One-day event will have more than 200 riders competing over six dunes on two bike types across seven categories
It started in 2010 with a bunch of local riders and has kept growing ever since. This year, Al Adaid Desert Challenge promises to be bigger,
better and more fun when it is held on March 3.
The most challenging cycling event on Qatar’s off-road cycling calendar has been marked as UCI C3 Cross Country point-to-point race (XCP) in the International Cycling Union calendar. The challenge will cover 40km of astonishing desert track from Sealine to one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders, the ‘Inland Sea’ or Khor Al Adaid.
The one-day event will have more than 200 riders competing over six gruelling dunes on two bike types across seven different categories for a total prize money of USD50,000.
Addressing the media yesterday, Qatar Cyclists Centre’s Dr Jamal al-Khanji, who is also the managing director of the event, said: “It is a great honour that our event is recognised by the government as one of the most compelling events with potential for tourism. Our goal is to attract international participants and we will direct even more energy in achieving this. One of the first steps in this direction was getting out event placed in the UCI calendar.”
The challenge is the first off-road race in Qatar to have been awarded with the UCI status. It is at the moment also the only off road race in the region that will become part of the UCI calendar.
The course for a XCP event starts in one place and finishes elsewhere.
Riders, who want to compete in the UCI category and would like their race results to contribute to their UCI point rankings must register as UCI pro-elite category riders during online registration, and must provide their UCI international racing license numbers. Qataris and expat residents of Qatar can apply for a UCI license through Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF).
“We are preparing packages that will ease travel and accommodation for riders coming to Qatar. I am positive they will return home with great memories and stories to tell,” al-Khanji said.
The event is being organised by Qatar Cyclists Centre, under the patronage of Ministry of Cultural and Sports at the Unesco-recognised nature reserve with its own ecosystem — the Inland Sea. It is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert. Inaccessible by road, this tranquil expanse of water can only be reached by crossing the rolling dunes. Riders will have to cross over six of them to reach the finish line.
Commenting on the occasion, chief marketing and promotion officer at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) Rashed al-Qurese, said, “The Al Adaid Desert Challenge attracts visitors and residents to one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders by offering a unique challenge, exciting sports and fun activities for families.
“QTA is proud to be supporting the seventh edition of this annual event which has steadily grown over the years, and promises to contribute to the country’s efforts to develop the sports tourism sub-sector in Qatar.”
This year’s edition will also see a new route in the final part of the race. Removing last year’s dune No 6 (26.5km), the new route involves hitting the last dune (new dune No. 6) just one km from the new finish line.
“We believe the new finale will make the race more interesting for riders as well as spectators. Riders will climb on the last dune, have a breath-taking view of Khor Al Adaid and feel that the finish line is within their reach. The terrain on the 30km to 35km is also not as concrete hard as the last year’s approach to the finish, which could mix the standings up to the very last minute,” al-Khanji said.
The event was initially started by the Qatar Chain Reaction (QCR) cycling group in 2010 on a minimal budget as Inland Sea Travers and the number of participants varied between 50 and 60 riders per year. In 2015, the Qatar Cyclists participated in the event for the first time and also provide some logistic support to the QCR.
“After our participation in 2015, we realised that the event is truly unique in Qatar as well as in the GCC region. So we offered to undertake the concept and the management of the event and rebranded it in 2016 and elevated the status to become one of the top off road cycling event in the region,” president of the Qatar Cyclists Centre Dr Abdulaziz al-Kuwari said.
Last year, the rebranded event took place with 130 riders successfully completing the Al Adaid Challenge and paying out a total of $20,000 in gifts and prize money.
Talking about the future plan for the growth of the event, Dr al-Kuwari said, “We have plans to for the live coverage this year, but due to some logistic issues it’s not possible, but from next year it will telecast live.”
QCF president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari also advocated the need for the event to go live.
“We will ensure the event will go live next edition onward so that it can inspire budding cyclists and help develop a new crop of cyclists in the region,” he said. “We want to increase the total number of riders to more than 400 riders in the next four years. I am confident that we will once again have a unique event that is fun and exciting for cyclists from all over the world.”
The desert challenge will not only be a competitive event, but also a fun event for families. The riders can share fun times with their families at the finish line and just before the prize-giving ceremony there will be a short informal kids (7-15 years) event at the finish line.”
Last year, Canada’s Julien Periard won the overall title, while Finland’s Pia Sundstedt won the women’s title and was third overall.
Al Adaid Desert Challenge facts
RACE TYPE: UCI Class 3, XCP (point to point race)
UCI Class 3 categories: Elite Men and Elite Women
Other categories: Men MTB, women MTB, men fatbike, women fatbike, Qatari nationals.
Race route: The start area is about 1km from Sealine Beach Resort after entering the desert located near the Mawater Sand Dune. From there, cyclists will cover the desert highway, across sand patches and cross over six dunes to reach the finish line at Khor Al Adaid.
Total distance: 40km
The total prize money is USD 50,000.
Registration for participants (minimum age 18 years) is open until February 28.
6:00am to 7:30am: Race Number Collection
8:00am: Race begins
9:30am: First riders expected to finish
11:30am: Kids’ event at Finish Area
12:00pm: Friday Prayer
12:30pm: Prize Distribution
TOP: Winners on the podium for the Al Adaid Desert Challenge 2016. BELOW PHOTO: (From left) Al Adaid Desert Challenge managing director Dr Jamal al-Khanji, Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari, Qatar Cyclists Centre president Dr Abdulaziz al-Kuwari and Rayyan Mineral Water CEO Colin Smith at a press conference yesterday. PICTURE: Jayaram