Over its last 15 editions, the wind-swept stages over Qatar’s rocky desert peninsula became an important for cyclists building towards the classics. It received WorldTour status for 2017.
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However, the organiser pulled the plug without explaining the reason with only one month before its scheduled February date. The Ladies Tour of Qatar was also cancelled.
“During the coming period, the federation is planning to organise strong local tournaments in a bid to discover local talents to represent the Qatari national teams,” Mohamed Al Kuwari, the new president of the Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation, told the Qatar News Agency.
“The federation will host international tournaments again next year, the most important of which will be the Tour of Qatar.”
Cycling great Eddy Merckx and fellow Belgian Dirk De Pauw organised the race since 2002 for Qatar’s sports ministry and cycling federation. Tour de France organiser ASO supplied logistical help.
The race was presented at a WorldTour seminar in Mallorca this December. Everything seemed in place for the race to debut in the WorldTour series after racing at HC status.
The race would have been part of four-race consecutive ‘Gulf Swing’, starting with the Dubai Tour and continuing with the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman and the Abu Dhabi Tour. The other three races are due to continue.
On December 28, however, the UCI said that the race would not continue.
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has today received notice of the cancellation of both the Tour of Qatar and Ladies Tour of Qatar,” it said. “It is understood the decision follows difficulty attracting sponsor financial support.”
The announcement appeared odd given that the Tour of Qatar just presented its 2017 race in the Mallorca WorldTour seminar. Part of the problem may have been linked to a change in logistical provider, from ASO to John Lelangue.
Belgian Lelangue, the national federation’s director of sport for Qatar, helped the Gulf state win the rights and host the 2016 World Championships. It was the first time for the championships in the Middle East. However, some complained of excessive heat and lack of crowds.