Organisers of the Al Adaid Desert Challenge, have announced strong growth in participation in this year’s event, with a record field of 625 and the number of runners exceeding cyclists for the first time in its five year history.
The addition of an ‘MTB + Run’ format for 2020 has further boosted interest, attracting 50 competitors seeking to add greater challenge to what is already known as ‘The Gulf region’s toughest one day off-road cycling and running competition’.
Organisers also face their own challenges in making the race ever more appealing. The destination this year is the recently opened desert resort at Al Majles which has the capacity to offer a luxury experience to the expanded field. Reaching the new finish line had already required a two-kilometre course extension and the addition of an eighth dune, however, with the shifting sands allowing the sea to inundate the planned route, the Challenge will now feature ten dune crossings along the 40-kilometer cycling route, with a strength-sapping seven dunes over 28,5 kilometers for runners.
The Al Adaid Desert Challenge is designated as UCI category 3 mountain bike race - the only Qatari event currently to feature on the International Cycling Union’s calendar – bringing an international field and contributing to the region’s developing prominence as a sport tourism destination. Professional and former professional elite athletes seeking racing opportunities during the European winter come in pursuit of a prize purse which this year will be QAR 215,000.00 but they are also attracted by the exotic character of the event.
Morgan Pilley, an Australian National Team member resident in Italy, and making his third attempt to reach the podium, explained, “It's a great event that is very well organised and is set in an amazing, unique environment. I love coming to Qatar where the people are extremely friendly and very welcoming.”
Pilley’s sentiments were echoed by favourite for the ladies’ title, Pia Sundstedt, “For me, as a Qatar resident, this is the highlight of the year. The atmosphere, the desert, arriving at the finish in a desert camp, the Arabic flair, the Arabic hospitality is present and almost touchable in this race.” 20 athletes will form the elite field, among them last year’s winner Frédéric Gombert (France) and second placed Faraz Shokri (Iran). Representing Qatar, National Championship titleholder, Marwan Al Jalham, who placed 4th in the open race last year, will be joined by Fadhel Alkhater and Abdulla Al Khater in leading a local challenge against the visitors.
Local businesses have come to the support of Qatar Cyclists and Qatar Cycling Federation in cementing the Al Adaid Desert Challenge’s international appeal, contributing to a sense of Qatar offering, something special to overseas competitors.
Managing Director of the event, Dr. Jamal Al Khanji said: “Every year the Al Adaid Desert Challenge has grown and this year we have had a huge increase in participation, created in part by the addition of a new off-road duathlon competition. The interest in the event is growing both locally and abroad and our eyes are set on future development. After five years since our first edition, a record number of 160 Qatari participants are facing the difficulties of this challenge and are joining local expats and international athletes to compete in the toughest one-day cycling and running race in the region. We are looking for a great event, a challenging course, with more dunes, which we believe our participants are going to enjoy. We would also like to invite spectators, to follow the race - which will be a fun day in the desert. The event will conclude with a youth race at the finish line, where future stars will get a feel of what their own Al Adaid Desert Challenge is going to be like."
"We would like to thank all our partners and sponsors; Qatar National Tourism Council, Ooredoo, Doha Insurance Group, Doha Takaful, Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation, Rayyan Water, Garmin, Doha Bus, Rasen Adventure Shop, GMC to name the main ones.“
Dr. Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, President of Qatar Cyclists Center said: “Qatar Cyclists take joy and pride in improving the Al Adaid Challenge every year and in this 5th edition we are especially pleased to achieve another record entry – more than 600 riders for the first time - with a rising number of Qatari participants.
Our strategy to promote cycling is to organise these aspirational events which motivate the community to get fit, train, and enjoy achieving challenging targets. With the boom we are seeing in cycling among Qatari nationals, evidenced by many more taking on the Al Adaid Challenge this year, we are proud of our part in these successes.”
Dr. Mohammed Jaham Al Kuwari, President of Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation said: “It has been amazing to witness the Al Adaid Desert Challenge develop from a small amateur race to its current form, hosting elite cyclists from all over the world. It has been one of the major achievements to create this race, the most important for the cycling community in Qatar. We thank Qatar Cyclists for organising and we wish a great 2020 race for all participants.”
Representing Qatar National Tourism Council, a partner and leading sponsor of the Challenge, Mr. Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing Officer said: “Qatar has established itself as a major player in the sports tourism industry during the past decade and Al Adaid Desert Challenge plays a huge role in strengthening the country’s reputation as the main destination for adventure sport enthusiasts. We are proud to play our part in that success and to showcase some of Qatar's most iconic cultural and tourism assets in the context of sport.”
Speaking about the event, Mrs. Moza Al Muhannadi – Director CSR, Sponsorship and Media at Ooredoo – said: "We're delighted to be sponsoring the 2020 edition of the Al Adaid Desert Challenge, a challenging sporting event known for its tough conditions. Supporting events such as these, which encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, is a key part of our corporate social responsibility strategy. We look forward to an exciting race and some impressive performances from all the participants."
Mr. Hassan Ali Al Maslamani, senior administration Manager and Souq Waqif Branch Manager at Doha Insurance Group said: “We are glad to be the Gold Sponsor of this special event and to further develop our successful partnership with Qatar Cyclists Center by organizing another memorable edition of Al Adaid Desert Challenge. It is a third year of our partnership with Al Adaid Desert Challenge. Both previous editions proved a huge success; we are looking forward to the 2020 edition. We are proud supporters of an event, which promotes sports and encourages members of our community to lead healthy lifestyles.”
Source: Press Release
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