On Wednesday, some of the top international riders who are set to take part in the third edition of Al Adaid Desert Challenge, participated in the weekly community cycling ride organized by Qatar Cyclists Center at Lusail International Circuit.
Dutch legend Erik Dekker, winner of last year’s challenge, and the women’s defending champion Pia Sundstedt were among those big names who joined Dr. Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, Managing Director of Al Adaid Desert Challenge and members of Qatar Cyclists Center in a lap around the 5.38 Km track, before stopping for a photo opportunity, and a chat with local media and representatives of the Al Adaid Desert Challenge sponsors.
The list of international riders also included, last year’s runner-up, Roman Van Uden (New Zealand), Frederic Gombert (France), who finished third in the UCI Elite category, in addition to veteran rider and national team coach Szymon Wasiak (UK), experienced MB rider Sophie Giovane (France) and Firaz Shokri (Iran), Asia’s top UCI ranked MB rider
More than 60 Qatari riders are set to compete in this year’s edition, which will also count as the first Qatar National Mountain Bike Cross Country Championship. Many of them, including Fawaz Al Shmmari, one of Qatar’s top road cyclists, were present at Wednesday’s event, where they had an opportunity to learn some tips from experienced riders like Dekker.
The 2018 Adaid Desert Challenge is expected to see more than 350 participants, in the cycling race and a newly introduced running race.
Qatar Cyclists Center’s Weekly Community Ride at Lusail International Circuit attracts hundreds of cycling enthusiasts from all around Qatar every Wednesday. The center also organizes a separate only-ladies ride every Tuesday at the same circuit, and the event has seen tremendous success over the past couple of years. Coaches from Qatar Cyclists provide assistance and safety tips to beginners, and a bike renting service is available for a small fee.
Erik Dekker (Netherlands), former Olympic-silver medalist and Dutch Sportsman of the year, commented “I visited Qatar many times before as a rider and manager at Rabobank Professional Cycling Team, It is really nice in here, the weather is perfect at this time of the year, it is minus 10 degrees right now in my hometown”
The Dutch legend expects more competition this year after comfortably winning last year’s title in an impressive time of around 1 hour 11 minutes, he added “Last year was really fun, riding in the desert was special. My biggest rivals last year did not have the right tires, so it was much easier for me. This year they are ready, and we have a more challenging route. That will change the game a little bit”.
Roman Van Uden (New Zealand), who has plenty of road races’ experience in in Qatar, especially in Tour of Al Zubarah, commented “last year it was my first experience of riding on sand and I started with the wrong tires and wrong tire pressure, so I had to do a lot of running. Hopefully, things will be different this year as I start with the right equipment”.
Pia Sundstedt (Finland), will be looking for her third straight Women’s elite title at Al Adaid Desert Challenge, she commented “I have been living in Qatar for six years. Taking part in Al Adaid Challenge became a tradition for me and my family, it is a good opportunity to have fun”.
The two-time Olympian is impressed by the fast growth of cycling in the country specially on women’s level, she added “Cycling has changed a lot over the past few years. There is a big cycling community, and what really impressed me most is what I see during Tuesday’s community ride at Lusail. Hundreds of ladies from Qatar join us here and many of them are getting into this sport. That’s just fantastic for the future of cycling in here”.
Szymon Wasiak (UK), former professional rider and current Qatar national team coach, commented “The future of cycling in Qatar looks bright. We have a talented group of people at the Cycling federation working towards the same goal, we are all working together to develop and implement a long term strategy in order to build a team for the 2028 Olympics. At the moment the number of events in Qatar is growing so fast and it is a good sign that cycling is developing very quick. We have more and more young riders signing up for cycling sessions, and the most important thing is that we attract a lot of Qataris to participate in every event”.
Frederic Gombert (France), former France national MB Marathon champion and an experienced mountain bike rider, commented, “Al Adaid Desert Challenge is a unique race, it requires a lot of hard work to focus on the route and climb and descend the sand dunes, but it is a very nice experience to cross the desert on your bike”.
Sophie Giovane (France), an experienced mountain bike rider, who will be making her debut in Al Adaid Challenge, commented “It is my first visit to Qatar. I know riding a bike on the sand will need a lot of effort, but it will be fun to try. I arrived this morning, the weather is perfect, it is snowing back home. I loved the Cornish and the traditional boats, but I also plan to try the food and know more about the culture in here, may be also learn few Arabic words”.
Fawaz Al Shmmari (Qatar), who will be one of the top contenders for the Qatar MB Cross-Country Championship title, commented “I cannot wait for the race, Al Adaid Desert Challenge is one of the most beautiful races that all local riders eagerly wait for every year. It will not be an easy race, but I trained well for this, and the more challenging route will add to the excitement, I will do my best to register a good result”.
Mohamed Al Juaidi, Qatar Cyclists member and coach, commented “Qatar Cyclists weekly activities all over the country have been attracting a lot of participants, and the number of cyclists in Qatar is rapidly growing. I will not be taking part in the race on Friday, but I will be involved in the organizing of the event. We have tested the new route, it is just over 38 kms, and we added the required signs to help riders to follow the route and reach the finish line. We hope that all the participants will have a good race”.