The photos on the Sticky Bottle website from the World Championships in Doha, Qatar are shocking.
This is the the culminating event of the season, prestigious rainbow jerseys, the best pro bikes racers in the world, the Superbowl and World Cup of cycling, and there isn’t a single fan to be seen.
Somehow the complete absence of an audience for a major cycling event held in searing temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit in a Middle Eastern country built on petrodollars with zero cycling culture is revealing about the state of the sport in general.
To quote the crazy Donald Trump and his signature exclamation of disdain: “So sad.”
Somehow it all fits together as a picture of disarray. As former pro Micheal Rogers just said this week that the sport is “broken.” The World Championships are being held in an inhospitable environment because the sport is so desperate for money that any bidder with money is welcome, regardless of whether it makes sense on any level besides the checkbook.
It’s like holding the World Championships on the Moon or in North Korea or at the North pole. It kind of boggles the mind when you step back and look at the wider view.
Just look at the recent news: the supposedly clean Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins taking advantage of a gray area in regard to TUE abuse to gain a competitive advantage in the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
Then there is the inability of the UCI to convince WADA to put the powerful painkiller Tramadol on the banned list. Nearly everyone is shocked that this drug is still legal for use in the peloton — including at Team Sky.
Then there is the exciting new squad from Bahrain. Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the man behind that new entry in the WorldTour, was described in a Deadspin article as a “credibly accused torturer.” That didn’t seem to bother the UCI or their top signing Vincenzo Nibali.
Sometimes it seems that nobody is watching the sport with any interest. Not at the the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland or on the streets of Doha in Qatar.