Qatar an excellent place for riders, says Merckx

 03 Oct 2016 - 3:21

Qatar an excellent place for riders, says Merckx
Eddy Merckx

The Peninsula 

DOHA: With only one week remaining before the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 kicks off,  event Ambassador and cycling legend Eddy Merckx says Qatar is always welcoming the professional riders and the people take good care of everything. 
“The Tour of Qatar is well organised as the World Championships will be too,” he said. 
The UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016 are the first time the pinnacle event of the cycling calendar will be held in the Middle East. 
Merckx came to Qatar for the first time fifteen years ago and has been delighted to see the Tour of Qatar earning its place on the international cycling calendar since. 
“Qatar was the first country in the Middle East to organise a professional cycling race. The country developed rapidly over the past decade. Each year I got back and each year there were new roads  and new buildings.” 
Merckx is the only rider in history to have won all five monuments (Milan–San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris–Roubaix, Lie?ge–Bastogne–Lie?ge, and the Giro di Lombardia), all three Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a Espan?a) and the UCI Road World Championships.
Looking ahead to the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016, the Ambassador predicted that the races may end in exciting bunch sprints; but that’s not certain at all. 
The Tour of Qatar is traditionally held in January, when the Doha climate gives professional riders a perfect opportunity to prepare for the Spring Classics that are held wintertime.
“It’s an excellent place for riders to get in shape in wintertime, because it’s often too cold to train or race in the rain and snow in Europe,” Merckx explains.
In October, the Qatari climate is different, however, and the riders need to prepare with this in mind.
“It’s warmer in October and this could be an important factor during the races, but there’s always wind. With long straight roads through the desert this can make for a very tough race. Riders need to be alert constantly, because the pelotons can break up into echelons at any given time, and whoever is too far at the back may miss the decisive moment in the race,” he added.
“Because the course is flat, the race may very well end up in a bunch sprint, but riders with a good punch could also end up victorious. It depends a little on what happens during the race, which teams will have enough riders up front to control the peloton in the final?”
Looking to the men’s events, Merckx said that teamwork will be important: “The Germans have good sprinters, but they can only start six men, which is a setback because the more men a team has upfront in the finale, the better it can position its sprinter.”
“If the big sprinters do not have enough support, riders like Niki Terpstra (NED) or Zdenek Stybar (CZE) might be able to jump for victory in the final kilometres. And if the big sprinters fail to stay upfront all the way to the final, their teams may switch tactics and try to attack instead of control the race,” said the former champion rider.