Madinat Zayed - Abu Dhabi - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme -  illustration - sfeer - illustratie dessert pictured during Abu Dhabi Tour 2015 - stage - 1 from Qasr al Sarab to  Madinat Zayed 174 km - 08/10/2015 - photo Cor Vos © 2015
  • jules

    great post Lee.

  • Chris

    I don’t care where the money goes in these races. Oil buys teams, vip spectators, fancier exotic venues, etc. Fine, It is what it is. If the pro’s want to complain about it, let them. They can pull out if they find it too hard, nobody is stopping them, and it’s not as if they’re brutally indifferent to rider suffering as seen in stage 1. What I have a problem with is promoting world class races in regions with piss poor human rights records and get away with it by throwing money at people in hopes they overlook that aspect of the country and culture. I couldn’t watch or enjoy any aspect of this farce of a race and can’t believe it’s not something that the UCI hasn’t looked at when considering what countries deserve to have World Pro Tour races held in them. If Pro Cycling wants to follow the money, let it. Maybe there should have been that split pro league that people were talking about 2-3 years ago. Maybe that league would take in the riders best interest and possibly, dare I say, have the spine to follow the ambitions of what would be morally acceptable for the sport.

    • Lee Rodgers

      It’s a good point Chris and one I failed to make, but what if we were to apply this to all nations that hold bike races? Might the USA do so well with its own human rights record both at home and abroad? That and others I can think of would lead me to wonder…

      • Chris

        I wouldn’t want to leave the US out of this either. China, Qatar, the list goes on. Maybe it wasn’t such good press to have the worlds in Richmond? At the end of it, the UCI races across the world, and not every country (likely no country) would have a spotless record. I would have just the governing bodies would have more tact when choosing locations to race.

        (FYI, I’m Canadian, we’re trying really hard come Oct 19th to change the current government since decisions as of late have pretty well led to these kinds of discussion around the water cooler. Nobody is perfect, not by a long shot)

      • VK

        Thumbs up to Lee Rodgers’ response.

      • Cynic

        You are kidding aren’t you?

        Comparing a democratic company with basic human rights like the U.S., to a fiefdom run by one family enacting Sharia law to maintain its hold on its sheer genetic luck at any expense.

        The U.S. is a million miles ahead of the barbaric ‘legal system’ in the UAE.

        Since when did the U.S. legal system convict a man for ‘homosexual handshake’? In 2014 a man was convicted and flogged (80 lashes) for that “crime” in the UAE.

        How often are construction workers sold to other developers (passports included) like they are in the UAE? For the London Olymics there wee less than 5 deaths on construction sites for stadia in the 4 years prior, in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup it is expected over 4,000 workers will die.

        Surely you are not that silly or uneducated that you didn’t even read up on Abu Dhabi and the UAE before you went there or said that waffle?

      • Matt DeMaere

        It is simplistic to lump the USA into the same category. You might as well indict the whole West — and further still really — if you don’t draw at least some sensible boundary. Yes their government and many others collectively have some serious things to answer for when it comes to actions taken in the name of national security and sovereignty, but as pointed out @Cynic, there is an easy line to draw between the two.

    • jules

      I recommend reading a couple of books on ME history and politics. It didn’t end up like it is by accident. The west has systematically interfered with ME govts to get the regimes they wanted in place. And it wasn’t human rights that determined what they wanted.

      • Chris

        I will definitely take you up on that. The last few weeks my interest in political influence has been pretty high on the radar.

        • donncha

          A good introduction is ‘A World Without Islam’ by Graham E. Fuller. Poses the question “If Islam had never come into existence, would there be peace in the Middle East?” Written by an ex-CIA analyst and is quite forthright both about what the West has done since Islam arrived 1400yrs ago and how the Muslim world has reacted.

    • Matthew Barron

      You mean like the human rights violations that occur in off shore detention centers right? The UAE, Qatar and Oman all have development centers and infrastructure for developing athletes from junior racing to Olympic medal contenders. To inspire kids, they need top level athletes coming to their county to compete. These aren’t rich sheikhs playing with money for the sake of playing with money. They are doing it for a reason, get people active and support development of the sport.

      • Matt

        That tone was probably a bit much. Just being forward, a lot of people bash these races, but really, would you prefer them buying new yachts or investing in our sport?

      • Cynic

        Please stop reading off the brochure.


      • Jolly Roger

        The cycling federation has nothing for kids, sports development in schools, no cyclo cross, no mountain bikes, no category system, doesn’t pay out prize money it promised, has commissaires who aren’t impartial, only let expats ride 4 or 5 years ago. Local rider flaunt the rules, get lifts off their team cars and busses. The AUH and Dubai tours are simply there to get the towns on the TV. The courses are awful on the Dubai tour – u-turns, speed bumps. Why isnt there an UAE Tour?? All other cyclists in UAE are riding 5.30-9am max at this time of year, yet the pro tour goes through the middle of the day! Recently bicycles were banned on most roads in Dubai. Its hardly a development centre of cycling of any discipline. There are more expats more interested in their own self promotion and calling themselves ‘elite’ and getting free kit, yet ability is generally very low. There is not 1 group training ride in Dubai that runs a paceline. Most riders have 404s, Power meter, internet coaches yet cant ride through and off….unfortunatly no-one is interested in the actual development of the sport…

        • brucegray

          Well said Roger. Further, the Middle East en masse, has one of the highest rising rates of lifestyle disease in the world. Sedentary, crap diet, essentially, a life of pig ignorance and self indulgence. Nouveau riche par excellence!

