAE is on track to produce the next Olympic champion in cycling with the grand announcement by the Dubai Sports Council that it will host the Dubai Tour 2014 at the inauguration of the Dubai Cycling Course on Friday.
Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum officially inaugurated the 68-km circuit located on Al Qudrah Road towards Bab Al Shams Resort at a glittering event.
Grand Tour winners Alberto Contador, Ryder Hesjedal, Vincenzo Nibali and Tony Martin attended the event.
"Our thanks to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for his support for cycling in Dubai. By bringing here world champions it is going to push the sport of cycling big time in the UAE. I'm looking forward to next step which is Tour of Dubai which would be something huge for the sport in Dubai," said Osama Al Shafar, president of the UAE Cycling Federation.
"Dubai always does things in the best manner possible and I assure you that the Dubai Tour will be a force. It will be something greater than what's been seen anywhere else in the world," Rashid Al Kamali, head of marketing and communication of the Dubai Sports Council told reporters.
“For the first time we will host a world-class cycling championship under the calendar of the UCI (International Cycling Union) with the Dubai Tour in 2014. This event will attract the elite cyclists of the world and will also allow us to showcase the beauty of Dubai,” he added.
The final date and the length of the race have still to be decided but he assured that it definitely won't be in summer.
"This is the first international standard cycling track (in UAE). It was not meant for racing but for family. But this was just to show that we are serious about cycling going forward from here," said Al Kamali.
"Cycling is an Olympic sport. Our objective is to create Olympic champions here in the UAE and we would like to create the next Alberto Contador, Ryder Hesjedal or Vincenzo Nibali. That's our long term goal. We've got to create the environment for that to happen, so the races are important, academies and creating the want from children to get into cycling," he said.
A Versace-designed blue and yellow race jersey was unveiled after the announcement of the Dubai Tour.
Martin competed against a race horse at the opening of the Dubai Cycling Course but was well beaten in the one-kilometre race.
"It was disappointing because the horse was too fast but it was a good experience," quipped Martin.
Contador, Hesjedal and Nibali also raced over a kilometre, with Contador securing his first 'win' of the 2013 season.
"It was only one kilometre but hard and fast for the first week of January. It feels good to win but I think the more important thing is that cycling has come alive in Dubai," Contador said, hinting he would be at the start of the Dubai Tour in 2014.
"I think it'll be a beautiful race. They could include a team time trial, an individual time trial and of course for the sprinters there are lots of roads. I don't know about the mountain, maybe next year they will have built a one-kilometre mountain. If it's in the first part of the year it could be good for training for the rest of the season," added the 2007 Tour de France winner.
Italian rider Nibali said: “In Dubai we have seen all sports being held and it is nice to see that cycling too will make its mark soon. It is a good start right away by deciding to bring in top stars.”
When asked whether riders would be attracted to participating in the Dubai Tour 2014, Nibali said: “Dubai’s decision to embrace cycling is exciting news for cyclists around the world and I am sure all the top riders will be here in 2014 for the event.”
An acrobatic cycling display by Vittorio Brumotti, who holds the distinction of climbing Burj Khalifa, also enthralled the large gathering.