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.