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Qatar interested in hosting 2016 Tour de France start

By Regan Doherty

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar, buoyed by a successful bid to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, is interested in staging the start of the 2016 Tour de France.

"His highness (the Emir) has had this idea in mind for quite a while. They have started the discussions and the process," a source with close ties to the government said, asking not to be identified.

State-owned Qatar Airways was the official airline for this year's Tour, won Sunday by Australian Cadel Evans.

Next year's race will depart from Liege, Belgium, while Corsica is set to kick off the 100th Tour in 2013.

In 2007 it began in London, in 2010 it was in Rotterdam while Florence is bidding to become the first Italian city to host the Grand Depart in 2014.

Barcelona, Edinburgh and cities in England, Netherlands, Germany and Austria have all expressed an interest in hosting future starts.

None of those include the logistical and meteorological challenge of a start in the middle east, where the searing July heat would pose a challenge for the riders and almost certainly ensure a short stage or time trial.

"I think there are options to manage it. We can have a small prologue, not too long, with water sprayed at certain points. There is no technical problem with doing it here," a source said, confirming that the bid would be for 2016, not 2014 as reported on some cycling websites.

The Abu Dhabi international triathlon, featuring a 200km bike leg, has been held in UAE in March since 2010 and attracts many of the world's best triathletes. This year temperatures were way above the seasonal norm and many top rides struggled.

(Reporting by Regan Doherty, editing by Justin Palmer)