Vertical climb towards the sky in AlUla
January 16 th 2022 - 17:10 [GMT + 3]
- The second edition of the Saudi Tour, a 2.1 stage race on the UCI calendar sanctioned by the Saudi Arabia Cycling Federation, will feature five stages, including three suitable for sprinters, from 1st to 5th February.
- The route, located in the northern part of the country around the wonders of AlUla, is more demanding than in 2020, due to a 22% gradient climb towards the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid.
A novelty is looming in the yet recent history of major bike races held in the Middle East – since the beginning of the 21st century – as the Saudi Tour will get to know its outcome on a very steep climb on the eve of the grand finale. The technical director compares the ascent to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid to the Angliru of La Vuelta! The 4km long climb includes 2.7km at 12% and a part with a gradient of 22%, leading to a lunar style plateau that offers stunning views over the valley of AlUla, the hub of the second edition of the event supported by the government of Saudi Arabia.
There is still an unchanging tradition in the Middle East races and the beginning of the international cycling season: it’s party time for the sprinters. Three out five stages suit them, the first, third and fifth, in a rhythm that refutes monotony. The 2022 Saudi Tour will kick off at Winter Park, the starting point for many of AlUla’s flagship experiences, including nature and adventure, arts and visits to Hegra, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, transport to Harrat Uwayrid to observe the oasis, landscapes and concerts of renowned world stars. Winter, which runs from mid-October to mid-March in Saudi Arabia, is the highlight of the visitor season for its pleasant climate (5° at night, 17° to 25° in the day time).
These are the conditions forecast for Stage 1, which is the longest of the Saudi Tour, over almost 200km. It’s also the most scenic one. The route will be special because of 7.5km sector of gravel wide road (8 metres) where the riders will be filmed in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It will be the place for the bonus sprint of the day, two other intermediate sprints being contested on every stage. “It can be windy”, technical director warned. “Stage 1 has 1 200 metres of elevation. 80% of the course is false flat but the last 20km are pan flat.”
Stage 2 is set to be “a terrain for strong men”. A beautiful finale is promised, not only because of the breath-taking landscape. Following many ups and downs, the pan flat last 500 metres will come after 1.7km of climbing at an average gradient of 9%. It makes it a decisive stage for the overall classification. Stage 3 – a smoother one – will take the riders from Tayma Hadaj Well – one of the biggest wells of Saudi Arabia – to AlUla Old Town, in front of the castle, at the end of 1km long straight line. The same finish will be repeated on the conclusive stage.
The most anticipated Stage 4 to the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid offers the contrast of a pan flat road before the last 40km. The riders will see the mountain from far out without knowing how to approach it. “The finale is superb and really very hard”, the organisers described.
The stages of the 2022 Saudi Tour:
Stage 1: Winter Park - Winter Park, 198km
Stage 2: Taibah University - Abu Rakha, 163.9km
Stage 3: Tayma Hadaj Well - AlUla Old Town, 181.2km
Stage 4: Winter Park - Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid, 149.3km
Stage 5: AlUla Old Town - AlUla Old Town, 138.9km
The 16 teams selected
The eight selected UCI WorldTeams:
Bahrain Victorious (BRN)
Bora – Hansgrohe (GER)
Lotto Soudal (BEL)
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (BEL)
Team BikeExchange – Jayco (AUS)
Team DSM (NED)
UAE Team Emirates (UAE)
The five UCI ProTeams selected:
B&B Hotels – KTM (FRA)
Team Arkéa – Samsic (FRA)
Uno-X Pro Cycling Team (NOR)
These 13 teams will be joined by the first three teams of the 2021 UCI Asia Tour:
Kuwait Pro Cycling Team (KWT)
Terengganu Polygon Cycling Team (MYS)
Vino SKO Team (KAZ)