Spectacular opening ceremony inaugurates Dubai Tour

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The 2015 Dubai Tour was officially inaugurated Tuesday evening with a spectacular and colourful opening ceremony in the presence of Sheikh Hasher Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum.

The show included videos, music, and live performances by Arturo Brachetti, described in the Guinness Book of Records as the quickest and most prolific quick change artist in the world, and Italian trials superstar Vittorio Brumotti.

Also present was legendary footballer Diego Maradona, making his second visit to the Dubai Tour, having awarded the prizes on the final podium a year ago.

The evening ended with the presentation of the 16 teams who will compete in the Dubai Tour.

“Welcome to Dubai for the second Dubai Tour. After last year’s race, we received very useful feedback from the riders and the media, and this year we’re delighted to be hosting a much longer race," said Saeed Hareb, chairman of the organising committee of the Dubai Tour at a press conference earlier.

"The cycling teams now have a race on their hands. On my team’s side, we have endeavoured to prepare a good and well-organised event, and we certainly have the weather on our side. We want this race to be inclusive, so we have designed a website in 14 languages where the people of Dubai can say if they are happy or unhappy with the Dubai Tour. Of course, we hope that they are happy,” he added.

Vincenzo Nibali, reigning Tour de France champion and former winner of the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España, whose season starts at the Dubai Tour; Mark Cavendish, former UCI Road World Champion and winner of 43 Grand Tour stages; Alejandro Valverde, winner of the 2014 UCI WorldTour ranking; Joaquím Rodriguez, winner of the UCI WorldTour ranking in 2010, 2012 and 2013; John Degenkolb, 10 stage wins at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España; Chinese rider Xu Gang; and the leader of the UAE National Selection Badr Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Alhammadi, are among the star cast of riders.

“It’s important for me to be here. We have two good sprinters in (Lars) Boom and (Andrea) Guardini. It’s the first race of the season for me. There is one hard uphill finish, where I’ll find out how well I’ve worked over the winter. There are some good riders here, and an explosive finisher like Rodríguez could do well that day, although I’ll try to be right up there with him,” said Nibali.

“We should see some good racing. The wind could be a factor, although it wasn’t last year. It’s good to get the early season flowing. No one’s in their July form, it’s about getting the training in, getting some sprints under your belt, and getting the team working," said Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step).

“It is good to start racing again. It has been a long winter, I’ve done long days on the bike but without intense work. I’m really happy to be here and do some racing. Hopefully I’ll be involved in some sprints, get in one or two good fights and perhaps get a nice result," said John Degenkolb (Team Giant-Alpecin).
 
“I think that my form isn’t bad. I feel good and strong, although this is a very different type of race for me. It really suits the sprinters, although there is a stage that finishes with 200m at 17%. I think it’s unlikely that all the sprinters will arrive in a bunch there. My team-mate Juan José Lobato is very quick, so we’ll be riding for him,” said Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).
 
“I feel good, although I am not planning to hit my best form until Tirreno-Adriatico in March. I’m not a sprinter, of course, but the third stage ends with a tough little climb, and I’ll try to win it, although it will depend on my condition,” said Joaquím Rodriguez (Team Katusha).
 
“Ji Cheng took part in last year’s Dubai Tour, so I’m not the first Chinese participant, but I’m certainly happy to be here. I’m really a climber, so the race route doesn’t really suit me personally. However, my job here is to work as a domestique, and to try and put my team leaders in a good position for the stage finishes,” said Xu Gang (Lampre-Merida).
 
“Cycling in the United Arab Emirates is still very young but I see a big future for the sport here in the coming years. The government is supporting cycling, and it is wonderful to have a stage race of this quality here, bringing the best riders in the world here. I consider myself very lucky to be able to take part in such a race,” said Badr Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed Alhammadi (UAE National Team).
 
Absent from the race this year is the inaugural Dubai Tour champion, Taylor Phinney, who is still recovering from a serious leg injury sustained in May 2014.

Phinney sent a video recording from his training camp in snowy Colorado.
 
“I’m sorry I can’t be there for the second edition of the Dubai Tour. I was humbled and honoured to win the first edition. But unfortunately I’m still recovering from a broken leg. I should be back in a couple of months, and I’m definitely excited to get back, but sorry I’m not there. I wish everybody the best of luck,” said (BMC Racing Team).
 

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