Is the Tour of Qatar losing its appeal? Just eight WorldTour teams named for 2016 edition
Eight WorldTour teams will not return to the Tour of Qatar in 2016 as organiser ASO announces list of 18 teams that will compete in February
Of the numerous cycling events to take place in the Middle East in the early stages of the season, the Tour of Qatar has the longest history - but is the appeal of the race wearing a little thin?
As the race approaches its 15th edition, the number of WorldTour teams scheduled to ride the race has dropped from 13 this year to just eight in 2016, organiser ASO confirmed.
Sprinters and Classics specialists have reaped the most success from the race, with Tom Boonen taking the win four times, Niki Terpstra twice and Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw once each.
But in 2016, Terpstra and Boonen's team, Etixx-Quick Step, has not made the start list, suggesting that the Belgian team decided not to send a squad to the race.
Fellow WorldTour teams Tinkoff-Saxo, Trek Factory Racing, Movistar, Team Sky, FDJ, Orica-GreenEdge and IAM Cycling also do not return in 2016, having been part of this year's race.
Ag2r La Mondiale and LottoNL-Jumbo are the two top level teams to enter the race having not competed this year, with Dimension Data having taken part as MTN-Qhubeka, a Pro Continental team, in 2015.
Katusha, whose sprinter Alexander Kristoff won three stages in Qatar in 2015, return alongside Astana, Lampre-Merida, Giant-Alpecin and BMC as 10 lower tier teams get their chance to race in the desert.
Teams for 2016 Tour of Qatar (February 8-12)
Drapac, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, Wanty Groupe Gobert, Cult Energy-Stolting Group, Ag2r La Mondiale, Fortuneo Vital Concept, Giant-Alpecin, Bora-Argon 18, Lampre-Merida, Astana, LottoNL-Jumbo, Roompot-Oranje Peloton, CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Katusha, Dimension Data, Skydive Dubai, BMC, United Healthcare
Teams for 2016 Ladies Tour of Qatar (February 2-5)
Ale Cipollini, Australia-AIS, Boels-Dolmans, Canyon SRAM, China Chongming-Liv-Champion System, Cylance, Equipe de France, Hitec Products, Italian Cycling Federation, Lares-Waowdeals, Orica-AIS, Rabo-Liv, Liv-Plantur, Unitedhealthcare, Wiggle
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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
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