Tour de France to visit Qatar?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Qatar Tour

Confirmation has arrived of yesterday’s story on the blog that Qatar Airways have signed a deal with the Tour de France to provide air transport for the race. The company’s chief executive Akbar Al Baker is already in town for the Paris air show and as well as ordering some new planes, he shook hands with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Tour organiser Christian Prudhomme today. As expected the airline will now fly riders from Grenoble to Paris-Orly after Stage 20…

…but what if this deal has more to it?

Qatar already has its own bike race but the country is hosting the soccer World Cup in 2022. A twitter correspondent came up with what sounded like a wild idea at first but what if the Tour de France started in Qatar in 2022 or before? If so what better way to get publicity for the national flag-carrying airline than to fly the entire Tour de France to the Arabian gulf and back, preferably with riders in first class?

It might sound far fetched but as any Qatari will tell you, they dream big there and money is rarely an obstacle. That said, there are some things even petrodollars cannot buy. The weather might be the issue given it is 42°C (108°F) right now.

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{ 9 comments }

Guadzilla June 24, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Stretching a bit, arent you?

The Inner Ring June 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Yes! That’s the point, to ask what could come next. With the Giro talking about a start in Washington and the likes of Tokyo submitting requests to host the Tour de France “grand départ” anything is possible, especially given the close financial connections. Like I say, perhaps in 2022.

Anonymous June 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm

As someone living in the Gulf my first reaction was that it would be insane. The heat would just be too much in July. We ride at 0530 in the morning and you’re in trouble if you’re still out after 0930 – evenings are no better.

But I guess it wouldn’t be beyond the realms to build some indoor venue where you could run a 7-8km prologue.

ColoradoGoat June 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Is ASO trying to ruin the bike races? These stages are horrible to watch at best, as they are really nothing more than a chance for ASO to pocket some rights fees (I know, I know – it is always about the money).

How about this….if you are going to try these far flung locales for the race, make them damn tough. Make the courses similar to a World Championship circuit, with lots of short, punchy climbs, or in the case of Quatar, put in a real technical circuit at the end, almost turning the end into a criterium race.

Birillo June 24, 2011 at 7:33 pm

“Money is rarely an obstacle”

Got it in one.

Seriously June 24, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Dubai already proposed this back in April 2007:
http://autobus.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2007/apr07/apr01newsspecial

Guadzilla June 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Hmm, while possible, I’d say it is improbable. I doubt if the Qatari royal family cares that much about pro cycling to have a 10 year plan to bring the TdF to the country.

I was in Oman the last couple of years for the Tour of Oman, and let’s just say that cycling – or any outdoor activity not involving kicking an inflated ball around – arent exactly high on the locals list of ways to spend time. More likely that this cigar is just a cigar – Qatar Airways is trying to boost its publicity and take on Emirates and Gulf Air.

@Anonymous 2:32 – yeah, I cannot imagine a 4 hour stage run in the daytime in this part of the world in July.

C Grade Cyclist June 25, 2011 at 8:31 am

Practically – it seems ridiculous.

But as others have said – money talks. I have absolutely no doubt that if the Qatari’s are willing to stump up enough of the folding stuff, then we’ll see a desert prologue and a few sandy stages in a TdF not too far away…..

bikecellar June 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Well if the World Cup can be moved from summer to winter (Europe wise). Then why not the Tour, just grease the right palms and The Tour de France en Qatar could happen. Then to follow, The Tour de France en Russe. Perhaps Mr Blatter could be brought in as an advisory consultant (for a suitable fee of course) :)

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