DOHA, Qatar (VN) — The UCI World Road Cycling Championships in 2016 will take in the sand-swept countryside and the capital’s cobblestones as the international competition makes its first visit to the Middle East, organizers announced Saturday.
The race is slated for October 9-16.
“The parcours will include an 80km circuit in the windy countryside to include space for the strong elite teams to create echelons,” said John Lelangue, director of sport operations for the national cycling federation.
A 19km circuit north of Doha through Katara will include cobblestones, he added — “nice cobbles, nothing like Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders.”
“It’s on the seaside, always exposed to the wind and guaranteed to create a hard course for classics riders and sprinters,” Lelangue continued.
The individual and team time trial events will be based around Katara and the road races will be based around Doha, with the elite and under-23 road races taking in the 80km loop through the countryside of the oil-rich Persian Gulf state.
The organizing committee will present the details of that long loop at the 2015 worlds this September in Richmond, Virginia.
“It will be exposed to the wind and something like we’ve seen in the Tour of Qatar stages,” Lelangue said.
“Making this big loop will give the big national federations to create echelons and make the race even more selective than what it could be on a straight circuit race. Then, we have a circuit totally on the seaside, on a type of island, The Pearl, that is exposed to wind.”
Cycling great Eddy Merckx, who organizes and co-owns the 14-year-old Tour of Qatar, run partly by Tour de France organizer ASO, said he can’t recall a worlds that broke into echelons.
“If it is like it is in past Tour of Qatar editions or like in the Ladies Tour of Qatar on stage two, when Ellen Van Dijk won, we are going to see the race in pieces,” he said.
Due to the extreme heat in the desert and the 2016 Olympics, the worlds will sit later than usual on the cycling calendar, moving from late September to early October.
Lelangue said the average temperature for October 16 over the past 10 years was about 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit). In 2008, the temperature hit 38 degrees [100.4 F], but “that was the exception,” he added.
“To make sure we are covered, we are working with the UCI and giving attention to the feed zones to make sure every rider gets his feeding and considering motorbikes with water bottles like in the Tour de France or other big races.”
The 2015 Tour of Qatar starts Sunday. It and the world championships put Qatar on cycling’s map and add weight to its bid to host the 2024 Olympics.
In addition to the worlds, Qatar has hosted world championships for short-course swimming and handball. It has the boxing championships this year, the World Athletics Championships in 2019 and of course, the 2022 football World Cup.
“No country from the Middle East has ever been selected to host cycling’s world championships,” said Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Thani, president of the country’s cycling federation.
“In 2012, Qatar received the right to host it. The first Arab and Middle East country, and the second in Asia after Japan in 1990. The worlds will enhance Qatar’s position to host sporting events and it will underline our ability to do it.”