No risk for Gulf tours

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The ladies Tour of Qatar starts tomorrow. At the same time a number of so-called Arab states are seeing prolific pro-democracy protests and several autocratic leaders have been falling back on military force. Right now expatriates are being evacuated from Egypt.

So a quick word to reassure anyone that the upcoming pair of races in the Gulf: the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman are certain to go ahead this month.

Oil + Gas = Milk + Honey?
Both countries are run by Emirs, the Arabic version of a king and if there is no direct or participative democracy, these two places are progressive by Gulf standards.

Qatar is the world’s richest country as measured by GDP per capita thanks to prodigious quantities of oil and gas, consequently its citizens are content and with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Put another way, on average a Qatari is twice as rich as a Swiss citizen.

Similarly Oman’s leader, Sultan Qaboos has transformed the country since he staged a coup against his father 40 years ago, including the construction of a substantial road network that is exploited by the race. Oman’s sultan enjoys levels of popular support that few elected politicians in the West have ever tasted.

This is not to say all is well with these places, away from the showcase capitals life can be modest – as is the case in many a country – but no riders, staff or reporters need worry about these races and the fans can be assured of some decent racing. Qatar is becoming a “must ride” preparation for the classics, offering high tempo racing on flat roads with frequent cross winds and Oman offers a more varied terrain under near-permanent azure skies.

Anonymous February 1, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Yes, both successful countries in region. Different to western style but the race is safe. Should be good !

Gillis February 2, 2011 at 8:19 am

I'm curious though: What is the local public perception of these races? Is cycling a popular sport there? or gaining popularity? For being oil-rich and HOT, I would think not so much.

TheInnerRing February 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

Anonymous: yes, like any region it helps to distinguish. Just as Canada is very different from Mexico, or Norway from Portugal. I just wanted to make the obvious point that all is well as from a distance, sometimes people assume the whole region is the same.

Gill: I'm no local but cycling is very rare in these sports. Some do take part but often many cyclists are western expatriates. The culture of sport isn't really big in the gulf although soccer is growing quickly. Qatar has given nationality to several athletes and soccer players in order to field competitive teams. Note the Oman race is sponsored by the Tourism Ministry, the aim is to showcase the stunning landscapes to tourists and I know a couple of pros have said something along the lines of returning to Oman for holidays in the off-season.

Note there are North African pros, some good Egyptian riders and over in Iran, some excellent riders, including the Tabriz pro team.

Jens February 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm

According to this race calendar
there should be a also "Tour de Egypt" between Feb 8-13. Couldn't find more information on that tour, but I can imagine that this event would be cancelled at least.

TheInnerRing February 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Good spot Jens. I've checked the UCI calendar and it's listed there too. As you say, I suspect the race is off. But that said, just as uncertainty and turmoil in a couple of countries doesn't mean the whole region is in uproar (the point of posting the above item), it could be that the race will visit other parts of the country. Life goes on but whether that includes a bike race remains to be seen.

The race organiser has a hotmail address but I'll leave them alone. Here's hoping the event is a certain fixture for 2011.

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