By Sports Reporter /Doha
More than 600 cyclists and runners have enrolled to compete for a total prize bag of QR200,000 at the fifth Al Adaid Desert Challenge to be held on Friday, 28 February, organisers announced yesterday during a press conference held at Mandarin Oriental Doha.
The addition of ‘MTB+Run’ format has further boosted interest of participants, attracting about 50 competitors seeking to add greater challenge to what is already known as ‘the toughest one day off-road cycling and running competition in the Gulf region.’
Taking place in Khor Al Adaid, a Unesco recognised nature reserve in the south-east of Qatar, the race will kick off from the area next to Mawater Sand Dune, opposite to the Sealine Beach Resort. From here, the participants will gear up towards the finish line at Al Majles Resort 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 40km cycling route, with a strength-sapping seven dunes over 28.5km for runners.
Morgan Pilley, an Australian national team member, 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 Pia Sundstedt, a favourite for the women’s title, “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.”
A total of 20 athletes will form the elite field, which includes last year’s winner Frédéric Gombert (France) and second placed Faraz Shokri (Iran). Representing Qatar, National Championship title holder, 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.
Commenting on the event, Al Adaid Desert Challenge Managing Director 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.”
Just before the prize giving ceremony, there will be a kids’ race for boys and girls at the finish line area of the main event for age 7-11 years, and for the first time, a more proper race for the 12-15 year old kids.
The kids’ race, according to al-Khanji, will help the future stars to 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,” al-Khanji added.
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.”
Speaking about the event, 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.”
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