Emirati national road race and time trial champion Yousif Mirza, and team-mate Kristijan Durasek, took time out from their UCI WorldTour schedule to visit Abu Dhabi and lend their support to First Abu Dhabi Bank’s partnership with the Special Olympics World Games.
The UAE Team Emirates duo attended the finals of the men’s 10km road race at Yas Marina Circuit and met with members of the UAE Special Olympics’ cycling squad.
Mirza and Durasek – who are no strangers to the challenging cycling conditions that the riders have faced this week – provided advice and encouragement to the team and also congratulated a number of the riders on their medal winning achievements.
Over the past three days the UAE Special Olympics men’s cycling team has picked up a number of medals across a series of different cycling events. Their success began on Saturday when 16-year-old Micha Hambleton took a silver medal in the men’s 2km time trial with a time of just 03:47”.
On Sunday, his twin brother Jonah was able to go one better in the men’s 10km road race (M02) with an impressive sprint finish that saw him distance the rest of the peloton by well over a minute and bring home the team’s first gold medal of the Special Olympics World Games.
A second gold was then collected by Abdulla Ali Aldhuhoori who also won his men’s 10km Road race classification (M03).
Mirza said: “It’s an honour to be here at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. I am extremely proud of the UAE national team and what they have achieved.
“They are a credit to the country, the Special Olympics movement and to the sport of cycling. It was inspiring to meet them and talk about our shared passion for riding bikes – and it goes to show that cycling really is a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone.”
The UAE Team Emirates pair then took to the track at Yas Marina to participate in the Special Olympic Cycle Unified event, where they rode alongside members of the community with and without intellectual disabilities.
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UAE Team Emirates’ stars continue their preparations for the upcoming Spring Classics as they head to Belgium to take on the one-day Danilith Nokere Koerse.
Leading the charge on home soil will be Jasper Philipsen, who is eager to recapture the form that saw him pick up a stage victory at the Santos Tour Down Under two months ago.
He will be supported by Portuguese brothers Ivo and Rui Oliveira, Italian duo Roberto Ferrari, Manuele Mori, Belarus’ Aleksandr Riabushenko and Norwegian national champion, Vegard Stake Laengen.
The race has added importance for some riders, particularly those who have hopes of making the team’s line-up for the prestigious Tour of Flanders – which gets under way in less than three weeks.
Wednesday’s race will see the peloton set off from Deinze and tackle a 195.6km route through the region of Flanders, synonymous with cycling as its cobbled roads provide a distinct test which is unique to races from this region.
The rolling parcours and circuits will undoubtedly be a test on riders’ reserves, as well as their bikes; the cobbles often causing various mechanical malfunctions. The race will culminate in an uphill battle across the cobbles to the finish in Nokereberg.
Philipsen said: “I’d like to better myself compared to last year, when I was able to escape. The race suites my style.
“The goal is to try to be in the front for the final and give the best on the cobbled climb heading to the finish. It’s going to be the last appointment prior to the big classics and I’ll look for some positive signals to get even more motivation.”
Team Sky won Paris-Nice for the sixth time in eight years as Egan Bernal clung on to his yellow jersey in Sunday’s final stage.
The young Colombian had to stave off the challenge of compatriot and two-time Grand Tour winner Nairo Quintana, who went on the attack with 47 kilometres remaining of the 110km stage.
Quintana – 46 seconds back in the general classification standings going into the day – led by a minute at one point and also picked up three bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint, but a Sky-led chase ensured Bernal finished just four seconds behind his rival.
Movistar’s Quintana finished second in the GC standings – 39 seconds back – with Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski third, just over a minute behind his team-mate.
Bernal joins the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas as winners of the event for Team Sky, who are in their final year under their current guise.
Astana’s Jon Izagirre won the final stage in Nice.