Race Preview: UAE Tour

Marking the third event of the 2023 Women’s WorldTour calendar, the inaugural UAE Tour Women begins on Wednesday, for a four-day stage race. Making its debut on the world’s biggest stage in women’s road racing, the UAE Tour Women joins the men’s race that began in 2019, and will run a few days following the crowning of the first women’s champion on Sunday, the 12th.  The UAE Tour will be the season debut for several teams and riders including UAE Team ADQ that chose to skip the 2023 WorldTour opening races in Australia. 

20 teams will take to the line, with 13 WorldTour squads and 7 continental teams consisting of 6 riders each – a startlist has yet to be revealed. The official stage routes and leader jerseys were announced in late January. The first two and final stage will favor the sprinters in the peloton, with the third stage featuring a finish atop Jabel Hafeet, the same 8-9% gradient climb featured in the men’s edition where Tadej Pogaçar has won the last 3 editions.  

After trekking 468km of the unique desert terrain of the United Arab Emirates, the winner will be crowned in the general classification red jersey. A black jersey will also be awarded in addition to the Best Young Rider (white) and points classification sprint jersey (green). The black jersey will represent the rider who has gained more intermediate sprint points than any other compared to the rider who has gained the best positions in each stage and intermediate sprints for the points classification. 


The Route

Stage 1 – Port Rashid -> Dubai Harbour (109 km)

A grand depart in Dubai, the 120-rider peloton will begin at Port Rashid for the first 109km course traversing the city where fans of the men’s edition will recognize city landmarks before the women reach the base of the iconic tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah island and arrival at the Dubai Harbour.

A breakaway will have a tough time escaping on the very wide, paved roads along the route. Expect a fast, and thrilling field sprint finish for this opening stage.


Stage 2 – Al Dhafra Castle -> Al Mirfa (133 km)

The second stage begins amidst a backdrop of the Al Dhafra Castle. Racing fans will remember the photos of the men racing a similar stage from this departure in 2021, with the echelons forming and the wide, flat roads in the desert leaving the peloton exposed to the winds and dusty conditions. The women will likely face the same with the team captains looking to their domestiques and other teammates to keep them protected from the elements as best they can. 

After another desert crossing of roughly 60km, the women will head towards the coast and Al Mirfa. The run into the finish is on a wide road once again, where the sprint teams will be in a battle for position heading into a quick bend on a roundabout before they slingshot out the other end bolting down the finishing straight. We will see who will have the legs after the longest stage of the tour to become the victor of the second day of racing. 


Stage 3 – Hazza bin Zayed Stadium -> Jebel Hafeet (107 km)

The climbers in the bunch will be eagerly awaiting the start of stage 3, facing the only climb of the race. The men’s edition has had their race finale on this finishing climb ahead, where Tadej Pogaçar dominated the 10km climb to win the overall GC in the last two editions. 

We expect no different for this women’s inaugural edition, where the races’ general classification is expected to be decided. The final 10km climb has an average gradient of 8-9% but peaks at 11% gradient at 3km to go. After a long day racing on the wide, flat roads exposed to the elements, the climb is sure to tear the race to shreds, with either a solo or handful of climbers fighting for the stage and the overall. 


Stage 4 – Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy -> Abu Dhabi Breakwater (119 km)

The final day of racing is set on a stage around the city of Abu Dhabi. Like the three stages prior, stage 4 will include two intermediate sprint lines after which the black jersey will be decided. The overall race winner will likely choose to stay safe in hopes of making it to the finishing line with their lead intact. The pancake-flat profile will be yet another to showcase the sprinters for the finale before crowning the first women’s UAE Tour champion. 


Riders to Watch

The preliminary start list has been sparse, but due to the wide finishing straights and the sole climbing finish for stage 3, we expect the route to favor either a Classics rider or a punchy climber. It will be difficult for a sprinter to gain any valuable time on GC in the sprint finishes. For the UAE Tour Women’s inaugural edition, the race is wide open. 

The UAE Team ADQ will be hoping to have a strong showing at their season opener in their home race. Of the team riders expected to contend the race, Chiara Consonni (Dwars door Vlaanderen 2022 winner) is a strong contender, supported by Mikayla Harvey and Eugenia Bujak among others. 

American climber and overall contender, Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco AIUIa) will also be making her season debut in the UAE. Last year’s QOM classification and stage winner at the Giro d’Italia Donne will likely lead the team, though the squad has yet to announce others planning to race alongside her. 

One underdog to keep an eye out for at least a stage victory will be up-and-coming sprinting star Maggie Coles-Lyster who sprinted to 4th on stage 1 at the women’s Santos Tour Down Under last month. The Canadian Zaaf Cycling Team sprinter is eager to continue that momentum as she gets another opportunity to race against the best in the world in her first year racing on the WorldTour.  

Heavy hitters, SD Worx (with Lorena Wiebes at the helm), Canyon//SRAM, and Team Movistar all skipped out on Australia, along with UNO-X new women’s team. The UAE Tour Women’s race will be the first true test of the season while other teams like Trek – Segafredo with Elisa Longo Borghini making her season debut, FDJ – Suez, and Israel Premiere Tech Roland, will be hoping to take advantage of the racing days they notched in their legs in Australia last month. 


Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport



When: 9-12 February

Where: United Arab Emirates

What: 4-day stage race


Riders to watch:

Elisa Longo Borghini****

Emma Norsgaard***

Chiara Consonni **

Kristen Faulkner**

Maggie Coles-Lyster*


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By Rebecca Reza

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