DOHA, Qatar (VN) — The Tour of Qatar is known for its open roads, sweeping winds and barren landscape. This will not be the case at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships, which will be held in Qatar’s capital city of Doha this coming October. On Tuesday, an elite women’s field raced a test in Doha and found a twisty circuit wrapped by new construction.
The women’s field raced through the open white rock countryside north of the capital city, before returning to Doha’s Pearl development area, which will host the worlds circuit. After completing one 16-km lap, they finished in the outskirts of the city.
“It’s not so open as you see out in these parts,” said Dutch stage winner Kristen Wild (Hitec Products). “I expected more of straight desert roads, but there are actually a lot of buildings.”
High-rise buildings that did not exist only seven years ago crowd the artificial island. More than sixty are planned for the development project, which includes a Venice-like area that includes canals.
The racecourse map provided by the Tour of Qatar organizers looked like a maze. The circuit includes an uncountable number of twists and turns, as it snakes past buildings and a Maserati dealership. The world’s best cyclists will race on the circuit from October 9 to 16.
American rider Shelly Olds told VeloNews that the circuit is not what she expected.
“It’s technical, very technical,” said Olds (Cylance). “There are roundabouts, corners, narrow roads, bigger roads, roundabouts, barriers… I thought it’d be more like the typical stages here in Qatar, with four corners and about 20 kilometres between each one, but it’s not.”
Last February, team Boels-Dolmans ripped the race apart on the open roads outside Doha to set up British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, who eventually won the overall. In the 14 years since the men’s race began, Etixx – Quick-Step has won eight times using similar strategy. The powerful Belgian team wins by shattering the race into echelons, similar to its strategies at Belgian and Dutch racees.
Wild also excels in the windy conditions. She has won 10 stages (including Tuesdays) and four overall titles.
But the worlds course could produce a different winner. The winding course changes direction almost every minute, and is dominated by buildings. Wind could be less of a factor on the circuit.
“The wind won’t matter so much because there are not long straights, so it’s never long enough to create an echelon or a show,” said Ellen van Dijk, who won the race in 2011. “We were going about 50kph today, so you’d have to go 60 or so to create an echelon. It’s too fast to do.”
Details remain sparse, but the women should race approximately 15 kilometers before the final circuits. The elite men will face a much longer loop before their circuits begin. The local organizer originally said it would include an 80-kilometer loop, but the group has not confirmed this. If the race does feature the windy, wide-open roads of the Tour of Qatar, then the race will likely favor a rider such as Wild, Tom Boonen or Niki Terpstra. That would give a Qatari touch to an otherwise foreign circuit.