The head of the Qatar Cycling Federation has ruled out building a special circuit or climb for the 2016 world championships in Doha but said that the ongoing development of the city's transport infrastructure means that precise details of the route are yet to be defined.
Speaking to reporters in Doha, federation president Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Thani said that the local organising committee had considered constructing a purpose-built course for the Worlds, but that the time frame simply didn't allow it.
"It was suggested, it was something that was done in Moscow before [for the 1980 Olympics], but unfortunately we don't have the time to do it," Al Thani said. "It's very complicated here because Doha and Qatar are developing very quickly with a lot of infrastructure going around. It would have been difficult to change all the planning. I don't think it would be feasible to do it."
Doha's Corniche, the city-centre promenade that hosts the final stages of both the men's and women's Tours of Qatar, will be the site of the start and finish lines for the road races at the 2016 Worlds. Al Thani explained that a provisional course has already been sketched out, but added that that Qatar's rapidly-expanding road network means that the current parcours is by no means definitive. In any case, however, it is certain to be flat and likely to suit the sprinters.
"We already have route planned as it exists now in Qatar, but Qatar is a very fast-developing country and you have new roads every day, and I think it will change over time," he said.
The fast growth of Qatar's infrastructure has not been without controversy. Al Thani pointed to the fact that the stadia for the football World Cup in 2022 will be linked by cycle paths and rental bikes, but it was also recently reported that 185 Nepalese immigrants working on construction sites for the tournament died in 2013 alone.
The date of the Doha world championships is also yet to be decided, although unlike the 2022 World Cup, it is unlikely to necessitate a radical overhaul of the 2016 cycling calendar. The Qatari preference, Al Thani said, is to hold the race as late as possible in order to avoid high local temperatures in September, but the final decision rests with the UCI.
"It's up to the UCI but we're getting the impression that it will be in early October. It will be the better time for us, I think," Al Thani said. "The world championships are normally in September but we're trying to make it as late as possible because here the weather is a little bit harsh, at least in early September. It's not too bad, but the later we have it, the better it will be."
While the best riders in the world will descend on Qatar in 2016, it remains to be seen if there will be local participants in all of the races on the schedule. The country's first women's team was only established in late 2013, under the stewardship of former professional Pia Sunstedt, and the odds seem stacked against any Qatari participation in the elite women's races.
"With the men, we are sure we are going to be there. The girls are just starting and we hope they will continue with us. They have a goal in front of them, so we hope to see them participate in the world championships," Al Thani said. "We have been through this before. When we first started cycling in Qatar in 2001, in preparation for the 2006 Asian Games and we had a [men's] team in time for that. We had a plan and we made it."
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