First Saudi Tour sees a new sport ride into Riyadh

British rider, Mark Cavendish (L) who took part in the UAE Tour in 2019, will be one of the big names competing in the Saudi Tour. (FILE/Giuseppe Cacace/AFP)
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Updated 05 February 2020

First Saudi Tour sees a new sport ride into Riyadh

  • Saudi Tour will continue to put the Kingdom on the map
  • Cycling stars will include the likes of Britain's Mark Cavendish

DUBAI: The first Saudi Tour, organized by Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), kicks off the 2020 cycling season on Tuesday, and is the latest high profile competition to launch in the Kingdom.

Coverage of the recent sporting events, including Formula E, wrestling and boxing, have served as a postcard of the Kingdom’s facilities and locations that few outside Saudi Arabia knew existed.

With few sports traversing such a wide, disparate landscape as cycling, the five-stage Saudi Tour will raise the Kingdom’s ever-increasing level of exposure to new heights.

At the announcement of the five Saudi Tour routes, Subah Al-Kraidees, chairman of the Saudi Cycling Federation, said he was proud “to have Saudi Arabia recognized as an important station in the international biking scene,” and that it was “a great opportunity for Saudi athletes to rub shoulders with international bikers”.

Former Tour de France winner Mark Cavendish will lead the charge, as the tour winds through Riyadh’s streets and desert tracks on the city’s outskirts.

Starting Tuesday, stage one sets off from the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee headquarters in Riyadh and heads towards an uphill finish in Jaww.

Day two sees the riders attack the longest stage from the historic Sadus Castle before heading back to Riyadh Turki Road.

On Thursday the route starts in Riyadh, taking in several climbs, winding its way to Al-Bujairi.

The penultimate race day, contestants will take off from Wadi Namar Park and head to Al-Mazuhimiyah’s King Saud University.

Finally, on Saturday Feb. 8, the riders will race from Princess Nourah University to Al Masmak Fort, via Riyadh city’s streets.

Stewart Howison, founder and owner of Revolution Cycles in Dubai and a leading authority on cycling in the Middle East, will be following every step on the ground in the Saudi capital.

“What a lot of us hope to see in Saudi is the same sort of pattern that evolved from the Dubai Tour,” he said.

“There was definitely a direct impact after the Dubai Tour, we had the Abu Dhabi Tour and now the UAE Tour.”

He said local interest in cycling has grown significantly among amateurs, adding that he hoped to see the same happen in the Kingdom.

Howison was actively involved in the organization of the Dubai Tour from its inception, he also worked on the project that developed the design of Dubai’s Al Qudra cycling track.

He is confident the 755 kilometer Saudi Tour, with 18 teams from 13 countries, will be embraced by the riders and audiences.

“The terrain will help the big bunch sprinters that will come at the end,” he said.

“Seeing the teams that are coming down for the season opener, there’s somebody that everybody knows, Mark Cavendish with the Bahrain McLaren and he’s got something to prove. There’s so many big teams that will be there, Rui Costa will be there as well for the UAE Team Emirates. It’s going to be an exciting one to watch.”

Other riders include Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) and Frenchmen Nacer Bouhanni, who is joined at Arkéa-Samsic by British riders Connor Swift and Daniel McLay.

“Geographically, it’s not only going to encourage cyclists to be involved more in what’s happening in our region, but from a tourism point of view, it’s going to show the landscape to an international audience that has no idea what Saudi Arabia looks like,” Howison added.

Cycling has already made a significant mark on Arab riders, with one Emirati in particular - Yousef Mirza - set to take to Riyadh’s roads in the coming days.

And Howison is certain that other Saudi, and Middle Eastern, riders will soon make the same leap.

“Yousef Mirza has progressed and got so much better over the years, and now all these youngsters coming through have a local icon they can try and emulate,” Howison said.

“It won’t be long before you see a very strong Arab cycling team coming out of the region. We’ve got the facilities, we’ve got the infrastructure. We’re geographically located to be able to succeed.”

Ibrahimovic’s return to training with Sweden’s Hammarby sparks rumors about future

Updated 10 April 2020

Ibrahimovic’s return to training with Sweden’s Hammarby sparks rumors about future

STOCKHOLM: AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to training in Sweden with Hammarby, the club he part owns, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to lockdown Italy, has fueled speculation regarding his future.

Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport reported the 38-year-old Ibrahimovic will choose against renewing his Milan deal which finishes at the end of the season.

The Swedish outfit’s president, Richard Von Yxkull, said the decision was in the hands of the attacker who played 116 times for his country before retiring from international duty in 2016.

“It’s about knowing how Zlatan sees his future and what he wants to do,” Von Yxkull told newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Earlier in April the Spanish, Italian, French and Dutch league winner said he wanted to stay in the game after retiring.

“I want to learn something new about football, with a different angle. I will contribute from the sidelines, not on the pitch,” he told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Ibrahimovic’s last Milan appearance was the loss to Genoa on March 8.

All football in Italy has been suspended due to the coronavirus which has claimed the lives of nearly 18,000 people in the country.

Measures to fight the outbreak in Sweden are lighter which have allowed Ibrahimovic to train with Stockholm’s Hammarby, a side which he bought a 25-percent share in last November.

Ibrahimovic started his career with hometown club Malmo before trophy-laden spells with some of the world’s biggest outfits including Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain before rejoining Milan in January.