Today’s stage of the Tour of Qatar was billed as a test event for the final circuit of the 2016 UCI Road World Championships to be held in Doha, despite the finish being in a different location. With a few of the riders likely to be vying for the rainbow jersey this October present today, it was the perfect opportunity to preview the finishing circuit.
Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff, Greg Van Avermaet and Tyler Farrar gave Cycling Weekly their verdicts on the course – with some less than pleased.
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“It’s going to be an interesting Worlds on this course,” Farrar of Team Dimension Data said after the stage, where a crash occurred in the final run-in to the finish line.
“There’s a lot curves and a lot of ridiculous roundabouts. But the course is the course and I think it would change a lot with fencing. As it is now there are so many points where the curve goes in for parking, goes in and goes out, if you fence that off it will be much better.”
The course for the road races will conclude with a 15.3-kilometre circuit on The Pearl, an artificial island in the north of Doha. Very few of the roads are straight for any distance and the island is littered with roundabouts. Indeed, the course will tackle 24 roundabouts, the vast majority of which will be taken straight on, however, many are significant changes in direction, two taking the riders through 180°.
The urban nature of the circuit means the race is unlikely to compare to any Worlds we have seen before.
“It’s a little bit special,” today’s stage winner, Kristoff (Katusha) told Cycling Weekly. “It seems like criterium. It was hectic, it’s going to be hard with all these corners racing for so long.”
Crosswinds are the main thing makes Qatari racing so entertaining for viewers and tough for those taking part and, though wind was present today, the geography of the course means the Worlds are likely to be very different to the racing we have seen this week.
“It is not normal for Qatar,” BMC’s Van Avermaet said. “Qatar is normally straight and a lot of wind. We had some wind [today] but then the straight lines are not long enough to break it up.”
Britain’s former World Champion, Cavendish believes the course has its own specific challenges.
“If you went on the big open roads and creating echelons from the beginning, it’s too far to go for a 260-kilometre race,” said Cavendish. “So I think in terms of having a World Championships here in Qatar it’s quite a sensible idea.
“It’s definitely going to be gnarly wherever you are in the peloton. The wind was coming always from a different direction when we moved around the different pearls. I don’t think the final circuit will create any splits but it’s definitely going to be uncomfortable no matter where you are in the group.”
Precise details are not yet available, but the men’s race will begin at Sealine Resort, south of Doha, tackling around 70km before it joins the circuit. It is understood the women’s race will begin at the Aspire Zone in the capital, taking the riders only 17km before they reach The Pearl
As for which type of rider can win, Van Avermaet summed up the consensus: “It will be hard after 260km, but there are riders strong enough to do that. Like Cavendish, they can win Milan-San Remo after 260km they can be also the favourite for these Worlds.”
So don’t bet against Cavendish adding a second rainbow jersey to the one he won in Copenhagen in 2011.