          Excuse my cynicism, but essentially nothing comes out of the Middle East that improves the human condition. The sooner nuclear fusion and cost efficient solar power are developed, the sooner the world can let the Middle East destroy itself.

    • BRK

      Qatar has a terrible human rights record. So why is the 2016 Road World Champs going to be held in Qatar?

      I really struggle to think that this can be anything but a negative thing for the image of the sport of cycling … especially considering what is happening with repect to the 2022 FIFA World Cup preparations.
      Unfortunately, seems to me that the sport of cycling (which could be one of the most beautiful sports in the world) just keeps shooting itself in the foot.

      • Rob Booth

        Cycling cannot remain “one of the most beautiful sports in the world” without money.

        It’s OK for Qatar to own western businesses and real estate. But don’t use their money to fund our sport? Qatari ownership includes:
        12.7% of Barclays
        17% stake in the Volkswagen Group
        investments in Sainsbury’s, Lagardère, Total, EADS, Technip, Air Liquide, France Telecom and Xstrata, Miramax and 6% in Credit Suisse and Apeldoorn, the majority owner of Canary Wharf Group.
        3% in Royal Dutch Shell.
        French football club Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
        television network Al Jazeera Sports and French television channels beIN Sport.

        • david__g

          I don’t know if it is OK for them to own western business and real estate.

          • Superpilot

            True, but money has no morals.

        • echidna_sg

          A different angle perhaps, but who actually gets the money that they “fund our sport” with? the UCI? the airlines? the local hotels? the TV networks? the local police and emergency services crews?
          I am 100% sure there was a BIG chunk of change made its way into cav’s pockets as the official ambassador for the event… and I’ve also pretty sure that the teams would have been told you have to bring some big names to get big appearance fees…
          With some luck, those extra appearance fees will trickle down into more $$ in the riders pockets, but that’s as far as it is ever likely to go. Its certainly not aiming to get millions more people on bikes in the emirates…
          In F1, its all about licence fees for Bernie… what makes cycling any different? its just the size of the fee… you could buy and sell the entire pro cycling peloton for the cost of an F1 race licence!

  • Lee Rodgers

    Much appreciated Jules, thanks!

  • Paolo

    Hilarious, all the justifications why it’s a good idea. Boonen would be there to race at any race in prep for the classics. If it would be Norway, he would say how the cold toughens him up. 100 riders on Monday night crits, with probably half of them Masters…you’re f@#$% kidding me!

  • ceedee

    I don’t care too much where races take place. As long as commissaires don’t treat riders like performing monkeys and make them race dangerous weather/environmental conditions. Treating riders like shit is one reason why this sport a doping problem.

  • alexroseinnes

    Wholly unconvincing. Not great if this is the best defense the ME races can muster.

  • Nick Squillari

    So in a time when teams are struggling to find new sponsors – or downright disappearing because of a lack of them – there is criticism levelled at a region that is throwing money and resources at developing a new race. Right after (normally the very same critics) are finished with lambasting the governing body/team directors/anyone really for not having the creativity or intuition to find new ways in which to finance their squads so they don’t fold.

    Really at a loss as to what some fans want from the sport. Good on the Middle East for continuing the expansion of cycling (and great piece Lee).

    • Lee Rodgers

      Cheers Nick, and agreed, good point.

    • alexroseinnes

      These races are pointless vanity pieces just like the sky-scrapers they race beneath. With all due respect to the 100 desperadoes who line up for the weekly Doha crit, there is no organic cycling community in the gulf states. They are part of a long line of ill-suited events and investments willed into existence by petrostates in their desperate search for relevance beyond oil.

      Consider South Africa, with it’s huge local cycling scene, including mass participation events that have over 30,000 entrants, and then tell me the UCI has the best interests of the sport at heart. It’s about more than the marginal dollar to keep the sport sputtering along in its current malformed state, it is about longevity.

      • jules

        good point on SA but I’ll go out on a limb and wonder whether safety is a factor in not bringing high level races there?

        • alexroseinnes

          Security is not as bad as many make it out to be. No more dangerous than races in Brazil or Argentina. Safe enough for Froome in the off-season and many pro triathletes who live and train down in Stellenbosch.

          • Rob Booth

            South Africa had an UCI 2.2 event, the Giro del Capo. It was canned due to the looses it incurred and the general apathy of the event organisers towards road racing, apart from the cash cow of the 35,000 participant Cape Town Cycle Tour. There is little interest in using this windfall for the promotion of road racing.

      • Kyle V.

