Who wants to watch camel racing when Fabian Cancellara and Mark (two book) Cavendish have come to the glittering city in the sand?
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has declared a four day pause while professional bike racing and the Tour of Dubai are on center stage.
A decree issued by the skeikh states that will be “no dromedary events” from February 5th through the 8th. The penalty for ignoring the ban will be the loss of the “right hand or foot” of the transgressor.
With a star-studded lineup that includes two world champions, the world’s fastest sprinters, classics stars, and grand tour winners, the Dubai Tour is already a major success.
The Tour of Dubai is now the third stage race in the Middle East, a region sometimes called the Belgium of the Sands. Dubai now joins the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman in a series of duels in the desert with pros looking to warm up after a cold European winter.
The royal family in Dubai all bicycle with the Sheikh himself riding a vintage LeMond Zurich road bike equipped with a Rolf Vector Pro wheel-set. His senior wife, Shaikha Hind bint Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, often eschews the fleet of Mercedes sedans to run her errands on a Specialized Stumpjumper.
Given the deep appreciation for bike racing, it’s no surprise the Sheikh is taking a hard line on camel racing. “Camels represent the past and while that it glorious, it does not strike the correct note of modernity,” said royal spokesman Abdul Al-kajar. “Camels are just too Lawrence of Arabia, too One Thousand And One Nights.”
While not one to play favorites, his royal highness hopes to see Cannondale’s Peter Sagan take a stage win. “I like his funny beard and those wheelies he does. That is something the people of Dubai must see,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. “Should he grace us with a wheelie, then I will promise him his own oil well.”