As the 2016 Dubai Tour gets underway, last year’s winner of the competition Mark Cavendish is leading a peloton of 16 teams and 128 riders. Vision gathers impressions from some of the top riders as they prepare for the challenge
In its third edition, the 2016 Dubai Tour brings together 16 teams and 128 riders, led by last year’s winner Mark Cavendish. Among the top riders is World Hour Record holder Sir Bradley Wiggins, sprinters Elia Viviani and Marcel Kittel, as well as Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert.
Cavendish, considered one of the greatest sprinters ever, won 44 stages in the Grand Tours, the 2009 Milan-Sanremo, the 2012 World Championship, in addition to the 2015 Dubai Tour.
“I’ve been at Dubai Tour for two years now. We are cycling with a strong team and we hope we get results here,” he said. “I like it here. People are great and the place has got everything you want to do.”
Bradley Wiggins, who won the 2012 Tour de France, snatched three gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and is the current World Hour Record holder (54.526km), said he wasn’t focused on winning the Dubai race, but rather on helping an up-and-coming team.
“I rode in Majorca, Tour California and Tour Britain. It’s not much, but just enough around-the-tracks stuff that we’re doing, and for our team these kind of races are really important,” said Wiggins. “Dubai is such a unique race, and it brings publicity for the team so it’s important to do it, and same with California. So not many races on the road this year, but the ones we are doing are quite significant.”
Talking about the future with his current team, he said it was a different experience to the teams he’s been with previously. “I think the kind of people we have are quite different than a lot of teams I’ve been involved with in the past. We are not a team of superstars exactly, but it’s more about the development of younger riders, pushing them into pro teams and giving guys a chance to get to the big teams… I’d like it to go on for as long as possible really.”
Fabian Cancellara, winner of three Paris-Roubaix, three Tour of Flanders, one Milan-Sanremo and two times UCI Time trial Champion, is looking forward to enjoying the race after a busy year.
Talking about the terrain and climate, he said: “It can be difficult because when there’s some wind out it can all change. Qatar is not far away and I had the experiences with Qatar and Oman races, and of course when the wind will blow like last weekend it will be a really hard race. Just looking forward to a great start here in Dubai, being focused and concentrating on winning with the team.”
France’s Philippe Gilbert, winner of three Amstel Gold Races, two Tours of Lombardy, one Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the 2012 World Champion, said he was “very happy” to be back in the emirate for the second time.
“It’s a nice course because you have some chances for sprinters and you have at some stage some climbs, which is also not too hard, so it’s perfect for everyone, and it’s still a lot of kilometres so we have everything. It’s perfect,” said Gilbert.
After a heard season last year, German rider Marcel Kittel appeared in top form, ready to take on the new challenge. “It’s good to be in a new season with the new team. Now is the moment to show my motivation and hope the work we put together as a team pays off.”
And it did pay off. The race kicked off with the Dubai Silicon Oasis Stage, which took riders through the desert to reach the Gulf of Oman coast of Fujairah. Kittel won the 173km Stage 1, fending off Cavendish and Giacomo Nizzolo to achieve his first success in the 2016 season.
Running from February 3rd until the 6th, the race is made up of four stages, all starting at the Dubai International Marine Club. Upcoming stages will include riding to Atlantis on The Palm Jumeirah, Hatta Dam, and Business Bay, covering in total 665km at the end of the tour.