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How the World Championships in Doha will be won. Maybe.

George Wallis-Ryder
14 Oct 2016

Analysing the key factors that will determine how the elite races will play out.

Virtually all coverage of Doha has discussed the heat in some way, but to say it will be the decisive factor come race day is perhaps a little short-sighted. In reality the elite men’s and women’s races will be won or lost for reasons other than who can best handle the oppressive weather. Here are some of the ingredients to what will surely be an exciting climax to the road racing season.

The Wind

Anyone who’s watched the Tour of Qatar over the last few years will know that a change in wind direction can turn a race on its head. Expect crosswinds coming in from the Arabian Gulf to buffet the peloton, particularly on the first 150km out and back section of the race. Echelons across the highway will favour the Classics riders from countries like Belgium and the Netherlands. A well-timed breakaway by one or two nations could see them off the front all the way until the finish line.

Skip to 15 minutes in to watch high winds fragmenting the peloton at the 2013 tour of Qatar. 

The Distance 

Eventually a decision will be made as to whether Sunday’s men’s elite race will take place over the full 257.3km or a reduced 105km course within The Pearl Qatar complex. The longer the race goes on, the more it plays into the hands of the larger teams such as Great Britain and Australia, as nations with fewer riders such as Slovakia and Ireland may struggle with the lack resources at their disposal. If a rider punctures, or needs water, those with reduced personnel won’t be able to react as efficiently. A 105km race leaves the result wide open, as the threat of constant attacks will no doubt keep the pace high until the very end.

The Parcours

The abundance of roundabouts in the final 100km of both the men’s and women’s races makes for a tricky run to the finish line. If the peloton is still together coming into The Pearl look for solo attacks, as navigating the course will be easier alone rather than being part of the bunch. Riders with great bike handling skills such as Pauline Ferrand-Prévot and Peter Sagan will be difficult to catch through technical sections.

A classic Peter Sagan highlight

The Heat

It might not be the deciding factor, but that’s not to say the temperature won’t have a big impact on the weekend's races. Both the individual and team time trials found riders struggling to cope with the heat, with Dutch riders in particular finding it hard to perform - ‘It was horrible,’ said Tom Dumoulin. ‘I tried to be as cool as possible before the start and I think that's all you can do.’

European teams might find themselves at a disadvantage as the mercury climbs. Expect teams like Australia and Columbia to find the higher temperatures easier to cope with.