• Tiffany Cromwell (Canyon/SRAM) riding at the Ladies Tour of Qatar from Katara Cultural February 2016 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Last week the UCI announced the cancellation of the Tours of Qatar due to lack of sponsorship. Many within the cycling industry - fans and media alike - made it known it was no great loss. But what is the real impact on women's cycling? Cycling Central spoke to Anthony McCrossan, commentator and founder of Voxwomen to gain a different perspective.
By
Rachel de Bear

4 Jan 2017 - 11:22 AM  UPDATED 4 Jan 2017 - 11:41 AM

Following the announcement, criticism of the ASO-organised Tours of Qatar centred mainly upon the UCI's failed attempt to globalise the sport, citing poor crowds on the roadside and lack of meaning when juxtaposed with men's and women's racing in cycling's European "heartland." 

Tours of Qatar cancelled
The 2017 men's and women's Tours of Qatar will not go ahead due to sponsorship issues, according to the International Cycling Union (UCI).

But after eight years, the Ladies Tour of Qatar had forged a significant place on the women's racing calendar and in the hearts of riders, teams and media.

Cycling commentator and founder of Voxwomen, the first ever dedicated online international women's cycling video channel, Anthony McCrossan said the race is a massive loss for women's cycling and one it can ill afford. 

"Right now, women's racing can't afford to be losing like races like Tour of Qatar," he said. 

"It loses eyeballs on women's cycling early in the season for a concentrated period of time. These teams are all reliant on sponsor money so they need that TV showcase and Voxwomen is one piece of that window on women's cycling that sponsors want."

And it's not just about eyes on sponsors' logos and products, but racing pure and simple.

"It is a great set up race for the season and riders who want to do well in the [spring] Classics get a massive workout. 

"Why do Lizzie Deignan, Kirsten Wild, Tiffany Cromwell etc all go there?  They know there are crosswinds, fights for echelons, flat hard roads," McCrossan said. 

"Team directors... and coaches will be re-thinking how to bring their riders to classics targets in top form now without that workout. Financially it may have an impact on teams as they may have to put on an additional training camp for their riders."

McCrossan sees that the Ladies Tour of Qatar also offered one thing other places and races can not. 

"The weather. They know they are not going to be rained on every day.

"Fans by the roadside wasn't really the need, a good hard workout in the warm weather was."  

When many within the cycling industry discuss the men's Tour Down Under, one of the major benefits cited is logistics to justify the long trip to Australia. Each stage is located around a highly-rated centralised hotel, offering short transfers and a relaxed environment to ease riders into the new season. 

At the Ladies Tour of Qatar, similar five-star treatment was also lavished upon the women's teams. 

"They have a place that logistically is easy and they are treated well. They stay in a five-star hotel. The race leaves from there in convoy every day. The riders are all in the same hotel, they are relaxed and there is time to do those long early season interviews that set the season up. Voxwomen went last season for that very reason. 

"We were able to shoot great content in a good environment and be creative too. I know the photographers like it to get that early season echelon shot and there's always camels, blue sky, sand dunes to add to those photos and video."

That may sound like self-interest from McCrossan but it goes back to that all important point: creating content that showcases sponsors.

And despite criticism, fans abroad did eyeball that content. 

"I have read a lot of comments about the race not being missed but I think come February fans will be missing their daily fix of early season racing." 

As a regular visitor to Qatar over the year for both the men's and women's races, McCrossan can offer another rare perspective on the impact of cancellation. 

"In terms of Qatar itself there will be an impact on the cycling community. Its easy to think that just because fan numbers are low, there isn't a cycling scene there. But there is and it has grown year on year.

"The first year I went you would never have seen groups of riders out. Now there are clubs, shops and a cycling scene. But in a country such as Qatar it takes a huge amount of time to get to anywhere near the levels of interest in other countries."

Ultimately though, it's all about the racing. 

"I hope the Women's World Tour which is now into year two, can work with Qatar to get this race back on the calendar for 2018 as I don't think anyone wants it go. We may well see Abu Dhabi or Dubai step in."

 

Watch the last Voxwomen episode of 2016 here on SBS: