Royal Air Maroc League Scarlet Jerseys

Today marks the point in the calendar where we would have been wrapping up the 2019/20 Royal Air Maroc League with an exciting evening of races around the ‘red road’ of Al Bidda Park.

This anti-climactic alternative ending is somewhat inappropriate for what has really been an excellent season of road racing; starting in Al Thakira back in October and continuing through Dukhan, Al Guwayriyah, Dosari Zoo, then Al Thakira again for the season’s only TT and finishing back at Guwayriyah. Despite the early end, six races were completed, of which the best 4 count for the overall ranking.

Just one point finally separated Mouchine Rhaili (Team Doha Cycling) and Lee Jones (Team Al Jassra) at the top of A grade men. They have been swapping the lead all season but that didn’t make it a two horse race – 11 riders stood on the podium at one point or another.

  1. Mouchine Rhaili (Team Doha Cycling) – 342 points
  2. Lee Jones (Team Al Jassra) – 341
  3. Bilal Al Saadi (Team Doha Cycling) – 309

A grade women was very much down to two women. With RAM regular, Julie Melville (Rasen Adventure Shop) knocked out early on with injury, that left Sophie Clarke (Rasen Adventure Shop) and Lisa Dunne (Team Al Jassra) to fight  it out. Lisa beat Sophie in the ITT but otherwise it was Sophie’s year. The mighty Pia Sundstedt won on each occasion she turned out and her two counting races were enough to place her third in the league.

  1. Sophie Clarke (Rasen Adventure Shop) – 393 points
  2. Lisa Dunne (Team Al Jassra) – 370
  3. Pia Sunstedt – 200

Nayef Massalam (Rasen Adventure Shop) managed to top B grade men with only 3 counting races – two firsts and a second. However, that dominance masks what has been a great season in B grade, with a lot of exciting attacking racing. Third placed Travis Pyle epitomized that; often being off the front but always having something left for a sprint finish. Travis was tied in points with Ahmed Sharief (Rasen Adventure Shop) whose win at Dukhan trumped Travis to give him second place in the league. Of all the grades, B was most affected by the cancellation of the Al Bidda finale, as any of the top 7 were within reach of the podium.

  1.  Nayef Massalam (Rasen Adventure Shop) – 293 points
  2. Ahmed Sharief (Rasen Adventure Shop) – 288
  3. Travis Pyle – 288

Like the A grade women, B grade had just two contenders with 4 counting races. But what a contest between Daniela Sposi (Triclub Doha) and Sondra Hope! That scarlet jersey has been passed back and forth between them four times, with Dani developing as a cyclist and a racer and Sondra rising to that challenge while also dealing with on-going cancer treatments. It is especially cruel then that the pair can only be separated by the final count-back measure of who had the more recent victory over the other – making Dani your champion.

  1. Daniela Sposi (Triclub Doha) – 382 points
  2. Sondra Hope – 382
  3. Sara Fontana Belenguer (Triclub Doha) – 216

C grade men discovered a new talent in Jamison Carino (Bike to Work Qatar). Coming from mountain biking, Jamison had already won last years Al Bidda ‘knobbly tire’ race at an average speed of 37kph, so arguably should have be placed in B grade from the outset. However, the road was an unknown for this young rider and he is allowed to choose where he feels best suits him. Where suits him appears to be on one of the steps of the podium because he never left it in all six races. That included in the final race where, having well and truly won C grade, he stepped up to B and won that too! His countrymen and team mates, often seen in the breakaway with him, took the other places.

  1. Jamison Carino (Bike to Work Qatar) – 383 points
  2. Bernard John Bayhon (Bike to Work Qatar) – 350
  3. Elmer Oropieza (SMCC Apo Lakay) – 302

QCF made many improvements to road racing this season: a permanent staff of organisers, support crew and officials made the organisers’ job easier and got riders registered and on the road quicker; more support vehicles, spare wheels, and a learning curve of delivering in-race support; mechanical support from Rasen Adventure Shop; more ice, water, food and drink at the finish; timing software and hardware improvements which delivered race and league results faster. Our heartfelt thanks to all who contribute.

Online registration improved efficiency and led to fewer no-shows but had its hiccups and online payments are still problematic for some – this is one area for improvement. The tricky area of grading also really needs to be addressed to prevent the lower grades racing at a speed which excludes slower and older riders.

Special mention goes to our sponsors and supporters. Rasen Adventure Shop, Rayyan water, and of course Royal Air Maroc. These three have contributed much to transforming road racing over the past few seasons and, in these difficult times for the aviation industry, we offer RAM our best wishes at coming through the covid-19 pandemic and returning with strength.

League winners will be awarded their prizes at the first race of the 2020/21 season. Please contact QCF if you are leaving Qatar before then.