Tour of Qatar Obituary

The UCI announced today that the Tour of Qatar and the Ladies Tour of Qatar have been cancelled, a victim of their lack of success. This was the racer’s race, enjoyed by participants but it didn’t woo locals nor foreign audiences and now it’s run out of money. A UCI press release issued today cites “difficulty attracting sponsor financial support”.

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Qatar: Racing 101

Ladies Tour of Qatar

If a bike race is “first a tale of geography” there might not be much of story to tell from the Ladies Tour of Qatar and the men’s race next week. The stages proceed through a desert with few features and tactical points, just a road wide enough to land an aircraft. Even when people are watching the race, half of them have a bemused look, the same as Parisians watching a handicap camel race on the Champs Elysées.

But all this makes the racing unique, a minimalist form of the sport. Racing 101.

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Tour of Qatar Preview

Tour of Qatar

There’s little to preview in the Tour of Qatar. The race doesn’t even bother with profiles as each stage profile is a horizontal line. Every finishing straight is wide enough to land an aircraft.

But at the same time this race matters. First as a tactical training ground, a literal sandbox to test skills and technique and if it’s not compulsive viewing, it’s the equivalent of watching a theatre troop in dress rehearsal as it is a practice session for the spring classics. But the race is also notable because Qatar is very influential in world sports, it is the world’s richest country on a per capita basis and recently won the right to the 2016 Cycling World Championships, deploying sums of money that nobody else could match.

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Saturday shorts

Boonen’s Arab spring
The Tour of Qatar finished yesterday with Tom Boonen taking his fourth overall win. As much as the race is about sprint finishes, Boonen looked far more complete and thanks to his team, always in the right place at the right time. It’s good for him but does this translate to results in the crucial spring classics? It depends how superstitious you are…

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Monday shorts

A few observations and thoughts from the weekend. With just a few hours to go before the CAS-Contador verdict there’s just time to squeeze these in.

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Saturday shorts

A few short items with Armstrong, the Contador verdict, sprinters in Qatar and a possible new big stage race in Colombia

Impossible not to mention Lance Armstrong today, if only because my twitter timeline is bursting with comment. In case you’ve missed it, the US authorities have dropped the investigation into doping and potential federal crimes relating to the use of sponsorship monies.

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Spotlight on Qatar

Qatar is the world’s wealthiest country on a per capita basis. Last year locals were worried for the state of the economy after it grew by a meagre 15%. No typo, that’s fifteen percent. Whilst most Europeans long for the day their economy expands by 1.5%, the Qataris get richer by the day.

The reason is primarily the prodigious oil and gas reserves that lie under the country’s sands and off its shores. There’s so much of this valuable resource that the country has gone from nomadic desert dwelling to the highest per capita income in the world in one century.

You haven’t come here to read about Arab wealth, nor oil and gas. But this wealth is the reason why the country has a cycle race starting tomorrow with the Ladies Tour of Qatar and then the Tour of Qatar for men on Sunday. Here’s a look at the race.

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Sunday shorts

Don’t worry, Sunday evening’s collection of short pieces is family and workplace safe. But you’ll find two stories where speaking out can land you in trouble, even prison. And if you enjoyed the Tinker, Tailor, Cyclist, Spy piece, there’s an appetiser for an upcoming story.

GP d’Ouverture – La Marseillaise
Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis won the race in a sprint finish. Wearing full-fingered gloves and a long-sleeved top he beat Marco Marcato who sported a headband to keep his ears warm.

The Etoile de Bessèges stage race starts on Wednesday and even colder gear will be needed. Weather forecasts are predicting a deep freeze for France and snow is expected for most of the country, including the south.

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Tour de France to visit Qatar?

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?

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ASO partners with Qatar Airways

It doesn’t take much to help the environment!

So say Tour de France organisers for 2011. Before the race starts this year riders, team managers, the media and the publicity caravan will all be briefed on ways to help the environment, from rules on where riders can and cannot drop used food wrappers to advice for the media to car-pool and switch off the engine of their car if stationary for more than a minute. Indeed ASO says the reduction of C02 emissions is “our priority” too.

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