DOHA: As a young sports nation, Qatar’s cycling history is relatively short, but very memorable. The professional sport was thrust into the limelight with the creation of the Tour of Qatar, the country’s own global road race.
The Tour of Qatar is a nation-wide stage race that was first held in 2002. Germany’s Thorsten Wilhems was the winner of the opening edition of the race, while Belgian legend Tom Boonen is its current recordman, with a tally of 22 stage wins and four overall victories. Former world champion Mark Cavendish has also excelled in this scenario by winning the GC of the race twice and triumphing in 11 stages.
Originally conceived for men only, the Tour of Qatar expanded to hold its first women’s edition in 2009, which quickly became one of the most prestigious female races in the road cycling calendar. Almost as quickly, Netherland’s Kirsten Wild made her mark on the event, reigning four times out of the eight editions.
Not only is the Tour of Qatar watched by cycling fans around the world every year, but the Men’s Tour of Qatar is enshrined in cycling’s record books for the fastest speed recorded in a professional road race.
The record in question occurred during the unforgettable fourth stage of the 2014 edition, when a strong tailwind provoked a frantic stage between Dukhan and Mesaieed. Tom Boonen crossed the finish line in first position with an average speed of 56.816 kph, the fastest ever recorded.
In addition to professional competition, Qatar has proven time and again to be a wonderful cycling location thanks to its flat terrain, great roads and cycling tracks, and warm weather.
In the last 20 years, the Qatari cycling scene has flourished in great fashion. It has become common to see big groups of bicycle aficionados pedalling the Qatari roads. The groups usually meet in cycling clubs and enjoy expanding their training alongside other cyclists. After all, the delight of riding a bike increases with the company of good friends.