ISRAELI TEAM TO TAKE PART IN ONLY WORLDTOUR RACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Israel Start Up Nation team is off on its next adventure – a race in the desert! In the UAE Tour, the riders will see a combination of modern architecture, ancient ruins, rugged climbs and sweeping deserts that will remind them strongly of the team’s homeland.
While this is only the second edition of the UAE Tour, there have been numerous previous stage races in Arab lands. The Tour of Saudi Arabia has already been run this year, and in the past, there have been races in Oman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The latter two are now part of the UAE Tour.
The UAE is looking beyond just the pro riders, though. It offers four “Challenges” to amateur riders, with a “Knock-out Stage” in Abu Dhabi on February 26, during the race. But it also looks to the future, with an educational project for both boys and girls, from 8-12 years, introducing them to cycling “as a part of a healthy lifestyle and safety on the road.”
What are the United Arab Emirates? On the northeast side of the Arabian Peninsula and bordering on the Persian Gulf, it is one country, a sovereign constitutional monarchy, a federation of seven emirates – an emirate being a political territory ruled by an emir. These seven are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. The ruler of one of these emirates serves as President of the UAE. The total population is estimated at 9.7 million.
There is proof of human presence in the area dating back to 125,000 BCE. Based on the Gulf, trading became a major industry, with the Emirate traders coming to dominate the area and leading to conflicts with Europeans. Eventually the conflicts were settled in 1819, when the Emirates were established as British Protectorates. This stayed so until December 1971, with the establishment of an independent UAE.
Abu Dhabi is by far the largest of the seven emirates and is the UAE capital. Its long coastline along the Persian Gulf features vast expanses of white sand, clear water and numerous possibilities to either relax or be active.
The name Abu Dhabi means, by the way, the father (Abu) of the gazelle (Dhabi). Gazelles are still common wildlife, along with dolphins, falcons, cheetahs, and more than 20,000 flamingos.
The oil industry, which dominates the economy, is relatively new, with oil first being discovered in the late 1950s. But it was not until about a decade later that the industry really took off. The government is an absolutist, hereditary monarchy, with HRH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan the ruler.
Visitors to the Emirate can experience everything from Formula 1 racing at the Yas Marina Circuit to those stunning beaches to one of the world’s largest mosques. Shop for designer items at the most modern of shopping malls or look for traditional crafts in the Souk.
But one should not concentrate on the man-made wonders, as the natural wonders can be overwhelming. The Rub al Khali – the Empty Quarter – is the world’s largest uninterrupted land mass, with stunning vast stretches of enormous and ever-changing dunes.
Dubai, just north of Abu Dhabi. Significantly smaller than its smaller neighbor, it has a larger population. The capital, also called Dubai, is a popular stop for cruise ships.
The city of Dubai is a modern one, with luxury shops and hotels. Travel to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest tower at 828 meters for an unbelievable view. A unique feature is the Palm Jumeirah, a huge manmade island in the shape of a palm tree, with homes, luxury hotels and of course beaches.
But there is more to Dubai than modern high rises. Travel out to Hatta, where 19th century watchtowers and a fort once guarded the borders. Best known to cycling fans is the Hatta Dam, where the peloton annually climbs to the top for a thrilling stage finish.
Ajman is the smallest of the seven emirates, at a mere 259 square kilometers. It has been ruled by the Al Nuaimi family since 1810, with the current monarch being Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuiami III. It can trace its human history back to around 3000 BC, while considering its modern foundation in 1810. It was under British influence from 1820 to 1968
This small land offers everything from the Al Tallah Camel Racecourse to the Equestrian Club and the Ajman Stud, a renowned facility dedicated to the legendary and lovely Arabian horse. The Fish Market and the Corniche remind of older days. Outside of the capital city, the Masfout Castle atop a rocky tor and the Hassa Buweid Castle offer a look back at other times.
Fujaraih is the only Emirate not on the Persian Gulf, instead it lies on the Gulf of Oman. Its 1166 square kms are ruled by Sheik Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi.
It has numerous late Islamic fortresses, plus the oldest Mosque in the UAE which is still in use – it was originally built of mud and bricks in 1446 and has only four domes and no minaret.
Because of its location, it receives the most rainfall in the UAE, over 22 inches in December alone. It is not as widely developed for tourism as the other Emirates, but can still offer antiquities, ruins and Islamic sites, as well as modern shopping, cruises, and fishing expeditions.
