DUBAI //Tributes are flowing in for an Arab triathlon champion who was killed yesterday after being hit by a car while training on his bicycle near Safa Park in Dubai.
Roy Nasr, 49, a Lebanese expatriate, was cycling yesterday morning with two friends when he was hit, and died on impact.
Dubai Police said the driver of the car that hit him had been drinking. He has since been arrested.
“Two bicycles were run over by a vehicle that came from behind and veered into their path,” said First Lt Imran Al Hammadi, of Dubai traffic police. “The driver was under the influence of alcohol.
“The accident claimed the life of one of the cyclers and left another with moderate injuries.”
The accident occurred at 5.30am on Safa Park Bridge, towards the Dubai Bowling Centre intersection.
Mr Nasr spoke to The National the night before his death and told of his love of triathlons.
“I love pretty much all sports but triathlon is one of the few sports where you tend to get out of it exactly whatever you put into it,” he said.
“Your performance will often be a direct correlation to how well you’ve trained for your races.”
Ian Le Pelley, a close friend and fellow co-founder of TriDubai, which was launched last year, said: “I am deeply shocked.
“Everyone agrees that he was genuinely one of the kindest people that we’d ever met and an inspiration to everyone – not just as a triathlete, but as a human being.”
Mr Nasr’s cycling companions, Ali and Sarmad, were sent to a local hospital for treatment.
“Accidents like these don’t happen a lot but they certainly happen,” said Mr Le Pelley. “There are cycling paths but the lack of respect shown by drivers on the roads in Dubai can be terrifying and these accidents happen too regularly.”
Friends of Mr Nasr said they believed he had taken all necessary precautions to ensure his safety.
“He probably did everything in his power to be safe,” said Stewart Howison, a friend and founder of CycleSafe Dubai.
“He is an icon and a legend of a man, and I don’t think in any way that this was his fault.”
In his interview with The National on Thursday night, Mr Nasr described the feeling of completing a triathlon as “deep satisfaction”.
“Sometimes, surprise at achieving a result better than I expected, sometimes it’s just sheer relief at making it over the finish line,” Mr Nasr said. “But I love training for the races as much as the races themselves, and so completion of a race is often the finishing touch on the journey to get there.”
He ended the interview with: “I think that conquering any challenge you set yourself in life makes you realise that you can probably do whatever you set your mind to do.”
Hundreds of people paid tribute to Mr Nasr on the TriDubai Facebook page and on Twitter.
“You have lost a true, inspiring, loyal leader, mentor and friend,” said David Labouchere. “We are deeply saddened and thinking of you all – and of course, Roy’s family.
“He was a wonderful ambassador for our sport in Dubai and more widely.”
Mel Firth tweeted: “These awful accidents even happen to the best cyclists. Very sad, UAE triathlete Roy Nasr killed as bike is hit by car.”
Adrian Hayes, a record-breaking British polar explorer who lives in the UAE, wrote on Facebook: “Shocked and very saddened at the loss of a good and long-standing friend.”
According to a tribute on the TriDubai website, Mr Nasr represented Lebanon in the 2006 Asian Games, ran in the 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Championships and the 2011 Sprint Distance World Age Group Championships in China, where he placed third for his age group.
It said he won his age group in several half-Ironman events around the world, and more local races than anyone in Dubai.
He was preparing for Ironman South Africa to win entry to the Ironman World championships.
Mr Le Pelley, who used to cycle with Mr Nasr, said it was too early to discuss funeral arrangements.
He warned about the dangers of cycling on UAE roads.
“People are aware of these dangers and, in all cities in the world, people ride on the roads and they should be able to,” Mr Le Pelley said.
“It’s not a question of other road users being aware, it’s about having the courtesy to all road users.”
More than 100 kilometres of cycle tracks were laid by the Roads and Transport Authority last month as part of its strategy to expand the emirate’s bike-lane network by 50 kilometres a year.