Passion for cycling must begin in schools, says founder of cycling race
ABU DHABI // The promotion of cycling in schools is the best way to increase interest among Emiratis, according to the founder of Abu Dhabi’s first major cycling race.
Cycling programmes and infrastructure in schools is key to instilling a culture of biking in Emirati families, said Mohamed Al Qubaisi, founder of the Liwa Cycling Challenge and chairman of the board of trustees of Adnoc schools.
Avid cyclist Mr Al Qubaisi looked to promote his passion among students at Adnoc’s Glenelg Schools in Abu Dhabi city and Al Gharbia’s Ruwais by starting an after-school programme which provided bicycles for students and their families last year.
He said he was pleasantly surprised when more than 50 students and their family members gave up their free time to participate.
“If cycling is a part of your childhood and remains with you, then it becomes part of the culture and is respected,” said the deputy director of human resources at Adnoc.
After being singled out for being a cyclist in the past, Mr Al Qubaisi said respect for the activity in the local communities was important.
“People used to laugh at us when they saw us on bikes but now that has changed.”
The dedicated cyclist, who now covers 400 kilometres a week on average, said when he began training on the Yas Marina Circuit after it first opened to the public in 2010 there were no more than two or three Emiratis on the track with him.
Thanks to the UAE Leaders’ backing of the sport and use of the track as an example, Mr Al Qubaisi said he now sees on average 30 to 40 per cent Emirati participation in all the UAE cycling races he attends.
“There were now role models and it really boosted the sport,” he said.
Another way to encourage cycling was to drive home the message of its health benefits.
With high rates of heart diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure among the population, he said the low-impact activity was one of the answers to bringing those rates down.
“Cycling is the remedy and the easiest way to prevent these conditions. I have some friends who were living on medication, but when they started cycling on a regular basis they were able to wean off it.”
With the country offering free access to high-quality tracks such as those at Yas Marina and Al Wathba in Abu Dhabi and Al Qudra and Nad El Sheba in Dubai, residents needed to take full advantage, said Mr Al Qubaisi.
One of the most appealing aspects of cycling was the ease of its access, he said.
“My sport doesn’t spoil my weekends and doesn’t stop me from spending time with my family. I take my bike everywhere I go.”
With the Western Region’s deserts being one of his favourite cycling areas, Mr Al Qubaisi set up the annual Liwa Cycling Challenge where undulating roads and dunes provided riders a challenge.
Mr Al Qubaisi said the combination of the Liwa Cycling Challenge with those included in the Abu Dhabi and Dubai Tours would create a more appealing nationwide UAE Tour.
He said the event could showcase the best the UAE has to offer to the rest of the world.
“In the UAE, we have the sea, desert, mountains, modern cities, and the Bedouin cities all in a relatively small location. The tour would be beneficial to tourism as well as increasing interest among the population,” he said.
Updated: December 30, 2015 04:00 AM