Ras al Khaimah is under the rule of Saud bin Saqr al Qasami. Jabal Jais is the highest peak in the UAE (1943 meters) and the site of the world’s longest zip-line. The Emirate also offers tourists the highest hilltop fort in the UAE, and Al Jazirah Al Hamra, a preserved 20th century pearling port.
The Emirate can boast of human habitation for more than 7000 years,and has about 1000 historical and archaeological sites. Its geographical location on the sea ad active maritime trade brought charges of piracy from Great Britain in the early 19th century, lasting until 1820.
Sharjah is the only Emirate to front on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The main part is located on the western, Persian Gulf, side, but three enclaves on the eastern side of the peninsula, fronting on the Gulf of Oman, belong to Sharjah.
The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilizations has documents and artifacts from around the world, including displays of pottery, glass, and jewelry. The Arabian Wildlife Center presents a look at animals native to the Arabian Peninsula, along with a botanical garden and natural history museum. The Sharjah Aquarium, on the waterfront, offers a glimpse into the fascinating underwater world.
Umm Al Quwain is the least populated of the Emirates. Not having significant gas or oil deposits, it looks to tourism and fishing for income. It does, however, have significant archeological finds, ranging from ancient pottery to contact with both early western and eastern civilizations, including Alexander the Great.
Heavily agricultural during the Bronze Age, the Emirate is now mostly a dry desert. And how to counter all that dryness? With the UAE’s largest water park, of course! Dreamland Aqua Park offers landscaped gardens and more than 30 slides, rides and attractions for visitors to relax, enjoy and cool off!
Proudly calling itself “The one and only WorldTour race in the Middle East,” the race will pass through all seven emirates, on a course “that will see the riders start with a dramatic send-off in Dubai before the intense competition culminates a week later in Abu Dhabi.”
What can our riders expect in the UAE, in addition to a friendly reception? Landscapes and scenes as varied as the peloton itself. Dubai offers a start on the famous palm-shaped artificial island, the Palm Jumeirah, and a loop through the most modern of downtowns. Dramatic mountains and the crystal-clear water at Hatta Dam. Rolling sand dunes, oases, and rugged climbs. Much of it may well be similar to conditions in Israel!
Stage One is a flat 143 km from The Palm Island in Dubai running from the city through the desert and ending at the Dubai Silicon Oasis – with Silicon Oasis being the logical Arabic version of Silicon Valley. Two intermediate sprints, one at the Al Quadra Cycle Track, will be a preview of the expected bunch sprint at the finish. Much of the stage is in the desert, so the field will have to pay attention to wind and blowing sand.
The climbing starts on Stage Two, which again stays in the Emirate of Dubai. It is a “there and back” stage of 168km, leaving the Heritage Village of Hatta and heading out on straight but undulating roads north and then east, before turning around at Fujairah. Underway there are two short climbs with gradients of 10%, before the leg-breaking final climb up the 17% gradient to the finish line atop the Hatta Dam.
The third stage is the longest one at 184km. It starts out gently at the Al Qudra Cycle Track before trekking across the desert and another mountaintop finish. After again fighting the wind and sand all day, the peloton will cross the border to Abu Dhabi and tackle the Green Mountain, a 10 km climb with average gradients of 8% to 9%, with a maximum of 11% only 3 km from the finish line at Jebel Hafeet.
It is back to Dubai city for Stage Four, and the sprinters will be happy with it. A frequently used route features an intermediate sprint at Dubai Motor City, and a fast run-in to the bunch sprint finish at the City Walk after 173 flat kilometers.
Stage Five is one familiar from the former Abu Dhabi Tour. The 162 kilometers run by many famous landmarks, including Al Ain Zoo and the Al Ain Oasis. The finale, though, is again one for the climbers, and a familiar one – once again up the Jebel Hafeet!
The desert is the star of Stage Six, with the familiar dangers presenting themselves to the peloton. It is another flat one, 168 km, starting in Al Ruwais and following the well-built highway to Al Mirfa, where three laps of an 18.6km circuit will lead to another bunch sprint.
The grand finale Stage Seven tours the islands that make up Abu Dhabi City. Totally flat and with the possibility of winds, the course starts at Al Marvah Island before running by the Yas Marina, the Great Mosque, Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Corniche before another bunch sprint rounds out the 2020 UAE Tour.