Cycling, as both a sport and hobby, has seen a massive growth in the UAE in recent years and the country is now host to two UCI Asia Tour events – the Dubai Tour and the Abu Dhabi Tour.

Dedicated cycling tracks are springing up across the country, with the newest one opening doors in Ajman. According to estimates, there are about 850 kilometres of cycle paths in Dubai, while Abu Dhabi have plans to extend their network of cycling tracks to 900km in the Capital by 2030 and build about 450km of tracks in Al Ain.

There is an off-road track as well in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah as well and Mohammed Mehrab Alsabagh, the technical director of the UAE Cycling Federation, is proud to see how the sport has grown since he started cycling in 1989.

Q: You are a cyclist yourself. Can you tell us about the changes you have seen over the years?

A: I started riding in 1989 and it was very difficult at the time because we did not have any tracks. We needed an escort car behind us, or we had to go riding with a club team like Al Nasr or Al Ahli. Now, things have changed beyond recognition, thanks to the support of the government.

We are so proud that we, as the UAE Cycling Federation, are involved in this development and building of new tracks. We are building tracks as per UCI guidelines, with an x number of exits, car escort on the tracks, exits for ambulance and so on.

The track at Nad Al Sheba, for example, is fully compliant with UCI standards and can host any road cycling championship, like a time trial or individual time trial.

What about the other tracks, like say the one beyond the Arabian Ranches, the Al Qudra tracks?

The Al Qudra track is around 75km now, but with the new extension, which is going through the Sheikh Hamdan Complex, and reaching Nad Al Sheba, it will become around 105km. That will make your life easier. If you are looking for long distance, you start from Nad Al Sheba and go all the way to Bab Al Shams and come back. If you want to do a short ride, you have that option as well. There is a U-turn at every kilometre mark.

With two UCI Asia Tour events in the country and all these tracks, do you believe the UAE can become a hub for cycling?

The UAE is a destination for cyclists now. Last month, we had a race in Ras Al Khaimah and we had two or three pro riders from teams Lampre-Merida and Movistar participating in that race. They came here to the UAE for their recovery ahead of the Giro d’Italia and they participated in those races

So we are a destination for pro cyclists now, world champions, they are all coming here for recovery and training because of the nice weather, safety of the roads and the availability of cycling tracks. Not just them, we have amateurs riders and kids and they are all enjoying these new facilities.

So what the emirates are doing for cycling now, all seven emirates, it is unbelievable. The aim now is to make UAE a global cycling hub by 2020?

arizvi@thenational.ae

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Source: Sports