        All races are pointless vanity pieces. The whole point is to ride your bike slightly faster than everyone else so you can stand on top of a podium and spray champagne out of a bottle or hold a rock above your head simply because you had a slightly higher average speed then those you raced against. Just because a race takes place in a less traditional venue doesn’t make it any more vane than the ones held in Europe that we cherish.

        Races are put on with and for money, or the exposure that money buys in hopes of bringing in more money. If that fact makes people uncomfortable, it’s probably time for them to stop paying any attention to professional sports as a whole.

    • Cynic

      Exactly, and the next races in North Korea and Zimbabwe should be great too.

      Anything that props up and makes a revolting dictator look good is ok I guess, so long as it’s good for cycling.

      Something tells me you’re too young or selfish to know anything about the apartheid era and the protestors who battled police in Australia at those South African rugby matches.

      • Cynic2

        Something tells me you are so superior or so full of yourself.

      • Blake

        Something tells me you’re too busy being self righteous to fact check. Apartheid ended in 1994. Since then South Africa has been the best model we have of democracy in Africa. The current president is Jacob Zuma who was elected by parlament in 2009 and will serve until 2019 after being elected to his second five year term last year.

        Sorry to be a dick, I just cannot see any way that apartheid is relevant. Its in the past, and the people who benefited from it are squarely out of power.

        • Cynic

          Don’t be sorry if you are.

          I am making parallels to sport being used to justify a very questionable dictatorship (ruling family). I am saying that situation still exists (in Abu Dhabi). You seem to have completely missed the point.

          I could also have suggested the Berlin Olympics 1936, which was awash with Swastikas and blonde German athletes (until Jesse Owen ran). That sporting event was used to show what a great place Nazi German was, supposedly. Yes, that was in the past too.

          The example I used is that the South African government of the time (apartheid era) held rugby matches from 1948 through to the 1970s (and toured their team as well). While black South Africans were treated appallingly under apartheid, whites could carry on travelling and playing rugby and all would be fine. I mean they can’t be all bad, look they play rugby just like us.

          My Dad travelled in SA in the 1970’s and wondered what all the fuss was about, stayed in nice hotels, the office seemed ok, all the locals seemed fine. Ok so they were mostly whites, but the domestic staff seemed happy to him..(just like an Aussie working in the Middle East today). Then he got his driver to sneak him off into Joburg suburbs one afternoon and whoah…

          These governments do so to ‘prove’ what a normal society (and government) they are, for a bit of their own fun even, but the reality was one of human rights abuses. Aren’t there parallels to Abu Dhabi? Competing in these circuses panders to these dictators, makes you culpable in some way too.

          There were rugby tours of SA by the British & Irish Lions, French, Scots, Wallabies and All Blacks (but only white Kiwis, as Maoris were not allowed to play in SA until 1970 when they were designated as “honorary whites”) for many years. Australia banned SA teams on its shores and its Wallabies touring there, but New Zealand decided it would still be ok and invited them to tour in 1981. The British & Irish Lions also toured until the 1980s as well. Finally, people realised what a farce it was, legitimizing the South Africans by playing matches and saying “it’s not my fault how they treat their own people”.

          Riders like Sagan and Boonen are simply legitimising the arab family who is the dictatorship in UAE, whether they realise or care or not. Merckx even more so because he is being well paid by the ‘race organisers’ ASO (remember him going off at the riders who stopped in a sand storm last year? Massive conflict and error of judgement by him).

          From a sporting event used to promote the white apartheid government, blocking rugby matches during the apartheid era it became a tool to pressure them to change.

          What’s self righteous or superior about caring for other people who are treated appallingly?

          • Blake

            Well, i think you beat me about as hard as theoretically possible over internet comments. I misunderstood your original point and will try to read deeper into your comment next time. I’ll stop talking now.

    • david__g

      I know what fans don’t want – races held in despotic hellholes with ass backwards laws and terrible human rights records longer than Merckx’s palmares.

      Remember why they are throwing money at the sport – to try and create the illusion that they are not these terrible places. Maybe if they just sorted out their human rights first, we might not mind all the money being hosed at cycling?

  • Belinda Hoare

    I’m surprised to see my tweet be cited as the sole voice of criticism leveled at the Abu Dhabi Tour – only seems fair that I respond to give it some context. The problems I (and others) have had with this particular Tour are many – the completely turgid parcours, the gimmickry of a night crit on a F1 track with not a single spectator to see (they couldn’t even be bothered with a rent-a-crowd?), the almost complete absence of crowds for the entire Tour, the complete absence of women honored in the all-too-self-congratulatory UCI Cycling Gala, the unquestioned acceptance of huge amounts of money from a country not only dripping in wealth but from an area that has a very dim human rights record (especially when it comes to the treatment of women). Is this what we want for the future of pro cycling? Soulless racing? A sport devoid of any political conscience? Didn’t everyone praise Sagan for making political commentary in his World Championship speech about the refugee crisis in Europe? Why shouldn’t the cycling community be allowed to question the development of pro cycling tours – at the expense of others – in areas that do not promote equality between men and women? With all the wealth allegedly thrown at the UCI to hold a pro cycling Tour in the Middle East, why were there not some funds set aside for a parallel women’s tour? Didn’t the UCI dump the Tour of Beijing last year because of a lack of interest in the Tour itself by locals? Not true – the locals were actually interested. If the UCI really is serious about globalising the cycling, for the development of the sport, then it hardly needs to sell its soul to the highest bidder, and give opportunities to one of the richest nations in the world. Where is the UCI’s pro cycling focus in Africa? So many plaudits for MTN-Qhubeka, but no impetus or motivation to develop a Tour, anywhere in Africa – an entire continent with significantly higher cycling participation rates and growth potential than the tiny UAE? Really? It really is bordering on hypocrisy for the UCI to be intrinsically wrapped up in the ethics of anti-doping, clean racing, and anti-corruption, and yet ignore the stage upon which it seeks to play out its sporting morals. Is the UCI that desperate for money? Aren’t we allowed to ask these questions?

