x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

1,150 cyclists take part in Ride For Roy to pay tribute to triathlete

More than 1,000 cyclists took part in a 65 kilometre memorial ride early Friday to pay tribute to a popular triathlete who died last September after he was hit by a drunk driver.

Cyclists embark on the 65km Ride For Roy, a charity ride for the Roy Nasr Memorial Fund, starting and ending at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai. Sarah Dea/The National
Cyclists embark on the 65km Ride For Roy, a charity ride for the Roy Nasr Memorial Fund, starting and ending at Atlantis the Palm in Dubai. Sarah Dea/The National

DUBAI // More than 1,000 cyclists took part in a 65-kilometre memorial ride on Friday to pay tribute to a popular triathlete who died last September after he was hit by a car driven by a drunk driver.

An infectious, enthusiastic spirit powered the 1,150 riders participating in the Ride For Roy organised by TriDubai, which was co-founded by the late Roy Nasr to support triathletes.

“This is to celebrate the life of a man who was an inspiration to so many,” said Paul Venn, an organiser with Race ME, which hosts triathlon events.

“It is a chance for people to pay their respects to a man who was never happier than when on his bike. The thought of more than 1,000 people on a ride with jerseys with his name would have put an enormous smile on his face.”

The ride began at 7.30am and followed a route past the Atlantis hotel on the Palm Jumeirah to the Meydan bike track where the group took a short water break before heading back to the starting point.

Grouped in batches of 100, the cyclists were dressed in red “Remember Roy Nasr” jerseys and were followed by support cars for safety.

Absolute beginners joined seasoned athletes, swimmers and triathletes to complete the ride between two-and-half and four hours.

The large numbers reflected people’s regard for Nasr, said Mr Venn, a friend for 20 years.

“He was a competitive triathlete but always had time for a word for you,” he said. “You could not help but like him.”

This was echoed by Chris Khouri, an IT manager who took to triathlons after a 2009 motorbike accident left him disabled below the chest.

“Roy was a motivator and such a warm person,” said Mr Khouri, strapped to a low-slung bike that he operates with his hands.

“He would call me every couple of months to chat and he didn’t have to. He has left behind a legacy. He touched so many people because of his positivity.”

The community was shaken when Nasr, 49, a father of two, was hit from behind during a training ride with friends near Safa Park in Dubai on September 6. Two of his training partners were also injured. Nasr died at the scene.

The Appeals Court in November upheld the one-month jail term for the 24-year-old driver from the Philippines and ordered his driving licence suspended for six months.

The driver admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol and five charges of causing death, risking a person’s safety, damaging property, drink-driving and illegal drinking.

Several memorial events have since been held in tribute to Nasr.

Andrew Garrett, who knew Nasr for 16 years, said safety had become a critical factor after his death.

“Roy was always careful and after his death people are even more careful,” said the partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“I don’t know any group that sets off without a support car and flashing lights. It has raised awareness levels. This ride is to cherish his memory and it’s something we want to do as a regular feature.”

Seth Chappels, founder of Dubai Masters Swim Club where Nasr also trained, said several swimmers had bought bikes to train for Friday’s ride.

“Roy was a natural leader and had a certain aura about him, so whether it was in the sea or in the pool he would give others a boost and help them swim a bit quicker,” Mr Chappels said.

“He helped people up their game. The whole sporting community lost a great guy and coming here was a way to show that we do remember him.”

The event included several newcomers to the sport who did not know Nasr but believed in the cause.

“It’s very important for the family to know that all these people are around to support them,” said Alaa Bounasredine, who works in an Abu Dhabi furniture company.

“They need to know they can count on many people.”

Funds raised will go towards the education costs of Nasr’s children.

rtalwar@thenational.ae