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Top riders give thumbs up to Dubai Tour 2014

Dubai: Some of the top cyclists from across the globe have welcomed the entry of Dubai on the international cycling calendar.

“Events like this one can only help in spreading our sport across the world,” said world champion Joaquin Rodriguez, representing the Russian Team Katusha, who are here to participate in the inaugural edition of Dubai Tour 2014, which starts on Wednesday.

A total of 16 teams are in the fray, including the UAE national squad and a team from Sky Dive Dubai. The cyclists were presented to the media the day before the official start of the four-day UCI season-opening race that gets under way at the Dubai World Trade Centre at 1.05pm.

“I’ve done a race in Argentina and now I can use this race in Dubai to attain a better level and get prepared for the demanding season ahead,” he said.

British sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, who will don the colours of the strong Omega Pharma-Quick Step team along with Tony Martin, admitted he may benefit from his past experience of competing in neighbouring Oman and Qatar. “Of course there will be a minor difference while participating in Dubai, but I am sure the experience will definitely help,” Cavendish said, adding that the entry of Dubai, along with GCC countries like Oman and Qatar, can only be beneficial for cycling.

“It’s like globalisation of cycling and it’s encouraging to see our sport spreading out,” the British rider said.

Astana Pro Team star Vincenzo Nibali, who won the 2013 Giro d’Italia, welcomed the addition of new destinations to the UCI calendar. “This means our sport is alive and growing,” said the Italian. “We’ve had Oman and Qatar in the past and now it is Dubai. It’s good to have such new places especially when the weather is so nice.

“The testament that most of the top riders value this race is seen by the fact that some of the biggest names from our sport have arrived in Dubai.”

Trek Factory Racing’s Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, who is a four-time time trial world champion, has been a regular in Dubai. “I am looking forward to doing well here as the race looks well-organised,” he said. “I am familiar with the roads here, but this time it will be different.”

Marcel Kittel, who won last year’s final stage of the Tour de France, ending Cavendish’s three-year winning streak, was also impressed with the presence of so many big names here.

“When you have the best cyclists, there is always the tendency to give that something extra,” the German said. “No one can afford to be lazy and I am confident that with the help of my teammates we can achieve a solid result here.”