    I’m not a journalist, Lee, and I’m not the only one who has criticized the Abu Dhabi Tour and UCI Cycling Gala held last week, I’ve never raced in the Middle East, and after all, I am only a woman. Take my opinion for what it is.

    • jules

      “Is the UCI that desperate for money?” suspect answer is Yes

      • Pete

        It’s only ever about money Jules.

        • jules

          I guess the other question is: “for who?” the UCI as an organisation or some key figures as individuals?

        • Look at who and how the middle eastern races (Oman, Qatar) were setup (Merckx fronted & financed by ASO funds) it’s inextricably linked, with a shrewd network of “old boys” with the influence and power.

          It doesn’t take much delving to see other “old network boys” noses in the oil trough, most of them former adversaries of EM & with connections at both ASO & UCI.

    • alexroseinnes

      excellent response, Belinda.

    • Nick Squillari

      The same Tour of Beijing that saw huge issues with smog, two clenbuterol positives from tainted meat and a huge conflict of interest giving the promotion company running it had connections back to McQuaid.

      Three strikes, it was out.

      If the racing in Abu Dhabi was “soulless” I’m not sure what level the racing in Beijing would be at, as it certainly wasn’t more exciting than anything from the week just gone.

      And as far as human rights goes, Australia at least doesn’t discriminate against women. We’re even handed and discriminate against both equally – as cited by the United Nations in our treatment of refugees. Not to mention the shocking conditions and living standards of the indigenous population. Going down the ‘you shouldn’t hold races due to your human rights record’ really is a slippery slope that would make Australians looks more than a little hypocritical.

      • alexroseinnes

        Let those without sin etc. but you can’t even begin to cast australia in the same light as the human rights abuses in the gulf states. the appalling treatment of “guest workers” from the sub-continent is on another level, not to mention the fact that these states are authoritarian dictatorships. The UCI are attracted to the gulf in the same way as all the expats that live there are – greedy hands out for some petrodollars.

        • Michele

          Agree Alex …

          But where you draw the line between what is considered acceptable human rights abuses, and what isn’t.

          I’m not saying that these Middle East races should be held. I just want to know what parameters / rules should be followed to determine which countries are allowed to hold races.

          The parameters can’t be set by governments; to much self interest where oil = $$$$ and so forth.

          Can’t look to big business either. Should Apple have a Store in Abu Dhabi? Should Coca-Cola be able to trade in the ME?

          And you can’t look to other sporting governing bodies to see what pattern has been set by them. FIFA, F1, etc.

          • alexroseinnes

            Michele, I agree, but the human rights records of the gulf states is just one reason among many why races shouldn’t be held in the region.

          • Highly credible questions and answers, on the whys and wherefore, etc.
            But is Cycling a moral fuelled sport?

            We’ve al got moral compasses, and a sense of right and wrong.
            But, we also have (“we” being competitive cyclists) an inherent attitude to race, and for the highly skilled and talented, an urge to win.
            We all read newspapers, watch sky news, and see daily human rights abuses, and conduct which provides shock, revulsion and inner outrage.
            Gradually, the sight of death, pictures of human outrages on evening tv & Bali 9 style executions, are compared to other atrocities in war zones, but we flick the channel and watch neighbours (a different form of visual abuse).

            Cyclists usually avoid any comments, which offend or disturb, political or sporting arenas, for reason of self income, with team PR (we want an invite back, it’s a good earner…..)
            Sagan, was the only one I recall, who’s ever been outspoken on a podium.

            Cadel got close when Tibet problems emerged, and he wore a pair of socks.

            So outraged morals are fine, but it’s rare individuals, who stick their heads above the sight line.
            The corrupt politics within cycling, ensure the outspoken, remain, out.

            • Michele

              Great comment. Enjoyed reading it.

          • dsd74

            I agree, it’s hard to mark a line in the sand where one country is ok and another one is not. Yes one can complain about China (and Western countries as well), but some of these countries take it to another level.
            On a tangent, a female friend of mine who live a couple of years in the UAE had a quote regarding all the money spent on events like the Tours, F1, World Cup, etc that goes along the lines: “… ti’s all an attempt to make some rich guys’ d%&*s look bigger…”

            • Michele

              I have no doubt that ego is also an influential factor – but probably not as much as greed when it comes to sporting events in the middle east.

