The Abu Dhabi Tour kicks off on Thursday, boasting a star-studded start list for its four days of racing in the United Arab Emirates (October 20-23)

A host of pro cycling stars have descended on the United Arab Emirates for the 2016 Abu Dhabi Tour, starting on Thursday, October 20.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Elia Viviani (Team Sky) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) are all lining up for the race.

Four stages are on offer in the UCI 2.HC-ranked race: flat stages one, two and four should end in a bunch sprint, with stage three on Saturday (October 22) featuring an uphill finish to determine the general classification lead.

>>> Owain Doull back in Team Sky squad for season finale in Abu Dhabi

Last year, Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) won the third stage to take the overall victory in the inaugural edition of the race. After a year of Grand Tour riding, however, Chaves has elected to miss defending his title, so the way is clear for a new winner.

Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Wiggins) had also been on the original provisional start list, but he withdrew his participation to focus on the up-coming Six Day races on the track.

Alberto Contador (r) on stage one of the 2016 Abu Dhabi Tour

Alberto Contador (r) on stage one of the 2016 Abu Dhabi Tour

It’s the ideal opportunity for a rider to take a respectable victory in one of the last chances of the season – and with the Road World Championships having only taken place last week in a similar environment in Qatar, it’s likely there will be several riders with acclimatised and with solid form going into the race.

An added bit of interest this season is live rider data – speed, power, heart-rate – being displayed in real time as the race happens by Velon on its website.

The 2016 Abu Dhabi Tour concludes on Sunday, October 23.

Stage one

Thursday, October 20
Madinat Zayed to Madinat Zayed, 147km

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage one profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage one profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage one map

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage one map

It’s a relatively sedate start to the race, with stage one featuring an out-and-back route through the desert with a lump on the end to resemble a giant golf club on the route map. A flat finish should mean the race’s first bunch sprint.

Stage two

Friday, October 21
Abu Dhabi to Abu Dhabi (Al Marina), 115km

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage two profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage two profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage two map

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage two map

A stage in the city, stage two is spiced up by a number of tight turns along its 115km distance, although the finish straight is on a wide road that will favour the sprinters.

Stage three

Saturday, October 22
Al Ain to Jebel Hafeet, 150km

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage three profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage three profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage three map

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage three map

This is the stage that will decide the general classification. After an urban start, stage three heads west and then back east into the mountains, to finish atop Jebel Hafeet. The final climb is 11km long and features gradients of up to 11 per cent, favouring an attack for a climber – perhaps one last chance for the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) to show who’s boss and scoop a late-season win.

Stage four

Sunday, October 23
Yas Island Stage to Yas Marina Circuit, 143km

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage four profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage four profile

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage four map

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016 stage four map

The 2016 Abu Dhabi Tour concludes with a 143km final stage that comprises a dizzying 26 laps of a circuit around Yas Marina. It will be a fast-paced stage and one that in all likelihood will finish in a bunch sprint. Italian sprinter Elia Viviani (Sky) took the honours on the same stage last year.

Abu Dhabi Tour: TV guide

Eurosport will be showing live coverage and highlights of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

Thursday, October 20, 13.00-14.00, Stage one LIVE, Eurosport 1
Friday, October 21, 13.00-14.00, Stage two LIVE, Eurosport 1
Saturday, October 22, 13.00-14.00, Stage three LIVE, Eurosport 1
Sunday, October 23, 16.30-18.00, Stage four highlights, Eurosport 1

Abu Dhabi Tour 2016: start list

>>> Full Abu Dhabi Tour start list, with race numbers

Abu Dhabi Tour previous winners

2015 Esteban Chaves (Colombia)

Abu Dhabi Tour: last year’s top 10

1. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge
2. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 16s
3. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, at 27s
4. Janez Brajkovic (Slo), at 41s
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, at 41s
6. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step, at 1-23
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 1-29
8. Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Sky, at 1-29
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, at 1-29
10. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Argon 18, at 1-40