Sports ministry announces details of Saudi Tour 2022 in AlUla

The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
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The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
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The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
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The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
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The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)
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Updated 17 January 2022

Sports ministry announces details of Saudi Tour 2022 in AlUla

Sports ministry announces details of Saudi Tour 2022 in AlUla
  • 16 international teams will participate over a total distance of 831.3 km in five stages

RIYADH: The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation revealed new details of the upcoming Saudi Tour 2022, which is set to be held from Feb. 1 to 5.
16 international teams will participate in the second edition of the cycling tour over a total distance of 831.3 km in five stages, the ministry and the federation said in a joint press conference at the Maraya hall, AlUla on Sunday.
A presentation on the details of the track was given, including the start and end points for each of the five stages. The event is one of the activities of the “Quality of Life” program, which is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiatives.




The Ministry of Sports and the Saudi Cycling Federation hold a joint press conference at the Maraya hall in AlUla. (SPA)

The first stage will be launched from Winter Park and is 198 km long, the second starts from Taibah University and reaches Abu Rakah with a distance of 163.9 km. The third route starts from Hadaj Well, Tayma, to AlUla Old Town covering 181.2 km.
The fourth stage begins from Winter Park to Skyviews of Harrat Uwayrid and is 149.3 km long, and the race will conclude in the fifth stage from AlUla Old Town with a distance of 138.9 km.
Abdulrahman Al-Trairi, spokesman for the Royal Commission for AlUla, said the city has been associated with bicycles since ancient times, which can be seen in the many inscriptions in the area, especially in the direction of Tabuk.


He added that AlUla is characterized by its ancient civilization and unique mountainous landscape, which is what makes the Saudi Tour special.
Al-Trairi said that AlUla is preparing to host many sports tournaments in the coming period, in order to contribute to raising the quality of life in the region.
The race is accompanied by a number of sports events and races, including the mass-participation race, the women’s race, and the junior race organized by the Saudi Cycling Federation, as well as a race dedicated to children.


Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone
Updated 22 min 55 sec ago

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone
  • Uzbekistan recently announced as venue for tournament in West zone

RIYADH: The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed the Football Association of Thailand as the host member association for the upcoming AFC Women’s Club Championship – Pilot Tournament in the East region.

The match schedule has also been finalized with teams in the East – Taichung Blue Whale FC from Taiwan, Myanmar’s ISPE FC Women, and a club from Thailand to be decided by June 2022 – with games set to be played from Aug. 15 to 21.

In addition, the Uzbekistan Football Association was confirmed as the host member association for the West, which will be comprised of participating clubs from the host country, India, Iran, and Jordan and will be staged from Aug. 20 to 26, marking the first time the competition has been held across the two regions.

While the final cast of participating clubs will be confirmed at a later date, this year’s edition will also see the introduction of the first ever regional final contest between the East and West group leaders, which will take place in conjunction with the 2022 AFC Cup final on Oct. 22.

The winners will join 2019 victors Nippon TV Beleza from Japan and 2021 champions Amman Club from Jordan in the pilot editions’ honors roll, with the ultimate aim of chasing continental club glory ahead of the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League in 2024.


Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex
Updated 56 min 15 sec ago

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex
  • Days before Champions League final against Liverpool, new La Liga champs left reeling when French international opted to stay at Paris Saint-Germain
  • Spanish game has lost some star attractions since departures of Cristiano Ronaldo from real Madrid, Lionel Messi from Barcelona

RIYADH: Real Madrid may be days away from another Champions League final, but it seems the biggest talking point at the club at the weekend was Kylian Mbappe’s decision to stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

The Spanish giants, and their President Florentino Perez, simply do not take kindly to be being rejected, and certainly not twice as the French World Cup winner has just done.

On Saturday, Mbappe confirmed he would stay on at Paris Saint-Germain instead of making a move that had been all but set in stone earlier in the week. His new contract will keep him in the French capital until 2025 and allegedly give him benefits and powers never before afforded to a professional footballer.

And it was not only in Madrid where the decision did not go down well.

In recent days, even Barcelona President Joan Laporte has criticized Mbappe’s decision, calling players who signed long-term contracts for PSG “slaves to money.”