              Yes, its a hard line to define.

              Another example:

              Professional sportspeople who have personal sponsorships wth multi-national clothing companies that make their products in sweatshops.

              I’m not suggesting this is as big a atrocity as to what happens in the Middle East (and other places).

              But it does highlight that one’s moral compass can become distorted when it comes to money.

    • Michele

      You make some very good points Belinda. I really enjoyed Lee’s article as well.

      I follow F1, and there are some parallels between what cycling is doing with races like this, and what F1 has done with it’s globalisation. Granted … different motives behind it all.

      I couldn’t help but wonder how Hamilton, Vettel and Perez felt having their trophies had to them by Putin.
      And yes, I think we should be able to question races like this.

      Can I ask; and I am not trying to stir the pot… what does your comment ‘I am only a woman’ have to do with anything? Have I missed something?

      Why wouldn’t your comment / opinion be valued as much as anyone else’s on here?

    • Hi Belinda, thanks for your comment. It was my decision to embed your tweet in the piece, not to single it out (although, personally, I don’t disagree with the sentiment in your tweet and your comment above) but merely to provide an example of the criticisms that have been levelled at the race.

      • Anon N + 1

        And where is said tweet? I’ve reviewed the article three times and clicked on the embedded links, but I can’t find it!

        • Belinda Hoare

          It was deleted. For the record, I wrote a tweet on Monday: ” Can we all agree the Abu Dhabi Tour represents all that is wrong with the supposed future of pro cycling?” The editors embedded the tweet after the 6th paragraph of the article, and then removed it some time later.

          • jules

            I don’t get why you are offended Belinda. the author of this article has argued in favour of the Abu Dhabi Tour. you hold a different view. big deal – no one is thinking the lesser of you for that, surely?

            • Belinda Hoare

              Who said I was offended by the inclusion of my tweet in the article? The issue I took up with the editors is that my tweet was the *only* tweet used, from the dozens and dozens that have appeared on twitter in the last few days – from professional journalists, who have been far more scathing than me. The other issue is that I found the article by accident – no one from CyclingTips contacted me to let me know before or after it was used, that it was going to be published in this context. It’s an issue of journalistic ethics at worst, just common courtesy at best. They know it, which is why they removed it.

              • jules

                well you do sound offended. I’m not judging you, I meant to be supportive in saying you are entitled to hold that view. no one’s drinking the Kool Aid and chasing down dissenters. or least they’re all on the CN forums :)

                • Cynic

                  I’d be offended if my Tweet was used for an article, and not asked prior, or not paid for it.

                  CTs made a mistake here, a genuine one not intentional like some other media outlets. Hopefully they’ve apologised to Belinda. Belinda has been gracious enough not to get upset about it. Blaming her is not on.

                  The issue remains, these races in Abu Dhabi and Qatar are all about the money, and they are just PR pieces for the ruling family. I am yet to be convinced otherwise.

                  • jules

                    I wouldn’t be offended. If they ridiculed me, that would be one thing.

                  • cynic

                    What’s the view like from your high horse?

                    FTR – unless a tweet actually contains copyrighted material, it is not possible to copyright a tweet.

                    Suggest you read the T&C of twitter [and facebook to understand you don’t own you tweets/status updates]. They essentially become public property with you hit the send button – they can be used without permission. And you cerrtainly do not have to pay for them. This will save you from becoming offended if someone decides to use one of your tweets one day.

                    It seems Belinda isn’t offended [Belinda has said as much]. But there’s nothing better than someone being offended on someone else’s behalf, and demanding an apology.

                    Yes, we get the picture, you won’t be convinced otherwise. And most comments here agree with you. Blind Freddy can tell the races are held there because money talks.

                    Lee didn’t claim his article was going to address the Human Right’s issues in the Middle East. And to be frank, it didn’t have to. He was simply presenting a rider’s persepctive on the RACING – not on the political climate.

                    • I’m a cynic too

                      Up here it’s hard to read the T&Cs for Twitter, so thanks for enlightening me.

                      Whether Lee likes it or not, you can’t not address the issue of why they are racing and who is paying them and why.

                      Let me pitch this one – the TDU reschedules their final stage Crit race to the Manus Island Nauru detention centre, with major sponsor being Transfield, the operators of Manus Island. Do you watch and support?

          • Anon N + 1

            Thank you, Ms Hoare.

            Mr de Neef, given all the discussion the tweet generated, I think it would have been more journalistic responsible to state at the appropriate place, [Comment removed for (reason)]. Alternatively, perhaps the comment could have been paraphrased and incorporated into the article in the first instance, for example: “On Tweeter, many complained that the Abu Dhabi Tour is typical of the wrong direction in which pro cycling is heading.”

    • donncha

      There’s a slight difference between ASO (Oman, Qatar + Ladies Qatar) & RCS (Abu Dhabi) putting on races and the UCI itself taking money, out of that paid by the teams for other purposes, to put on its own race (Beijing) which it conveniently granted WT status.

