How the Dubai Tour is changing the UAE’s relationship with cycling
The second edition of the Dubai Tour shifted cycling in the UAE up a gear as some of the world’s leading riders rolled into town to compete over more than 600 gruelling kilometres against the ever-changing background of the world’s most futuristic cityscape.
From the bustling water-side race village at the epicentre of the event to leaders’ jerseys created by fashion design guru Paul Smith, Dubai reinforced its reputation for thinking differently about staging major sports events. And while the Tour is currently an Asian Tour, event its organisers, Dubai Sports Council and Italian promoters RSC Sports, have hopes it will one day earn a place on the World Tour schedule.
According to Justin Abbott of the sport’s international governing body, the UCI (Union Cyclisme Internationale) the Dubai Tour is about more than just a professional cycle race. It is, he says, helping to fundamentally change Dubai’s relationship with the bicycle.
“The commitment of the authorities to lock-up the city centre is unusual among host cities and is very welcome because it allows cycling into the heart of Dubai,” he explained. "Dubai has historically had a low usage of cycling but the Dubai Tour coupled with investment in the cycling infrastructure in an around the city is helping to change that for the better.”
Abbott believes that the event helps challenge the way that local people think about cycling and challenges the stereotypical view of Dubai as a city ruled by the automobile.
“It’s not all about people taking cars from one big building to another. This helps integrate the bicycle into the vision for the future of Dubai. The Tour demonstrates its pizazz, its glamour and its cool. That makes people think again about their views of cycling and not only encourages them to watch professional race events but to start thinking about getting on a bike themselves."
Andrew Croker, President of the media company Global Cycling Network, agrees.
“Dubai Tour was a great event again. The professionals love it because it is so well organised, there were great crowds and the event really exemplifies the growing interest in the sport.
“Dubai is becoming a real cycling hot spot. Its cycle shops report amazingly good business and, thanks to the government’s decision to invest in infrastructure, there are some 158 kilometres of dedicated, well maintained and swept, cycle roads which allow people to get on their bikes and get out of the city and into the desert and the hills. It is a fantastic infrastructure for the sport and I certainly expect to not only the major international events but the local amateur events grow in scale and stature in the years ahead,” he said.