Into The Open Desert

Column

6 October 2016

“IN DOHA 2016, THE ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE DIFFERENT!”

Today I entered the official site of the World Championships in Doha, Qatar. On the site it was said that Doha 2016 will be different from all other World Championships. Doha is proud to announce that their city is the first city in the Middle East to host them. Hello Doha, good for you to have a week full of team trials, individual time trials and not to forget the road races. But why does a song from ABBA pops into my head right now?

On the fourth of October some news about Doha was published. It is extremely hot there these days. Although the UCI and the organisation in Qatar decided earlier to held the races as late as possible in the season, the heat still seems to cause some problems. Still, the UCI has a protocol for extreme heat in Doha. They will send four experts to check on the weather every day. If the heat continues and it will be above 35 Celsius on the day of the road race, this will maybe happen: “The following measures may be decided in the event of high temperatures: for the men’s elite road race, to reduce the 150km initial distance, for all other road races, to reduce the number of laps of the circuit.”

doha-yuzuru-sunada
© Yuzuru Sunada

The consequence of this measure is that the race will consist of seven laps, each of 15,2 kilometres. The total distance would be 106,2 kilometres instead of the 257,6 kilometres. It reminds me of a Sunday in Paris. A lazy Sunday in Paris. But this Sunday will be stressful, hot and sweaty. Even more so when the organisation decides to cut off 150 kilometres. Because you cannot let cyclists ride 150 kilometres in an open desert. It is too hot. My alarm bells would have gone off ages ago. In fact, before deciding to let the World Championships take place in Qatar. What’s next? Racing on the North Pole?

malkanat-the-pearl-qatar-home
The artificial island ‘The Pearl’

The team time trials, individual time trials and the last seven laps of the road races will take place on an artificial island, named ‘The Pearl’. The island is constructed, it wasn’t even there before 2004. It should be completely finished around 2018, costing about 15 billion in total. In less than a few days there will be riding hundreds of cyclists on this island. Although the organisation stated that there will be a lot of spectators, I am still holding my breath for that. My guess is that the organisation does not care, nor the UCI. The race is held in a new part of the world, the cameras are pointed at an island of 15 billion and Doha is on the map again. And again, that song from ABBA pops up in my head:

“Money, money, money. Must be funny. In the rich man’s world.”

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