      As for the UCI Awards Gala, the women were invited, but weren’t there. UCI can’t really honour them if they’re not present. Anyone know why they didn’t come? Was it money, or some other reason?

      • echidna_sg

        You try and get visas for a bunch of solo travelling women into that part of the world. It’s nearly impossible.

        • Dave

          It doesn’t seem to be a problem for other sporting events courted by governments in that are of the world.

      • Superpilot

        How about all the men were paid to be in the country to race by their teams, so they were there anyway, but the womens teams and the women athletes themselves would have to pay for their own tickets from wherever they were to get to the Middle East. Not direct to you, but I’ve read several comments by people that the women ‘couldn’t be bothered to go’ when there is a huge amount of copy out there (on Ella especially) about how little the womens teams and athletes get paid. Victim shaming if you ask me. The gala should be held after an event when they are all there.

    • Lee Rodgers

      Great points Belinda, I certainly wasn’t intending to make you feel singled out, your tweet just got me thinking! You make some very good points too, has to be said. I am not sure I agree though that the UCI are intrinsically wrapped up in the ethics of clean racing however, maybe in a decade or three! Too many doper managers and coaches about for my liking, too many loopholes. I respect your opinions though, be sure of that ;-)

    • Will

      In terms of human rights violations, there are clearly major problems, but these are slowly being addressed, largely through the increased eyes on the gulf that inherently come when western sporting bodies and business take an interest in the region. Sure more could be done here, and a lot of people are pushing for this, but placing de facto embargoes / sanctions on the region will not improve this. Contrary to popular thought, there are a lot of people who care about these issues and are actively trying to improve the situation, both within the local governments and through third parties. It is also important to note that the entire region is not homogenous – while there are of course major issues within UAE, Oman and Qatar, it is not fair to place the sins of some other countries in the region on the feet of these countries. And while there may be more traditional countries that could do with more races (undoubtedly), the UCI has a finite number of resources – bigger money here should actually contribute to further developing cycling globally (provided that the way funds are used is transparent and in line with the UCI’s goals of promoting cycling, which I admit is a big if).

      FWIW – if I worked at the UCI I would require each race sign up to an undertaking stating that the race would put in place policies to ensure staff are treated fairly and that potential employees and contractors aren’t discriminated against in any form. But unless these requirements are in place globally, it is simply unfair (and arguably worse) to insist that only races in one part of the world have to address these issues.

      Regarding the races themselves, sure the crowds aren’t like those in arenberg, but there is still very strong support through the whole region, including for women’s racing. Look at the women’s tour of Qatar – a great race that is strongly supported by the local government and community. I would also be surprised if parallel quality women’s races in Dubai / Oman aren’t put in place shortly. And this is far from soulless racing – it is hard hard riding that rewards strength and tactics. And while it may look uninspiring on film or pictures, the region is stunning. I challenge anyone to set foot in the empty quarter and not feel amazed at how beautiful it is.

      I should add to Belinda – just because I am responding to your post doesn’t mean I am challenging you on the points above – there are just so many good points for discussion that you have raised that I thought it best to post here.

    • Cynic

      You’re clearly more of a journalist than Lee is.

      Top stuff Belinda.

      PS. I’ve disagreed with your Tweets in the past on other topics, but you have a good ‘voice’ on issues which I really respect.

    • Cynic

      MTN Qhubeka was wholly funded by someone else, the UCI cannot claim one iota of credit. All the risk was by someone else, the sole input of the UCI was the rubber stamp on their application, taking their fees, and writing a letter or two.

      Like many things good in cycling, the UCI is not responsible.

    • Sean parker

      I was going to raise a point about women’s racing and women’s rights but you’ve trumped me. Obviously the writer of this article and the UCI have a massive blind spot when it comes to human rights.
      But that’s ok. So long as someone makes money.

    • Simon Bowers

      Belinda – Are you aware this is a RCS organised race not a UCI organised race? – The UCI dumped the Tour of Bejing because it was setup by McQuaids and there was a clear conflict of interest with UCI being involved with race organisation – these races, like them or not, generate revenue for RCS so that we can enjoy races like the Giro which btw doesn’t generate anywhere near the money most think it do – perhaps anger needs to be directed at RCS who are the real ones making here rather than the UCI

  • ed

    There are so many biased opinions generated from the Western media in some of these responses. As a Dubai based expat I would like to repsond to all of them but the time doesnt permit. In general:
    1. Safety – My family and I feel very safe in Dubai – much safer than on train in Sydney or in Sydney CBD with drunk bogans looking to pick a fight.
    2. Women’s rights – My wife does not feel she is a second rate citizen here. There is a womens Tour of Qatar everyone seems to be forgetting
    3. Local cycling scene – is growing – yes it is mostly expats but more & more locals are getting into it – they dont all have yachts. Unlike the traditional cycling countries the UAE, Oman & Qatar doesnt have a rich cycling history nor do kids grow up riding their bikes so crowds arent going to be to the same level
    4. The weather – when extreme the sand & heat can make riding unpleasent but the weather in Feburary is pretty good for Qatar, Dubai, Oman tours. Last week in the UAE was a bit warmer than what is has been so perhaps they were a little bit unlucky. What races arent impacted by weather? – there have been numerous races in recent years in Europe, North America and Australia impacted by blizzards, bushfires, intense heat, hail, intense cold etc etc
    5. Race organisers lining their pockets – its well known that towns/regions bid for the Grand Depart or have the race pass through their region. Why not the outcry about the Giro starting in Holland or the Tour starting in the UK.

