United Arab Emirates: Cycling popular among locals as government encourages sport – News

Country “goes fast, as fast as the wheels of a bicycle,” says UAE pro-cyclist



Race leader Tadej Pogacar of the UAE Emirates team competes in the seventh stage of the UAE Cycling Tour from Yas Mall to Abu Dhabi Breakwater. AFP

By AFP

Posted: Thu, Nov 4, 2021, 5:31 PM

As the sun rises over the Dubai desert, the Al Qudra cycle path is already in full swing as cyclists exit highways and skyscrapers to cycle an 80-kilometer track.

Every weekend, all year round – even in the scorching summer heat – hundreds, if not thousands of bike enthusiasts come to Al-Qudra, about 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) from downtown. city.

Its car-free lunar landscape is a change of pace for many from their urban way of life and a chance to connect with nature and perhaps spot an Arabian oryx, a rare member of the family of antelopes.

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Despite temperatures often exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) along with high humidity, cycling has grown in popularity in the UAE sharply.

It didn’t hurt that UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar won the last two editions of the Tour de France, the most prestigious cycling race in the world.

New cycling infrastructure is still emerging in the capital Abu Dhabi as well as in Dubai, where the second annual “Dubai Ride” takes place on Friday along the city’s main highway.

Emirati triathlete Asma al-Janahi, 28, describes Al-Qudra as her favorite place in Dubai and a trip equivalent to meditation.

“You walk away from the city, and you just go to see Mother Nature, this beautiful desert,” the sports administrator of New York University Abu Dhabi told AFP.

“It’s very peaceful … seeing birds and oryxes. You feel so connected to this place, especially with a bike.”

Opportunities for cyclists are increasing in the United Arab Emirates, alongside the global boom in sport.

The Abu Dhabi Formula 1 circuit is handed out to cyclists several times a week, with other tracks available across the emirate.

The “Dubai Ride” was launched with great fanfare last year, with Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed leading the parade of cyclists on the six-lane Sheikh Zayed Road.

German Wolfgang Hohmann, who opened a bicycle shop in Dubai with his wife in 2002, says the emirate, best known for its love of four-wheel drive and luxury cars, has come a long way.

“Dubai was not as developed as it is today and we did not have a cycle path,” he told AFP, saying it had been a “long journey” since the opening of the store.

“We now have a ProTour team winning the most important race in the world, (and) we have thousands of cyclists on the weekends on the bike paths,” he said.

According to Yousif Mirza, the only UAE pro-cyclist, sport in the United Arab Emirates “goes fast, as fast as the wheels of a bicycle,” he told AFP.

“Year after year, the progress is noticeable. The government spares no effort when it comes to building tracks,” said Mirza, who represented the United Arab Emirates at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

But even far from mega-malls and massive highways, said Natika Lewis, a cyclist from Wales, cycling is not exempt from Dubai’s “see and be seen” culture.

“Dubai is always bigger and better, so people want the best bike, they want the best kit,” she said.

“People are really competitive, Emiratis and expatriates.”

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