Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

Diego Ulissi: I missed the birth of my daughter when we were quarantined in the UAE

In this week's column from UAE Team Emirates, the Italian cyclist talks about the roller-coaster of the coronavirus and how happy he is to be back racing

UAE Team Emirates rider Diego Ulissi 
UAE Team Emirates rider Diego Ulissi 

I’m sure everyone’s lives have been up and down over the past four months and my life has been no different. It’s been like a roller-coaster.

It started with the UAE Tour, for some riders their first race in 2020. The team did a fantastic job during the week with some great victories. But then, something happened that no one was prepared for, Covid-19 took over the world.

We were very lucky that we were quarantined in the UAE because the medical attention and hotel facilities were all top class. However, it was especially difficult for me as my wife was pregnant and gave birth while I was still in Abu Dhabi. This was one of the hardest times in my life.

After three weeks of quarantine, I was able to fly home to finally meet my beautiful newborn daughter. Since I arrived home things have been good, and I have been able to focus on my family and training.

The first weeks, we were unable to train outside, so I spent quite a lot of time indoors and using the new Whoosh software which is a great training tool being developed by the team.

My first competitive race back will be Strade Bianche on August 1. This race is extra special for me not just because it’s my first event back but it’s also in Italy, my home country, and I will be leading the team.

It will be unusual racing on the white roads in August rather than March but I'm sure it will be a beautiful event. It will be a little unpredictable because it's several months since we were last in action, but my teammates and I have been preparing well. We are all just really happy and motivated to be pinning on a race number again.

Another race I am looking forward to is the Giro d’Italia. I am very happy that this race is going ahead as it’s my favourite on the calendar. The Giro is a cultural phenomenon in Italy. It’s a celebration of our beautiful country and shows the unrivalled passion Italian people have for cycling.

UAE Team Emirates rider Diego Ulissi 
UAE Team Emirates rider Diego Ulissi

My most memorable moment in the Giro was in 2015 when I won a stage in Fiuggi. It was very long, seven hours and 30 minutes of racing, and it was great to win.

I am not a rider who looks a lot at statistics, I just go out and give my all and try to improve every time, which I think is all any rider can do. My performances in such a prestigious race will stay with me forever and I’m looking forward to being there again this season.

One benefit of being a professional cyclist is that you see such beautiful scenery. The landscapes of the Dolomites are wonderful and it’s always very tempting to put down the bike and go for a dip in the Italian sea, but I don’t think my teammates would be very happy if I did that!

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Behind-the-scenes at the Vuelta a Espana with UAE Team Emirates

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My goal in Grand Tours is generally always the same - to help my teammates as much as possible and aim for stage wins. I’m well suited to the uphill finishes and always look to be competitive in stages that suit my characteristics.

I recently turned 31, which makes me one of the oldest riders in the team. I try to pass on my knowledge and experience to some of the younger guys, but I am also learning from them too. The atmosphere in the team is very good and it’s been great to be have been back training with the guys.

Due to the hiatus we’ve now got a lot of races in a very short space of time and a congested schedule which I love! Our management have done a great job in getting us all in top shape and we’re looking forward to pinning our race numbers on our UAE Team Emirates jersey once again.

I’d like to thank the UAE for the care and hospitality they gave us during lockdown and want to acknowledge all the people who took care of us. It is an amazing country and I am looking forward to visiting the UAE again and hope to see you soon.

Updated: July 28, 2020 12:25 PM

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