    • Michael James

      As an Abu Dhabi based expat for several years I can fully endorse those points by Ed. The reality on the ground is different from that portrayed in much of the media and their vested interests. I look forward seeing the race again next year.

    • echidna_sg

      Your wife might not feel it, but she is third rate and you are second rate. Local men are number one by a massive margin. Of course you can live in an expat bubble, but be realistic. Meanwhile the BangladeshI and Pakistani workers get a Starbucks coffee a day in wages…

    • Cynic

      ed, It’s a pretty simplistic (or sheltered) view point you put across there. I’m not blaming you for being biased, there’s probably a reason why you work in Dubai obviously and it’s probably the same as why the UCI has this race, the money….$$$. No excuses needed, no justifications needed, but don’t for one second pretend it’s anything else or that somehow appalling human rights abuses over there is a small thing.

      Is your wife a white wealthy Western expat, able to spend her money anywhere anytime, or a poor SE Asian domestic staff (maid, cleaner from the Phillipines) who works 6-7 days a week, taking virtually no holidays, sending money home to her family? Is your wife able to vote in Abu Dhabi, or drive in any UAE state? What about any homosexual friends or co workers, how free are they in Abu Dhabi? Hmmm.

      Drunken bogans on an occasional Sydney Satdy train is not a reason to enforce Sharia law.

      I’m pretty sure “decent society” moved on from public stonings and savagery of public floggings a long time ago.

      The 45+ degree heat was ridiculous and dangerous for racing. It’s not uncommon, in fact pretty standard, not “unlucky” as you put it. Some rain in Europe is not anywhere near the level of heatstroke and those implications. The MSR was stopped for snow, they bussed the riders to safer conditions. Which race days in the TDU were above 40 degrees this year? None.

      The ‘no outcry’ you talk about with towns for the Grand Depart, is because those pockets are mostly small businesses across that region who benefit from hotel stays, restaurants, etc etc. from the crowds. They’re not desperate to legitimise an all powerful rich inbred often evil family, like the UAE. At worst, you might get a fat blowhard mayor from St.Camembert Sur Sheit getting his photo on the front of the local paper.

      • ed

        again so many mis-informed opinions.
        i could reply but i think this website is about cycling not slagging off different countries

        • cynic

          I’m only basing my view on the evidence, countless examples of human rights abuses by the ruling royal family.

          It probably is great for a wealthy educated Westerner there, but it looks really shitty for the 90% of the workforce who aren’t. Or the locals who express an opinion opposing the rulers. or homosexuals. Or journalists.

          Which part is wrong? Their legal system is based on Sharia law. Stoning and flogging is punishment for crimes. There are several instances where women have been prosecuted even though they were the (rape) victim. Please show where this is not true, because there are plenty of cases on the net, which suggests plenty more occur but don’t get publicized (ie not Westerners).

          The whole basis for this race is to legitimize the royal family,

    • alexroseinnes

      I can find lots of expats living in Saudi compounds who have nothing but good things to say about the kingdom, doesn’t make them any less naive, though. Here’s a nice example of UAE “due process”

  • Robert Merkel

    I don’t doubt that the Tours of Qatar and Oman are very hard racing…but that’s an entirely different matter to an end-of-season race in stinking hot weather *after* the World Championships.

    If you’re going to put on a weeklong celebration for the WT teams, it’d be nice to put it on somewhere where the locals are actually part of the party.

  • Cynic

    Nice post, but you left out the part about your role in promoting and legitimising human rights abuses and the cynical cash grab by the UCI and teams (and to an extent the riders). Basically the riders are just silly dancing bears in a revolting game. Even Merckx should be ashamed for taking his $ to legitimise the regime.

    Those fans (were there any bar the odd bored expat?) at the race might include one of the literally thousands of Indians, Phillipino and Bagledshi workers who will die over the next few years on construction sites for hotels, World Cup stadia and F1 race tracks. Oh well.

    Homosexuality is illegal in Abu Dhabi, with Sharia law enacted through regular stonings and floggings. A couple of years ago there, a Filipino maid was stoned to death (for becoming pregnant after being raped by her Arab employer). Human Rights documents all these if you care to look.

    You think you were suffering on the bike…? Still think it’s worth supporting?

    Hope the sheik who paid for you to be there enjoys it.

    • Michele

      Interesting logic.
      I flew to Europe a couple of years ago with Emirates. Brought some stuff duty free at the Dubai airport on the way back.
      I guess I too have promoted and legitimised human rights abuses.

