Cycling takes a different and new route in Qatar
The Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation is organising more grassroots-level activities to increase the sport’s base in the country.
Qatar has always led by example when it comes to cycling in the country and the region.
It launched the region’s first UCI-approved stage race, the Tour of Qatar, in 2002, and pushed the envelope by setting up the Gulf’s first female professional race — the Ladies Tour of Qatar — seven years later.
But after hosting the Middle East’s first UCI Road World Championships in October 2016, things went downhill. The two major Tours were discontinued, and a major reshuffle at the top led to the creation of the Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation (QCTF).
A proactive QCTF then began strengthening cycling at the grassroots level.
QCTF’s Technical Secretary Andrej Filip said the sport was now more popular than ever before.
“We always had local events, but the earlier focus was only on running the two major Tours. Now, we’ve returned to the roots and are concentrating on building on fundamentals. Qatari riders can’t simply leap from one level to the next. For that, it takes time and different generations to come up through the ranks. We’re working on it,” he told Inside Qatar.
The QCTF’s local season, which runs from October till April each year, is brimming with activities. The seven-leg Royal Air Maroc League is now in its fourth year, and the Qatar National Triathlon Series consists of five competitions.
While mountain bike races are frequently organised in close coordination with the United Filipino Mountain Bikers Qatar group, short and explosive night races are held every other week. With an abundance of events to choose from, local participation has increased tremendously.
“We now have an annual membership system in place for cyclists and triathletes wishing to participate in our events. In two years, the number of paid members has gone up from 200 to more than 500. It means at least 500 active athletes are competing with us around the season.
“Qatari participation has also risen sharply, to more than 50 competitors, in a short time. While many of them may not be able to compete internationally, they’re paving the way for a second generation to make it to the top,” said the Slovenian.
With the sport rejuvenated and an active membership base in place, the QCTF is looking to host major events in the coming years.
“We’ll organise the Asian Cup Triathlon Championship on December 4 and 5, 2020. In addition to it, we’re also looking to host a mountain bike stage race. But it’s likely to happen only in the long term. Until then, we’ll keep strengthening our grassroots-level programmes,” he signed off.