The Abu Dhabi Tour returns

Cycling superstars geared up for big race

Well, ‘Cav’ a bit of that – one of cycling’s biggest stars is free-wheeling his way back to the capital for the start of the hotly-anticipated Abu Dhabi Tour.

Tour de France legend Mark Cavendish, who has secured major race wins all over the planet and earned a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, will be leading the charge as the huge cycling event returns to the city bigger and better than ever for the fourth straight year.

This year’s tour will feature five ultra-competitive stages in as many days, with both speed merchants such as Cavendish and riders more adept at gruelling mountain stages given their shot at glory.

The cream of the international cycling crop will be going wheel-to-wheel for podium places, including last year’s champion Rui Costa, Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin, former Vuelta a España winner Fabio Aru.

The sport’s finest sprinters, such as Italian Elia Viviani and German duo Marcel Kittel and André Greipel, will be keeping Isle of Man hero Cavendish on his toes throughout the thrilling contest.

A total of 17 UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) WorldTeams and a trio of UCI Professional Continental teams, each consisting of seven riders, will be saddling up for success from February 21 to 25.

The opening Al Dhafra stage, covering 189km, will start and finish in Madinat Zayed, running entirely in the desert.

New features will be added to the second stage, in Yas Island (154km), starting from Yas Mall.

Next on the hectic schedule will be the Nation Towers stage, an iconic 133km tour of the capital, taking in many of the emirate’s best known landmarks along the way.

Day four will then see the convoy of cycling stars converge on Al Maryah Island for the Abu Dhabi Tour’s first ever time trial. The simple route, involving just two bends and a single U-turn, will allow the riders to show off their blistering pace

Cyclers will have to display their endurance in the super-tough Grand Finale, a daunting mountain stage from Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet.

It is sure to be an uphill challenge, with contenders ascending to an altitude of 1,025m as they battle for the win.

The biking challenge is the only world tour event on the UCI calendar to take place here in the Middle East.

With more than 100 riders, representing in excess of 50 countries the cycling world will be taking centre stage in Abu Dhabi for five fantastic days of sporting action.

Feb 21-25. www.abudhabitour.com.

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