      • Cynic

        In a very small way you have, but are clearly being facetious and pretty simple in not seeing how millions spent by the UAE is the same as you buying a duty free bottle of aftershave. I don’t find it funny to laugh at human rights abuses, but you seem to. This race hasn’t provided a platform to raise their appalling human rights abuses at all, in these countries freedom of the press does not exist. Simply posting on You Tube got prison for an expat for example last year or so.

        Did you meet with Emirati and his family several times, bowing and scraping while some poor bastard fell off the scaffolding on the building next door, have daily podium presentations and countless photo opportunities in front of their hotels etc.? Did you provide daily updates for local TV, a smiling Western face and cheeky Peter Sagan? Did you send lots of journos over to cover things who never looked up some basic facts about the place they we staying. Not really the same was it?

        • Michele

          No I do not find it funny – perhaps you should read my other comments on this thread. [You know what they say about assumptions.]

          But to suggest riders have “promoted and legitimised” these atrocities is a stretch.

        • Cynic3

          This is absolutely ridiculous. I have met with Emirati people. They have ALL been open and caring. To suggest that all Emiratis condone human rights abuses is at best unfair, inflammatory and immature. At worst it is just racist.

          There are terrible situations in these countries, but there are terrible human rights abuses the world over. You cannot simply pick and choose what is acceptable and what is not. Can the UCI do more, of course, as can everyone on this forum – you included. But you cannot insist on one standard for Arab states and one for everywhere else.

    • Cynic2

      Too funny.

      • cynic

        Oh dear.

        Alex has noted the link above. Not very funny at all, is it?

        • Michele

          Yes, Alex has provided the link [Human Rights Watch], and it’s not pretty reading.

          You [ I think – as there’s a few Cynics posting here] has provided a link – by accident, or by design – to a ‘Biblical Christian News’ Website. [].

  • Derek Maher

    Okay I find the desert races a bore to watch but that’s my problem.
    The UCI has been in battle with the ASO and other race organisers so they think the middle east is a place they can get in on the act and make a lot of money and undermine the European influence and give them an alternative lever for running world tour events. Plus they can use the we are promoting cycling strategy. Now human rights I would suggest are not high on their agenda and with Europe in austerity mode the cash is in the middle east.
    I would not be surprised to see them looking at Saudi Arabia to run a race promoting the merits of that country as part of the development programme and cash raising. The UCI does do some great projects but it has adopted the FIFA,F1 example to get the money in. Also it is spending $6 million a year on an anti doping project which again seems to benefit mainly private business deals.

    • echidna_sg

      If they actually wanted to promote cycling, they would upgrade existing Asia tour races such as the UCI 2.x Tour of Azerbaijan, Tabriz or Taiwan. All in areas with a cycling heritage, a temperate climate (at the right time of year) and people who are interested in the sport… BUT without the really deep pockets of the gulf states.

      But its not about cycling and anything saying it is, is purely spin.

  • Tawny Frogmouth

    By extending an already overly long racing season these new events further dilute talent in the races held in countries where the population actually have a passion for cycling.
    So rich men (nb: no women) can enjoy their wealth by getting the rest of humanity to whirl around them like gimps (awesome gimp suits have these bike mans’!)

  • Tawny Frogmouth

    It depresses me that ‘cycling fans’ could ever see merit in this… Where has appreciation gone? Was it ever there?
    NASCAR racing has more hype – go watch that- is my message to those who think more money is making it better.
    To tell the truth, I don’t care if the pro’s have an easier life or can be rich. (No more than I wish it for a labourer in Western Sydney)
    Are Coppi’s or Merckx’s palmares worth less because cycling was working class back then? I think not

  • Dave

    Do Australians really have a right to be throwing stones at the UAE’s human rights record when the best thing you can say about ours is that women and men have an equal opportunity to be oppressed?

  • JamesC

    Wishing all the best to Tom following his terrible crash.

  • campirecord

    Probably one of the darkest, naive article on this site. Dick Cheney level stuff. The eagle has landed.

  • zosim

    F1 shouldn’t be in gulf states. The world cup shouldn’t. Professional cycling shouldn’t. That other countries have human rights issues is not in question but the gulf states undoubtedly have some of the worst records in the world outside states that have sanctions or trade embargoes placed against them. We don’t expect businesses to limit themselves due to ethics (although it would be nice if they did), but ALL sports trumpet about how they bring humanity together so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect sporting organisations to do more than lip service towards this. In the case of the world cup, we’ve seen the level of corruption that has brought us to the farcical situation where a country with no real footballing history (they’ve never even qualified for a world cup) somehow beating countries who do have at least a small footballing tradition and do indeed qualify for the tournament on merit.

    Boonen et al would say nice things about the Tour de Pyongyang if they had one as professional sportspeople these days tend to say whatever the guy with the oversize cheque just off camera has told them to. Perhaps Sagan really does feel for the plight of the refugees and other downtrodden people but to give a speech like that then tootle off to somewhere like Qatar either suggests he doesn’t care, doesn’t know very much, values dollars more than people or a little of all three.


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