DUBAI // After five days, seven emirates and 400 kilometres, a group of intrepid cyclists yesterday managed to reach the finish line an hour and 10 minutes early.
Twenty-eight riders set off on Monday from Al Ain's Hili Archaeological Park on a demanding trip around all of the emirates to mark the 40th anniversary of National Day.
The adventure was organised by the Gulf for Good group in Dubai to raise money for a charity school in Ajman.
The route passed over mountains and through deserts and wadis, and the team spent the nights in campsites.
Yesterday the cyclists reached their destination, the Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, with time to spare. They were due to arrive at 3.30pm but rolled in, UAE flags raised, at 2.20pm.
"It was really tough. They had to work really, really hard," said Patricia Anderson, the head of communications at Gulf for Good. "People who had trained really hard still found it a tough challenge.
"Physically and mentally getting through it was a really amazing feat, as was sleeping in a tent every night and getting up every morning and doing another 80 kilometres.
"It was tough, but they pulled together as a team and got through it."
There were riders from Lebanon, the Philippines, the UK, US, Canada, India, Ireland, Brazil, India and Germany.
The challenge has raised more than Dh200,000 for Al Manar Charity School, which will be used to replace air-conditioning units, door and windows, and buy desks, chairs and other items. The cyclists stopped at the school on Thursday.
The cause was one of the factors that persuaded the Dubai resident Pramod Karhadkar, 53, to sign up for the trip.
"I was attracted for two reasons," said Mr Karhadkar, a regional manager from India. "One is because cycling has been my passion, and secondly because it's for the charity school, this gave me an extra impetus to take part.
"Also, I've been here for five years and the UAE is very supportive to expatriates, so I thought this was a way of giving back to society."
One of those who finished strongly yesterday was Charlotte Lubert, 41, a mother of four from the UK.
Before the start Ms Lubert had been worried about how she would cope with the challenge.
"I was a little bit apprehensive because I'm not a fitness freak," she said.
"I decided to do it because I wanted to go and look around the UAE."