But perhaps the most outraged reaction came from the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, who questioned the French club’s ability to pull off such a lucrative deal having incurred losses of $750 million in recent seasons and with a salary bill of more than $640 million. It was, he said, an “insult to football.”

In short, the move has been seen as a slap in the face for La Liga and Spanish football.

La Liga, astonishingly, even filed complaints to UEFA and the EU against Paris Saint-Germain “in defense of the integrity of the economic system of European football.”

In its statement, La Liga considered the actions of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of the Parisian club, “a danger to European football,” and stressed that such deals threatened the economic sustainability of the game in Europe, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs and sporting integrity at risk in the medium term. The deal, it said, was a “complete scandal.”

It is not hard to see where all the anger stems from. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid and, later, Lionel Messi from Barcelona, La Liga has lost some of its luster.

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid comes only weeks after Erling Haaland, also a target at the Bernabeu, signed for English Premier League champions Manchester City.

This has not been helped by Barcelona’s marked decline and economic troubles, despite Xavi Hernandez bringing about a relative mood of positivity around his young team. And though Real Madrid have fared better, winning the league title this season, and reaching the Champions League final, at times they have seemed a shadow of the team that won three continental titles under Zinedine Zidane.

Signing Mbappe would have been Tebas’ way of redressing the balance, Madrid once again becoming home to the world’s best player.

That will not happen now.

Even should Real Madrid win the Champions League final in what is sure to be a heated confrontation with a wounded Liverpool, few can deny that in recent years the war quality of the squad at the club has waned, something that Perez was keen to address with other new signings.

There is a danger, however, that the world’s best players are looking elsewhere. Spain, for so many years the ultimate destination, no longer has the same pull.

Never was this clearer than on Sunday night, when the whole world seemingly tuned in enthralled to the finale of the Premier League season.

They were not disappointed either, as the Etihad Stadium witnessed Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City win the title after a remarkable five-minute spell saw them overrun a two-goal deficit against Aston Villa, while Liverpool kept the pressure on to the last with a 3-1 win against Wolves at Anfield.

The Premier League may be overhyped at times, but days like that make it hard to deny that it remains the strongest, most exciting, and most popular league in the world. In marketing speak, its product is unmatched.

That is what Tebas is up against.

The two Spanish giants will no doubt strengthen their squads in anticipation of another battle for supremacy next season, but El Classico may not be the draw it once was if players continue to head to the Premier League or Paris Saint-Germain.

For Perez, the announcement of Mbappe was a major step to establishing Real Madrid as Europe’s prominent destination, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s final against Liverpool.

Now he has to start all over again.

Already there are reports of a deal with Aurelien Tchouameni of Monaco. Will Real Madrid compensate for the Mbappe deal by attempting to sign Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane from their Champions League final opponents, or even Richarlison from Everton? And will Perez and the fans even be satisfied with any of these after having their heart set on Mbappe?

That such questions have preoccupied Spanish fans and officials ahead of European football’s biggest game shows the extent to which they have been rattled.

A defeat for Real Madrid on Saturday, and Spanish football’s recent sense of an inferiority complex might just grow even more.


Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals

Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals
Updated 26 May 2022

Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals

Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals
  • The Celtics improved to 6-2 on the road in this year’s playoffs

MIAMI: Jaylen Brown scored 25 points and Jayson Tatum added 22 as the Boston Celtics moved to the brink of the NBA Finals on Wednesday by defeating Miami 93-80.

Tatum also contributed game-highs of 12 rebounds and nine assists as the visiting Celtics took a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series, which continues in Boston on Friday.

“We can’t think it’s over with,” Tatum said. “We have to go home like we’re down 3-2, with that sense of urgency. Not being satisfied. We’ve got things to clean up, we’ve got to be playing better. The job is not done yet.

“It’s far from over.”

The Celtics, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to eliminate defending champion Milwaukee in the second round, are one victory from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

They have not captured the NBA crown since 2008, when they beat the Lakers.

“This is a great opportunity,” Brown said. “We have an opportunity to do something special.”

The Celtics improved to 6-2 on the road in this year’s playoffs.

