The third edition of Al Adaid Desert Challenge, scheduled for March 2nd, 2018, is promising to be the biggest and most exciting in the history of the event with a more challenging route and the introduction of a running event.
Participants of this year’s cycling race will need to overcome seven grueling sand dunes and several flat sandy patches with a total distance of 38.5 km - a route that boosts the reputation of the UCI Class 3 event as the toughest off-road mountain bike race in the region.
The event is organized by Qatar Cyclists under the patronage of Qatar’s Ministry of Culture and Sport, and in cooperation with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation (QCTF) and International Cycling Federation (UCI).
The start line will be at Mawater Sand Dune area near Sealine Beach Resort while the finish line is at the Doha Bus Desert Adventures Camp.
The participants at the running event will use the first and last third of the cycling route, and they will need to cross four sand dunes and complete a total distance of 26.7 km.
Dr. Jamal Al Khanji, Managing Director of Al Adaid Desert Challenge commented “In a very short period, Al Adaid Desert Challenge became one of the top one-day cycling events in the region – the turnout has reached record levels this year. We are keen on organizing another successful edition and we are putting the finishing touches to welcome all the participants and fans.”
“This year, we added a running race for the first time. We invite everyone to join us on March 2nd to enjoy the event and various related activities” he added.
After winning last year’s edition, Dutch cycling legend Erik Dekker was announced as an official ambassador for the Al Adaid Desert Challenge. The former Olympic silver medalist is promoting the race on international level and through various social media channels. He will also take part in community cycling events and provide support and training tips to local cyclists.
Dekker will not be the only international rider taking part in this year’s UCI Elite Category. The 47-year-old Dutch legend will once again face competition from last year’s runner up, New Zealand’s Roman Van Uden and third-placed finisher in the Elite category, Frederic Gombert of France.
All three riders will take part in a community cycling event at Lusail International Circuit on Wednesday.
Iran’s Faraz Shokri, the best positioned rider in UCI Asia MB Cross-Country Elite Ranking, is also among the notable names taking part in this year’s edition.
In the women’s Elite Category, 2017 Champion Pia Sundstedt of Finland will attempt to defend her title.
During the 2017 edition, around 40 Qatari riders competed in the race and they achieved impressive results, including a 6th place finish for Abdullah Afif in the UCI Elite Category.
This year, the number of Qatari riders is set to reach more than 60 participants and they will battle for a new title, Qatar’s MB Cross Country Champion.
Dr. Mohammed Jaham Al Kuwari, President of Qatar Cycling and Triathlon Federation commented “It is amazing to see the rapid progress of this event, mountain bikes are more popular than ever in Qatar, and the addition of Al Adaid Desert Challenge to UCI calendar last year was a proof that we are heading in the right direction.”
He added “We are building on the legacy of the World Championships, the number of Qatari cyclists is increasing, more young kids are taking on the sport, the future looks bright. This year we have more than 60 Qatari riders taking part in the event as we decided that it will also act the Qatar National Mountain Bike Cross-Country Championship. We expect a very competitive atmosphere”.
Spectators will be able to cheer the participants at the start line before moving to the finish line on a special route that doesn’t include the sand dunes. A non-competitive kids race at the finish area and several family-oriented activities is expected to attract huge crowds.
The remote desert is not only a Challenge for competitors, but also for the organizers. Growth of the event, addition of running to the event and logistical challenges have contributed organizers to look at other route options. Doha Bus Desert Adventures camp will provide the perfect location for the final scene of this iconic one-day off-road cycling event and the promising new running race.
Rashed Al Qurese, Chief Marketing & Promotion Officer at QTA, commented, “QTA is proud to be once again supporting the Al Adaid Desert Challenge, a home-grown event which has steadily developed over the years.”
He added, “Leveraging Qatar’s world-class sports facilities and unique natural assets is a key area of focus for us as we implement the Next Chapter of the National Tourism Sector Strategy 2017-2023. We are particularly proud of this sporting event as a public-sector event which promises to contribute to the growing sports tourism sub-sector in Qatar.”
The excellent weather in Qatar during this time of the year will provide the best race conditions, and with the introduction of the running event and a total prize money of around 150,000 Qatari Riyals, the 2018 Al Adaid Desert Challenge is expected to see record number of participants from Qatar and abroad. Already more than 300 male and female participants, from more than 45 different nationalities, have registered for this year’s challenge and the registration is still open until February 28th, 2018.
Cycling is one of the fastest growing sports in Qatar, with the country hosting many international events since the turn of the new millennium, including the UCI Road World Championships in 2016. Qatar Cyclists played a huge role in promoting the sport during the past few years by providing training classes for all ages and organizing a large number of community events that include The Ride of Champions and Women on Wheels.
Dr. Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, President of Qatar Cyclists commented: “Cycling has seen enormous growth in the past few years. The number of Qatar Cyclists members reached levels that we have never imagined when we launched the initiative few years ago, and Al Adaid Desert Challenge is one of the big events that is eagerly awaited by every cycling enthusiast in the country. We wish success to all participants.”
Qatar Tourism Authority are the platinum sponsor of this year’s edition, with the ever-increasing list of sponsors also including, Ooredoo and Doha Insurance Group as Gold Sponsors.
Manar Khalifa Al Muraikhi, Director PR and Corporate Communications at Ooredoo commented “We are glad to be the Gold Sponsor of this special event and to continue our partnership with Qatar Cyclists Center by organizing another memorable edition of Al Adaid Desert Challenge”.
“At Ooredoo we are always keen on supporting sporting events and activities. We are proud to be sponsoring Al Adaid Desert Challenge, which is a real test of strength, stamina and determination of all participants. We believe that supporting and promoting an event like Al Adaid Desert Challenge will encourage Qatar’s future generations of athletes and also members of the community to take on new kind of sports and be more fitness-conscious”.
Mr. Jassim Ali A. Al Moftah, Chief Executive Officer of Doha Insurance Group, commented “We are a national group with a constructive vision, our slogan is Pioneering Spirit, and to translate this into action, we were keen on being at the forefront when it came to be sponsoring and supporting this special sporting event.
We are honored to always play a positive role when it comes to forming partnerships with initiatives that help building the Qatar 2030 Vision of our wise leadership, for the noble goals this vision reflects in terms of serving our society and increasing the awareness of the importance of sports to our health.”
He added “Sports is a vital factor when it comes to developing societies physically, psychologically and morally. I would like also to thank my brother, Dr. Jamal Rashid Al-Khanji, the founders and the team of Qatar Cyclists for providing us with this opportunity. We really appreciate their efforts.”
The official event partners are Rayyan Mineral Water Company, GMC, Garmin, Qatar Red Crescent and Doha Bus, while the official event supporters are Rasen Adventure Shop, Mawater, Carbon Wheels and RR.
All images courtesy of AL ADAID Desert Challenge 2018
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