inCycle video: Cycling in the Middle East

A new frontier for the peloton

In recent years, the Middle East has increasingly welcomed the peloton for early season racing far removed from the cold of the European winter and early spring. The Tour of Qatar was the first race to attract a world class peloton in 2002, followed by the tougher Tour of Oman in 2010 while last year saw the creation of the Dubai Tour. Continuing the growth of races in the Middle East is the new stage race in Abu Dhabi which will be held for the time in October.

It's not just a new horizon for the men however with the Ladies Tour of Qatar, into its seventh year, an important date on the calendar and cultural experience for the women's peloton.

"For us, its really special to ride in the Middle East," said runner-up in the race, Ellen van Dijk. "This is the only time of year that we race here. I think it's extra special, as the culture here is very different for men and women. Women are maybe a bit underestimated here [so] it's great to show what women can do here."

Qatar will host its first UCI road world championships next year and with the route unveiled on the eve of the race, riders were paying extra attention to the roads and conditions that will decide the rainbow jerseys of 2016.

Two Dutch riders in particular are looking forward to the championships.

"The Dutch riders are riding well here because its flat, there is wind which is exactly the same in Holland so we are used to it," Van Dijk said.

"I think it will be really special, its totally total, a lot of wind, its some thing different," said fellow fast woman Amy Pieters.

While the flat suits sprinters such as Pieters and van Dijk, the courses haven't been tailored to just one kind of rider explains former BMC sport director John Lelangue who was involved in the creation and design of the circuit in Doha.

"We haven't designed the parcours for one rider in particular," Lelangue said. "We tried to make the parcours corresponding to Qatar, to what we face here, to what the conditions here are. We didn't want to build any artificial climbs. I think Qatar has to stay Qatar with the wind, with the flat races, [and be ] a little more technical." 

While some may dismisss the Middle East for its lack of cycling history, the global growth of cycling and success of the Gulf races in attracting world class riders and putting on high class events is only a good thing for the sport according to Lelange.

"Cycling is an global sport, an international sport that you can practise anywhere in the world and we saw that is was coming from Australia, America, Africa, Asia and it’s a good thing," Lelange added. "You see more and more that the countries, which were the historical countries of cycling, have to fight with new counties."

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