Yousif Mirza: Ramadan has been special after a strong start to year with UAE Team Emirates

In the latest column from the UCI World Tour team, the UAE's top cyclist explains how he balances training and fasting during the Holy Month

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This season always promised to be an incredibly exciting one for me. From the first day of our training camp in Spain back in December, our coaches made it abundantly clear that this season I would be competing in more races than ever before and getting more experience with the team.

My season kicked off in Saudi Arabia, and I was very proud to help Rui Costa achieve third place, as well as placing second in the team classification. Following this event, we headed to Oman and ended up winning two stages. These two races were really successful for me personally and meant even more as we were racing in the GCC region.

The highlight of my season so far was the UAE Cycling Championship. Having won the last 11 road races, I was incredibly determined to make it 12. The event kicked off with the Time Trial, and whilst this isn’t my speciality as a rider, I was able to achieve a new national record for average speed and set a new personal record with 48.6kph across 35km. I was very pleased with my performance, and it set me up nicely for the road race.

The road race itself was an excellent experience. Across 120km, I was able to execute my pre-race plan perfectly and took home the gold medal. It was my 12th title in a row, and I believe I’m the first person to ever achieve this so I’m incredibly proud of this feat. I’m now desperate to make it 13 next year!

As I transitioned from this busy time on the cycling calendar into Ramadan, there are a number of key pillars that stick with me.

Ramadan is one of the most important periods of each year for me, from both a personal and professional perspective. It allows me to reset and recharge my batteries after a fast start to the season. But more importantly, Ramadan is a time for family. I love nothing more than coming together with my family, and spending time with my children to teach them the reasons why we fast and why it is so important.

Exercising through Ramadan is something that keeps me engaged and on-track. While it is obviously more taxing to work out alongside the fasting period, it is crucial that I try to maintain a base fitness level to ensure I am able to compete once Ramadan is over. I train for around 3-4 hours per day during Ramadan, cycling approximately 100km per ride and 600km per week.

There are a number of different components of my lifestyle that I have to keep in check to ensure I remain fit and healthy. Firstly, nutrition and hydration are components that I pay close attention to. Whether it’s the number of meals I’m consuming during the day, the types of food I’m consuming, or the foods I am avoiding, these are all variables that I can control.

I strive to still eat three meals per day and focus on carbohydrates as my fuel for training. I ensure that I avoid eating large amounts of food before bed, as I don’t want to feel heavy the next day when it comes to training. Alongside my food consumption, I make sure I still consume the recommended 3-4 litres of water each day to ensure I can function to my optimum.

Alongside nutrition and hydration is sleeping. Getting between 7-8 hours of sleep each night is a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy body. As a professional cyclist, it’s extremely important that I allow my body time to recover after training and competition.

Lastly, Ramadan allows me to spend more time here in the UAE. This is my home, it will always be my home. Seeing the joy we are able to give our UAE fans through race wins and podiums inspires me to not only keep pushing myself as a professional cyclist, but also to give our next generation of UAE cyclists the support and guidance to propel them onto the world-stage. Wearing the UAE Team Emirates jersey is truly an honour.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 4:55 AM