ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi now has its own team in the International Cycling Union’s (UCI) world circuit.
The UAE-Abu Dhabi Professional Cycle Team was unveiled on Wednesday by Emirati businessman Matar Suhail Al Yabhouni, who is also the team chairman.
While it has taken just two months for the team to be put together, it has required an investment of €30 million (Dh115.12m).
“The idea was there right from the beginning of the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2015,” Al Yabhouni said at the launch in St Regis Hotel. “It’s my own initiative to give something back to my country.”
The objective, according to Al Yabhouni, is to have not just a team in the world circuit, but to run “a successful” team. “It is our first season and the team was assembled in a short time,” he said. “I believe we have been able to establish a good team which we would be looking to further improve and strengthen over a period of time.”
Among the international riders assembled for the team is the Emirati No 1 and Olympian Yousif Mirza.
“Mirza brings an Emirati aspect to the team,” Al Yabhouni said. “But it’s an international team and is open for all those who can prove their potential whether it be Emiratis or others from Arab countries.”
According to Khalid Saif Al Muhairi, a board member of the company, the team comprise 30 cyclists.
“We have assembled 24 up to now and the remaining six are on the verge of being finalised,” he said.
“We had little time once we decided to assemble a team. It all began in late November and we just managed to get all papers cleared by the end of December in time to have a team entered.
“It was a bit of a struggle with the Christmas holidays but we managed to do it. We are talking of a team that’s worth more than €30m.
“It wasn’t an easy task given the little time we had.”
Present at the launch were Rui Costa, 30, the Portuguese captain of the team. He won the professional world championship in 2013, has won three stage of the Tour de France and three successive Tour de Swiss.
Apart from Mirza, 28, other teammates present were Italians Filippo Ganna, 20, the world champion in individual pursuit, and Andrea Guardini, 27, winner of the first stage of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Tour. Also at the launch were South African Louis Meintjes, 24, and the Slovenian world junior and U23 champion in 2012 and 2013 respectively Matej Mohoric, 20.
“I’m honoured and thank Matar Yabhouni for selecting me to be part of this exciting new team,” Mirza said.
“As a youngster, I always dreamt about participating in the Tour de France and Giro de Italia. This opportunity has brought me a bit closer to it. For me, this will be a great experience.
“I will do my best for this team in whatever race opportunities I would get, and looking forward to the time ahead with my new teammates.”
The UAE-Abu Dhabi Team will be in action at the Tour Down Under in Australia from January 17 to 22 and the Vuelta Ciclista a la Provincia de San Juan in Argentina from Jan 23-29.
“The races in the UCI calendar are countless,” Al Muhairi said.
“We have a technical team to decide on the races we take part but for sure we will be present at every major event this year.”
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