The 2020 UCI Road World Championships moving from Switzerland to the Middle East is looking more likely, with Qatar specifically highlighted as the probable new location, according to reports.
Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad writes a World Championships in Switzerland at the end of September is a “no-go” according to the UCI, with Swiss regions less than keen to have a global sporting event descending on their communities in the aftermath of a pandemic.
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The 2020 Worlds were set to be hosted in Aigle-Martigny, where the UCI is also headquartered, yet the original dates of September 20-27 could also cause an extra headache to what is now a packed autumn calendar.
The Tour de France is now set to end on September, what would be the first day of the World Championships, with the Giro d’Italia then beginning on October 3.
If the Worlds are moved to November, putting it towards the end of the calendar as is custom, it would likely take place after the end of the Vuelta a España, which reaches Madrid on November 8. This would rule out the winter race taking place in much of Europe, particularly up Swiss mountains, with the Middle East providing a more temperate climate at the time of year, with average temperatures a still-warm 25C.
A decision is set to be made soon, with it currently unclear as to whether the European country will even be open to foreigners by September. Last week it was also reported the rescheduled Belgian national road race championships will be held on September 22, with more national road race championships and other races still to be slotted into the latter months of 2020, further congesting the calendar.
One detractor, who had been hoping to guide Belgian youngster Remco Evenepoel through his first Grand Tour at the Giro d’Italia this May, is Deceuninck – Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere. He’s against moving the Worlds to Qatar, with Evenepoel and team-mate Julian Alaphilippe standing more of a chance of claiming the rainbow bands on the mountainous Swiss course.
“I don’t like it,” Lefevere wrote in his Het Nieuwsblad column. “I really hope – for Remco and for Julian Alaphilippe – that it stays as the Aigle-Martigny climbing course. Remco has many qualities, but I do not yet include sprinting. A World Championships with a sprint finish would be inevitable in the desert and if the peloton in Qatar tears itself to pieces, they might as stick Remco on a camel.”
The 2016 Road World Championships took place in Doha, the capital of Qatar, with Peter Sagan besting Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen as he defended his title.