DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — The Tour of Qatar, cancelled this year because of an apparent lack of sponsorship, will return in 2018, the head of the emirate’s cycling federation told state media on Sunday.
Mohammed Al-Kuwari, the new president of the Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation, said the stage race will be held again after a year’s gap in 2017 to allow the tiny Gulf country to help develop stronger national teams.
“During the coming period, the federation is planning to organize strong local tournaments in a bid to discover local talents to represent the Qatari national teams,” Kuwari told the Qatar News Agency in an interview. He added: “The federation will host international tournaments again next year, the most important of which will be the Tour of Qatar.”
It was announced in December by the UCI, world cycling’s governing body, that the 2017 edition of the tour — and the women’s Tour of Qatar — would be cancelled, apparently over a lack of a sponsor.
“It is understood the decision follows difficulty attracting sponsor financial support,” said the UCI at the time.
That announcement came just weeks after Qatar was roundly criticized for the small crowds attending the world road cycling championships in October. It also came against a backdrop of energy-rich Qatar adjusting its spending priorities as it responded to global oil price fluctuations.
The Tour of Qatar was first held in 2002 and previous winners include Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra and Mark Cavendish. The 2017 race was due to be included as part of the UCI’s elite World Tour for the first time.
Although there was no specific mention of the women’s tour, Kuwari added there was a “need” to create a Qatari women’s cycling team to compete at the international level.