Qatar ready to host 2016 cycling World Championships

Fri, 06/02/2015 - 16:21

Doha is proving ready to host the first cycling World Championships in the Middle East in 2016 with a series of high-profile events and the Tour of Qatar.

On Saturday, the federation of the oil-rich Persian Gulf state will announce the routes and dates, which will possibly be in October due to the heat. Racing and sports organisation, however, is already underway.

Tour de France organiser, ASO is running two back-to-back stage races in Qatar in February. This week, women are racing the seventh edition of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. On Saturday, cycling’s elite including Bradley Wiggins arrive for the well-established men’s six-day tour. The men’s Tour of Qatar began in 2002 and made itself invaluable in for those preparing for the spring one-day classics.

The country lacks cycling fans and history, but the wind, if it is strong as it usually is across the peninsula, makes the racing as hard and technical as it is in the northern one-day classics.

Cycling in the barren sand-swept countryside does not feel so foreign as it did when the race began 13 years ago or even when rumours emerged in 2011 that Qatar wanted to host cycling’s championships.

The national cycling federation did not exist properly before 2002, but with Doha hosting the 2006 Asian Games, one had to exist to prepare the country’s athletes. The Tour of Qatar, which had national teams for a few years, helped.

“As a sport, cycling’s fairly new to the country, but we want to have all of the sports practiced in the Summer Olympics and to understand what we need to have the sport at the highest level,” Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Thani, president of the federation, explained.

“We began the Tour of Qatar, which works in both ways for us to understand how to organise such an event and to help the cycling in the region by introducing this kind of high level.”