Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al-Thani, President of the Qatar Cycling Federation, announced at the pre-race press conference that the Tour of Qatar has applied for a place on the WorldTour calendar in 2017, a decision inspired in part by the absence of some top-level teams from this year’s race.
“We have applied to the UCI to be upgraded to the WorldTour and we hope that we have a good chance because we are the first and oldest tour in the region,” he said. “So if the WorldTour is coming to this area, it should come here first. We have good confidence in that. We are trying to go WorldTour to bring the level up.”
Although the Tour of Qatar has yet to be formally confirmed for next year, Al-Thani said that the race’s continued existence was not contingent on WorldTour status. “The race will continue, whether it’s WorldTour or HC,” he said. “We did not sign the contract [for the race’s continuation in 2017] yet but it will be signed. We have a green light on that one.”
The Tour of Qatar’s application for higher status next year comes despite Tour de France organiser ASO’s threat to withdraw its events from the WorldTour calendar in 2017. ASO has been involved in the organisation of the Tour of Qatar since its first edition in 2002, but Al-Thani stressed that the relationship would have no impact on the race’s WorldTour application.
“ASO for us are technical management for the race, it has nothing to do with their problem,” he said. “The Tour of Qatar is not ASO, they don’t sell it [sic], so we deal with them on a different level. It will not affect our relationship with ASO if we are WorldTour or not.”