x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cycling fans allowed to ride around UAE's only velodrome

Once exclusive to the UAE Cycling Federation, the outdoor Zayed Velodrome opened to let cycling fans test its oval track.

The UAE Cycling Federation says making cycling more accessible would make residents healthier, in line with the Dubai Pulse initiative.
The UAE Cycling Federation says making cycling more accessible would make residents healthier, in line with the Dubai Pulse initiative.

SHARJAH // Cyclists were allowed to ride around the country's only velodrome for the first time last night.

Once exclusive to the UAE Cycling Federation, the outdoor Zayed Velodrome opened to let cycling fans test its oval track.

The federation said making cycling more accessible would make residents healthier, in line with the Dubai Pulse initiative.

It provided 30 bikes for visitors to try the Olympic-standard, 250-metre looped and slanted track.

"The federation has opened its doors to non-members to enjoy the facilities," said Stewart Howison, who sits on the federation's board.

Mr Howison said the federation wanted to open the facility to new members, regardless of nationality. Previously, membership was available only to Emiratis.

Membership is Dh250 a year, including access to the velodrome and injury insurance.

The federation is tapping into an increase in cycling participants over the past four or five years.

With the addition of the bike lane on the Al Quadra Road and the eight-kilometre loop around Nad al Sheeba, Mr Howison said cycling was proving to be a sport anyone could enjoy.

"I think the indication is to try and focus on sports that have an easy entry level, and if they develop they can compete in it," he said.

Visitor Stuart Rich said the velodrome added to what was a growing sport in the UAE.

"It adds more variety to what we've got already," he said. "It's great to get an opportunity to ride a fixed wheel on a track."

Josh Stemm, 27, brought his track bike from Australia a year ago but knew it was difficult to get on to the track and took it over for some training last night.

"I just used it for training on the roads," said the engineer.

Martin Harris's first impressions was a well maintained but under-used facility.

"It was something that was lacking," he said.

Mr Harris, 44, said the velodrome completed the experience for enthusiasts as mountain biking was available in Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, and road riding in Dubai.

"However, the riding was harder because there was no rest when on the bike and no peloton to coast in either," said the facilities manager from Britain.

eharnan@thenational.ae