A physical, defensive-minded contest was decided late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, when the Celtics went on a 24-2 run, Brown scoring 13 in the spurt and Tatum adding seven.

“We just got it going offensively,” Brown said. “We stopped turning the ball over. We cleaned it up, made more shots and got settled in.”

The Celtics dominated the third quarter, outscoring Miami 32-16 and closing the period with a 10-0 run for the largest lead to that point at 69-58 entering the fourth quarter.

For the game, Brown hit 10-of-19 from the floor, 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“The game opened up in the second half,” Brown said. “My team needed me to come out and respond.”

Miami went 4-for-22 shooting from the floor in the third quarter.

“The consecutive missed open shots started to affect us on the other end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“As poorly as we played offensively, we were able to compete defensively and keep them to under 100.”

Boston then opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run to seize command at 83-60 and the Celtics held off Miami from there, an emphatic slam dunk by Brown serving notice the visitors would not be letting the Heat make the game dramatic over the final minutes.

“We played great defense in the first half. We played great defense in the second half,” Brown said. “Once we started shooting the ball straight I knew we’d have a good half.”

Bam Adebayo led Miami with 18 points and also added 10 rebounds. But the Heat shot only 30-of-94 from the floor and 7-of-45 from 3-point range.

“We wear teams out defensively and make it hard on them mentally and physically,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “If we do that we’re in good shape.”

The Heat’s starting backcourt, Max Strus and Kyle Lowry, were a combined 0-of-15 from the floor, 0-for-12 from 3-point range.

“I’ve got to play better,” Lowry said. “Tonight I played terrible. When I get on the court I have to be better.”

Al Horford added 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks for the Celtics. The 35-year-old Dominican center seeks his first NBA crown.

“Al is old reliable,” Brown said. “He gives us whatever we need.”

Boston’s Marcus Smart played despite a right ankle sprain and teammate Robert Williams was on the court despite a left knee injury.

Smart had five points, five rebounds and four assists plus stalwart defensive moves while Williams contributed six points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“Rob is a very big part of what we do,” Horford said. “I’m impressed at his poise. He’s huge for us.”


Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck

Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck
Updated 26 May 2022

Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck

Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck
  • Verstappen took control of the championship by easing six points clear of Monegasque driver Leclerc of Ferrari, who was forced into retirement at the Circuit de Catalunya

MONACO: World champion Max Verstappen heads home this weekend hoping to survive the chaos and beat archrival and luckless local hero Charles Leclerc again in Sunday’s 79th running of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Just days after leading his teammate Sergio Perez over the line in a Red Bull 1-2 last weekend in Spain, the 24-year-old Dutchman will bid for a repeat to consolidate his grip at the top of this year’s title race.

Verstappen took control of the championship by easing six points clear of Monegasque driver Leclerc of Ferrari, who was forced into retirement at the Circuit de Catalunya.

He seeks a fourth consecutive win and second in the classic contest in Sunday’s potentially rain-affected race.

“Qualifying is critical, like always,” said the 2021 victor.

“Monaco is always a hectic weekend, but special. The track is old school, narrow and it makes your heart rate go so high it’s insane.

“We have to be constantly on the edge. It’s a pretty crazy place with Formula One cars! I finally won there last year — and it was a massive relief to cross the line.”

Like Leclerc, who was born and lives in the Mediterranean principality, Verstappen is based there — for climatic and tax purposes — along with several other drivers including seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

As a result, they enjoy an intimate knowledge of the circuit regarded as the most iconic and glamorous on the F1 calendar, but also the rare luxury of sleeping at home during a race weekend.

For Leclerc, however, that comfort has yet to be of any help on the tight, unforgiving and sinuous barrier-lined street track that requires total concentration and extraordinary driver skills.

At just 3.337 kilometers, it is the shortest on the calendar, offers few overtaking opportunities, rapid and multiple gear changes and tricky changes in elevation and direction. Only 42 percent of the lap is run at full speed, the lowest of the year.

Despite knowing all this and having gone by bus to school on the same stretches of asphalt, Leclerc has yet to finish his home Grand Prix in three attempts since 2018. Last year, after crashing on Saturday, he could not start Sunday’s race.

