Some of the biggest names from the world of professional cycling will be lining up for a shot at glory on a truly unique route set against stunning landscapes, natural beauty and ancient history as the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) welcomes the third edition of the Saudi Tour to the destination from Monday January 30 to Friday February 3.
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, a five-time Tour de France stage winner, and John Degenkolb, the winner of two Cycling Monuments, the Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix in 2015m, are just two of the big names taking part in the 2.1 stage race on the UCI calendar which has been sanctioned by the Saudi Arabia Cycling Federation.
Seven UCI World Tour teams; Astana Qazaqstan Team, Bahrain Victorious, Cofidis, Movistar Team, Team Jayco AlUla, Team DSM and UAE Team Emirates, will be joined by six UCI Pro teams, two UCI Continental teams from Asia and a squad from the Saudi Arabian Cycling Federation at the event which further strengthens the country’s ties with the world of cycling.
The Saudi Tour is boosting the entire country’s reputation as an ‘El Dorado’ for cycling, and the potential for the sport in AlUla is limitless, with a bike hub and path as well as desert biking tours, mountain biking options and electric bikes for transport around Hegra, the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the sidelines of the Saudi Tour, two mass participation events have been planned for budding cyclists in the region. A 9.8km Saudi Tour ride will be staged at Winter Park from 12.20-1.20pm on Tuesday January 31, and cyclists can also join the Saudi Tour Challenge, a 42km, 20-lap ride around the circuit at Al Manshiyah Train Station from 1pm on Wednesday February 1.
Ties with the international cycling community were further strengthened recently when GreenEdge Cycling was named ‘Team Jayco AlUla’thanks to a new signed agreement between the Royal Commission for AlUla and the Australian UCI team which will run until December 31st, 2025.
Philip Jones, Chief Destination Marketing Officer at the Royal Commission for AlUla said: “The Saudi Tour is a world-class sporting event which promises to put the eyes of the sporting world on AlUla, with some of the best cyclists and teams on the planet competing over five days on a stunning route that takes in some truly unique and ancient landmarks.
“Events like the Saudi Tour highlight AlUla and Saudi Arabia’s strong credentials as host for world-class international sporting events, and they also play a major part in the country’s transformation aligned to the Vision 2030 strategy.
“Hosting a major cycling event is a win-win for us at AlUla – it is in keeping with our commitment to sustainable and responsible development, and also a huge inspiration to the population at large – the race can highlight the many environmental, health and socio-economic benefits of cycling. It builds on our efforts in cycling, as does our recent partnership with Team Jayco AlUla.”
The route for the Saudi Tour is based solely in the AlUla region for the second successive year, further forging the area’s strong links with the sport.
Over five stages, the peloton will pass some of the area’s extraordinary sights, racing through a living museum of preserved tombs, historic dwelling and monuments, both man-made and natural, and stunning geological formations that hold 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history.
Stage one is a 180km sprint leg that will showcase both the evolving infrastructure and heritage of the region. The race gets underway at AlUla International Airport, an important travel hub that is being redeveloped in line with RCUs goals to develop the country’s cultural and environmental capital, and finishes up in the stunning landscape of Khaybar, featuring rare white volcanoes, lava fields, caves and wadis with freshwater springs supporting an abundance of plant and animal life.
Stage two, a 184km sprint from Winter Park, takes the peloton through Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and an area of antiquity which includes 110 remarkably well preserved tombs. The tour will pass the iconic Elephant Rock (Jabail AlFil) and race into the stunning Sharaan Nature Reserve, a protected canyon area and natural habitat for a vast array of wildlife, before finishing up at Shalal Sijlyat Rocks, an area of natural wonder and dramatic rock formations.
Stage three is a 159.2km journey from the Al Manshiyah Train Station, an important stop for pilgrims on the historic Hijaz Railway between Damascus and Medina, through to Abu Rakah via a series of short climbs.
The architectural splendour of Maraya offers a unique backdrop for the start of the 163.4 km-stage 4, with the peloton getting underway in front of one of the world’s architectural marvels, a design that features a staggering 9,740 square metres of mirrors. The stage then takes in the breathtaking natural landscapes of Ashar Valley, and the stunning luxury resorts of Banyan Tree AlUla and Habitas Resort AlUla, before moving on to the Harrat Uwayrid Biosphere Reserve, a pristine remote area renowned for its extremely rich biodiversity, and the Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid.
Stage five will offer a fitting finale, a 142.9km run which takes the peloton through the streets of AlUla Old Town and Aljadidah’s Arts and Culture District, before passing the farms and verdant oases of the area and moving once again through Hegra, Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, before finishing in front of the stunning architectural wonder that is Maraya.
The Saudi Tour is one of the ‘Sports Events’ festivals on this season’s AlUla Moments calendar that also includes the AlUla Trail Race (23-24 February) and AlUla Endurance Cup 2023 (March 4).