World Champs could be shortened to 100km in Qatar heat

Extremely high temperatures in Doha, Qatar, during the 2016 World Championships could lead to the shortening of the road race route through the desert

The men’s World Championship road race in Doha, Qatar, next Sunday could be slashed to 100 kilometres if the UCI decides it is too hot in the Middle East desert.

The UCI issued a statement on Friday saying that it is ready to cut the point-to-point section through the wind-swept barren countryside if it decides it is too risky for the cyclists’ health. The race would go from 257.5 kilometres to 106.4 kilometres.

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“The UCI has set up a protocol in case of extreme heat,” said the governing body in a press release. “A four-member group of experts will examine the weather forecast before each road race. Daily checks of the temperature will be conducted by two UCI representatives using thermal stress indicators.

“The UCI will take decisions after consulting this group of experts, the President of the Athletes’ Commission Bobbie Traksel and the President of the Commissaires’ Panel Ingo Rees.

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“The following measures may be decided in the event of high temperatures: for the men’s elite road race, to reduce the 150km initial distance, for all other road races, to reduce the number of laps of the circuit.”

The men’s road race is the only event that starts with a stretch through the open desert before returning to the Pearl, a £12 billion artificial island. The 150-kilometre opening section runs north of Doha and returns south past Al Khor, which often hosts Tour of Qatar stages, with the Persian Gulf on the left.

The race was originally due to start in at Sealine Beach, but the UCI changed its plans and lengthened the initial point to point section this summer. However, opening section could be cut complete due to the heat.

The Accu Weather forecast for Sunday, October 16, shows the mercury reaching 35°C and a low of 24°C.

The UCI and local Doha organisers had already scheduled the latest ever calendar date for its title race to avoid extreme heat. As it previously planned, it will provide ways for the riders to remain cool.

It said it will have “two motorbikes moving through the race convoy to supply the riders with water, distribution of water and ice to the teams before each race in the start parking area, and supply of 10,000 TACX bottles for teams.”

If it cut the first 150km section, the riders would only have seven laps on the 15.2-kilometre Pearl circuit, or 106.4 kilometres to race. The organiser ran a test event during the Tour of Qatar this February on the artificial island that sprang up in the last 10 years. Instead of long straights and fast curves, the maze-like circuit includes 24 roundabouts and two U-turns.

“It doesn’t have the character of a Worlds course, there’s no flow or rhythm, there are many tight hairpins,” Italian Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) told Cycling Weekly after racing in February. “They are just trying to show off a little island they made.

“I suppose it’ll be what the riders bring to the circuit and how they race. You seem to constantly have wind but with no real way of splitting the pack. It’s going to be a wearing down process and positioning is going to be massive.”