Before that, he had to retire after starting from pole in a Formula Two race in 2017 and, more recently, earlier this month, crashed a classic 1974 Ferrari, raced by Niki Lauda, at a historic demonstration event.

Yet he remains calm and optimistic, hoping a change to the classic Monaco routine this year — with practice starting on Friday, and not Thursday, as was once traditional — will help.

“I think it gives us the rhythm of the other races, which could be good so I am looking forward to that and giving it a go,” he said, deflecting any negative thoughts after a power failure in Spain, while leading, brought him his first DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season.

“My attitude is always the same, regardless,” he added. “Every point is valuable. We know that even the smallest mistake can make a bid difference.”

After dominating practice and starting from pole in Spain, Leclerc and Ferrari will hope they can continue to set the pace, but they know Red Bull will be a threat and reliability a key factor.

“Since the start of the season, the team that has done everything perfectly was the one to win. We will do everything to be that team,” said Leclerc.

“We have the confidence that we can make it, which is a good starting point.”

After returning to competitive form with a heavily upgraded car in Spain, where George Russell was third and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton fifth, Mercedes will also be hopeful, but realistic.

“We made a big step and halved the advantage of the front-runners,” said team chief Toto Wolff.

“But there’s still a long way to go. And Monaco was not our happiest place in the past. My expectations are lower than at any other circuit.”

Mercedes have won only once since 2016 after winning four in a row and the unique showpiece race has been Red Bull’s twice in three years since Ferrari’s last win in 2017, with Sebastian Vettel.

To many observers, another Ferrari win and an end to Leclerc’s agonies is long overdue.


Carapaz keeps slim Giro lead, Buitrago scores breakthrough victory in tough 17th stage

Carapaz keeps slim Giro lead, Buitrago scores breakthrough victory in tough 17th stage
Updated 26 May 2022

Carapaz keeps slim Giro lead, Buitrago scores breakthrough victory in tough 17th stage

Carapaz keeps slim Giro lead, Buitrago scores breakthrough victory in tough 17th stage
  • Thursday’s 18th stage should see a sprint finish after a flat circuit around Treviso at the end of a 156-kilometer (97-mile) route from Borgo Valsugana, that includes two fourth-category climbs

LAVARONE, Italy: Race favorite Richard Carapaz maintained his slim overall lead of the Giro d’Italia after a tough 17th stage which was won by Santiago Buitrago for his first grand tour victory.

Carapaz remained three seconds ahead of 2020 runner-up Jai Hindley — with just four days of racing remaining — after both crossed the line together at the end of the 168-kilometer (104-mile) route from Ponte di Legno to Lavarone, which packed in almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) of climbing.

Mikel Landa finished six seconds behind the duo but moved into third overall, 1 minute and five seconds behind Carapaz. He surpassed João Almeida who was dropped on the second of the two top-category climbs that came in the final 40 kilometers of the race.

“It’s been a really hard stage,” said Carapaz, who rides for the powerful Ineos Grenadiers team. “I think we’re happy, every day everything is being defined a bit more, everything is clearing up in the (general classification) and I’m happy to have the jersey for another day.”

Buitrago had been in tears after finishing second on Sunday’s 15th stage. There were more tears from the Colombian cyclist on Wednesday, but this time of joy after soloing to victory.

The 22-year-old recovered from a crash halfway through the day to get back to the breakaway and then launched his attack toward the top of the final climb, cresting it alone and speeding down the final eight kilometers.

Buitrago, who rides for Team Bahrain Victorious, finished 35 seconds ahead of Gijs Leemreize — who had been leading on the steep climb to Monterovere — and 2:28 ahead of Jan Hirt.

“I’m really emotional. It’s my first Giro,” Buitrago said. “I needed to have a cold head on the final climb … I felt like I had the legs and I wanted to try and I went for it. I knew I had to go over on my own to try and win the stage.”

Thursday’s 18th stage should see a sprint finish after a flat circuit around Treviso at the end of a 156-kilometer (97-mile) route from Borgo Valsugana, that includes two fourth-category climbs.

“Tomorrow will still be an important day,” Carapaz said. “We have to get through the remaining days, no day is easy and we’ve got a really difficult weekend coming up.”

The Giro ends on Sunday in Verona.