The 2020 UCI Road World Championships could be moved to the Middle East if the coronavirus pandemic causes further disruption to the already re-jigged cycling calendar.
The 2020 Worlds is set to be held in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland, where the UCI headquarters are also located, but Spanish newspaper Marca reports Oman, Qatar or the UAE Arab Emirates are being considered as alternative options by cycling’s governing body.
If the coronavirus pandemic is still causing the cancellation sporting events, the climates of these countries would make a date change to November, when the disruption of the virus could be less severe, feasible.
Last week the UCI revealed their new 2020 calendar, with the biggest events now squeezed into a two and half month period in the autumn.
The Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia now overlap, with Paris-Roubaix also taking place during both Grand Tours, as race organisers and other stakeholders try to save their events to avoid financial hardship, and the UCI is no different with the Worlds.
World Championships’ hosting fees reportedly bring in around £9 million, their biggest singular revenue source, with the Road Worlds the most lucrative of the disciplines.
The Road Worlds are currently scheduled for September 20-27, starting on the same day the Tour de France ends, with the Giro d’Italia then beginning on October 3.
If the Worlds were pushed back, the currently planned mountainous terrain would be radically changed as riders compete on the desert roads of the Middle East, as they did in 2016 when Peter Sagan won the rainbow bands in Doha, Qatar.
A decision is set to be made before the end of June and if doesn’t happen then Aigle-Martigny would have to wait until 2026 or 2027 at the earliest, although Switzerland will see another Worlds in 2024 when Zürich is the host. Flanders is set to hold the 2021 edition, Australia in 2022, while Glasgow will host the first combined Championships in 2023, featuring road, track and mountain bike disciplines. 2025 will then see the first African nation host the Worlds, although a specific location has not yet been unveiled.
“A festival of cycling, yes, but not at any price. We’ll have to be consistent in the decisions we take, and we can’t be stubborn either,” 2020 Worlds organiser Grégory Devaud told Radio Télévision Suisse.
“In the current configuration, it’s this Autumn or never,” he said. “On the other hand, we could imagine a postponement to a later date, like 2026 or 2027, but that would probably be on a different model.”