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The Al Adaid Desert Challenge

Back in the desert!

Just a few days after the Trans Gran Canaria I was off to the Gulf to visit Qatar and do some bike racing. This was the second time for me racing the Al Adaid Challenge; a 38km race through the desert with about eight sand dunes plotted throughout the course. The race organisation does a great job and looks after the pro riders really well, not to mention some attractive prize money, the dead wood at the UCI could learn a lot from them.

The race is held about 40mins south of the capital Doha. On the way to the start our friendly driver gave us a great tour, pointing out the work going into the place to get ready for the next football World Cup. A few stadiums are pretty much complete and the roads and infrastructure is impressive. We were cruising along an eight lane highway when we passed one of the completed stadiums.

The race kicked off and the first few kms were flat, hard packed ground and with a steady tail wind. I felt a bit average early and after the first two dunes found myself back in the field. I only had a 32T front ring and with the strong tail wind I found myself spinning out.

The sand dunes this year were really soft and there was no chance of riding up any of them. Last year there was a bit of rain the night before which caused the sand to have a light crust on it but this year wasn't the case. So it was a run/struggle up each one. Even some of the flatter sections had stretches of thick sand which required pushing the bike through. The varying of rhythm and pace stung me a lot. "Luckily" in the final 10 - 15kms where the course turns back on itself, we rode back into the wind which meant that you had to push a hard, constant power output. I passed a few riders and ended up in 4th, for the second year in a row. Given how much running training I've been doing, I don't think I could've finished higher on the day and am happy with the result. Although at least a 36T or 38T would've certainly helped!

It's always fun racing in non traditional MTB countries and Qatar is a great place to race and visit. I really enjoy going there and highly recommend this event and also the Rasen Sports 24hr that's held there.

Now i'm back home in Umbria and into training, with the next major event being in April at the Penyagolosa Ultra Trail. 100km & 5000m elevation trail running event that's also part of the World Tour. Before then I'll be looking at some smaller events in Italy for training, both running and MTB.


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