Colombian cyclist Fernando Gaviria believes UAE Team Emirates riders have a big responsibility to give back to the community and help promote cycling in the UAE.
Gaviria, along with teammates Alexander Kristoff, Tadej Pogacar, Jasper Philipsen, and Yousif Mirza, led a youth clinic at Al Rabeeh school in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. More than 100 schoolchildren took part in the clinic, which included cycling around a course, various games, and a Q&A session with the riders.
The visit to Al Rabeeh school comes as part of UAE Team Emirates’ off-season visit to the country and continues the team’s initiative launched last year, which has so far introduced cycling to more than 500 children from 14 schools.
For Gaviria, this part of the job is even more important than winning major races on the UCI World Tour.
“I’m really happy to be here at this school because it reminds me of when I was a child and first got into cycling, riding to school every day on my bike,” said Gaviria, who joined UAE Team Emirates at the start of this season.
“It’s great to see how happy the children are riding the bikes and it’s really nice for everyone from the team to see so many kids getting involved in the sport.”
UAE Team Emirates were founded as a UCI World Tour team in 2017, taking over the registration from Lampre. As well as clear ambitions to establish a world class team to challenge at the grand tours and other important events, the team’s other main aim is to promote cycling in the Emirates, and with it a healthy and active lifestyle.
“Our responsibility is to help people of all ages to enjoy the sport of cycling,” Gaviria, 25, said. “It’s very important because you can enjoy life from a different perspective when riding a bike.
“It is something very important to me, because my father has a cycling school and teaches children. It makes me very happy to see their smiles when riding bikes.
“[Promoting cycling] is the most important part of the team. The team represents a really nice country and we want to help people do more sports.”
Gaviria has fond memories of the UAE having won the second stage of the inaugural UAE Tour in in February and March. The Dubai Tour and Abu Dhabi Tour, previously two separate races, merged to form the UAE Tour, attracting many of the world’s top cyclists in another key move to increase the sport’s popularity in the country.
Gaviria, who has won two Tour de France stages as well as the points classification title at the Giro d’Italia, revealed that he is planning to return for the UAE Tour next year.
“Yes, I am hoping to be here,” he said. “I can’t be 100 per cent sure yet because it is still a long way away, but that is the plan.”