Francisco Mancebo Perez says Emirati riders have to take next step

SkyDive Dubai team are looking beyond the Dubai Tour as the Spanish climber said UAE riders need to leave the region if they want to compete on Grand Tour events, writes Gary Meenaghan.

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DUBAI // On the eve of the second Dubai Tour, Francisco Mancebo Perez, the Spanish climber with SkyDive Dubai Pro Cycling Team, said if Emirati riders have genuine intentions of competing on Grand Tour events, such as the Tour de France, they must leave the region.

Mancebo appeared Tuesday at the official announcement of the team’s 2015 line-up, which this year features eight Emiratis and a selection of experienced Africans and Europeans, including the national champions of Tunisia and Morocco.

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Mansoor Bousaiba, a former cyclist who represented the UAE at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, is general manager of SkyDive Dubai Pro Cycling Team. He outlined the team’s targets for the week, the year and further, and made clear the ultimate objective: “To be on the big circuits – the big tours of Europe – and in not too many years, and to take with us Emirati riders.”

Bousaiba, who revealed that the team’s schedule for the next few months will see them compete in Gabon, Algeria, Morocco, Malaysia and Japan, said: “We want our local riders to be competitive in the world alongside the high-profile names.”

Mancebo, 38, said such an achievement is only possible if the local riders – many of whom have little experience of road racing – show their commitment to cycling and leave Dubai for an extended period.

“It is step by step and the Emirati riders are already a little better than last year,” said Mancebo, who won a stage of the 2005 Vuelta a Espana. “But they have to learn everything from scratch: planning, eating, racing, strategy, training. In time, they can race in Europe – and that is the goal – but we must be patient.

“If they want to be a cyclist then in four or five years they can compete [on the Grand Tour], but they need to want to be a cyclist.

“Staying here in winter is no problem; it is perfect. But after April they must go to Europe and that is hard; to stay for three or four months far from home. It is a big commitment, but that is what they need to do.”

Mohammed Al Murawwi, the UAE’s most experienced rider and captain of Skydive Dubai team, said he appreciated the opportunity to compete in the same field as the likes of Vincenzo Nibali, the reigning Tour de France winner, and Mark Cavendish, regarded as one of the sport’s greatest sprinters.

“We have a great opportunity here and we learn so much from the experienced riders,” Al Murawwi said. “So we are preparing every month, but it all comes down to results. If we get results then we get more support from our sponsors, which encourages us to race bigger races and continue our improvement.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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