What the six-stage Tour of Qatar (February 8-13) may lack in hills and distance, it makes up for in crosswinds and outright pace.
Previous editions of the Middle East race have shown that the often vicious coastal and desert winds can cut the peloton to pieces. And if the riders are lucky enough for the winds to be behind them, speeds can be blistering.
Tactics and position in the peloton can play as much a part as strength for a rider to survive.
Stage one, February 8
Dukhan to Sealine Beach, 136 km
The 2015 Tour of Qatar’s opening stage runs across the the peninsula from west to east, starting in Dukhan and finishing at Sealine Beach. The run-in to the line is flat and straight, providing the first chance for the sprinters to take a victory. Two intermediate sprints, each with time bonuses, will also play their part in shaping the overall classification and jersey competitions on the opening day.
Stage two, February 9
Al Wakra to Al Khor Corniche, 194.5 km
A twisting start in Al Wakra gives way to the longest stage in the 2015 Tour of Qatar as it skirts around the west of the capital of Doha and north to Al Khor Corniche. A tricky finish awaits the bunch, as they have to turn back on themselves on a roundabout with around 1.5km to go. Positioning in the peloton will be the key to success at this point, any sprinters’ trains caught napping will lose out.
Stage three time trial, February 10
Lusail Circuit, individual time trial, 10.9 km
Stage three of the race sees an individual test against the clock around the Lusail sports complex, which also includes the home of the Qatar Cycling Federation. It’s not a straightforward run, either, with numerous turns and roundabouts to navigate. Any rider with enough nerve to stay off their brakes and strength to power out of corners will prevail. Aside from time bonuses and inevitable crosswinds throughout the race, today offers to the only real chance for the GC men to gain – or lose – time.
Stage four, February 11
Al Thakhira to Mesaieed, 165.5 km
If stage four looks familiar then it is – it’s basically the reverse of stage two, this time running from north to south and skirting west of Doha. There’s another roundabout-festooned final five kilometres, but a relatively straight final km will allow the pace to be wound up.
Stage five, February 12
Al Zubara Fort to Madinat ash-Shamal, 153 km
The race’s penultimate stage heads to the north and west of the Qatar peninsula, heading inland from Al Zubarah Fort before looping back to the coast to the finish circuit, which is ridden twice.
Stage six, February 13
Sealine Beach Resort to Doha Corniche, 124.5 km
The final day of the 2015 Tour of Qatar takes place in Doha, providing an urban backdrop and relief from wide expanses of sand. After a leg warmer along the east coast, the riders hit a tight 5.7km finish circuit navigated six times before the inevitable bunch sprint finale.