Lance Armstrong takes to Dubai cycle track to celebrate UAE's Tour de France success

Former athlete rides with 100 Dubai cyclists on Al Qudra track

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Former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong took to his bike in Dubai on Tuesday evening to celebrate the UAE’s success at the Tour de France.

The American sportsman was joined by 100 other cyclists from across the emirate for a 50-kilometre ride along Al Qudra Cycling Track.

Armstrong had spent the previous day in Lebanon, taking part in Bike for Beirut to help raise funds for victims of the port explosion in August 2020.

It's an exciting opportunity to see the man himself

Physical distancing measures required cyclists keen to take part in the Dubai ride to register in advance online.

The former professional cyclist said he was impressed with the achievements of the cycling community in the UAE in such a short span of time.

“It’s great there is a 50km bike track here and it’s cool that the UAE has just sponsored a team that’s won the Tour de France,” he said.

“You can see the sport is truly becoming globalised, which is a good thing.”

UAE Team Emirates made global headlines when their cyclist Tadej Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France in September, a feat all the more impressive given the team was only formed in 2017.

The excitement was palpable among the Dubai cyclists who were riding alongside Armstrong on the Al Qudra track.

"Events like tonight put cycling in the limelight and the UAE has grown in recent years in terms of hosting events like this," said Dubai resident Dean Booker, 49, who works in telecommunications.

"Interest in cycling has grown massively in the last few months. There have been record sales of bikes and that's reflected in the number of people who are riding here all the time now."

Armstrong rose to global fame when he overcame testicular cancer and won seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005.

In 2012, his glory turned to infamy when an investigation concluded he used performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career, which led to the sportsman being stripped of all his titles and being banned for life.

However, that did not stop members of the Dubai cycling community coming out in force to ride with him.

Oxana Bezruchko, 47, who has been cycling since she was a child, was excited to take part in Tuesday's event.

“I never thought I would get the chance to do something like this,” said the Russian, who works as a manager at Ikea.

“To ride alongside [Armstrong] is just a dream come true.”

Her compatriot Kate Yakimova, 33, said the opportunity to cycle alongside Armstrong was an example of how anything was possible in Dubai.

"I came to Dubai only a year ago, but being able to take part in an event like this really gives you the motivation to keep going," said the interior designer.

Malaysian cycling enthusiast Alvin Yap said he is a long-time fan of Armstrong, regularly tuning in to listen to his podcast The Move.

"It's an exciting opportunity to see the man himself," said Mr Yap, 48, a finance director.

Other cyclists at the track who had not signed up to take part stopped to see what the fuss was all about.

"We wanted to see what was going on; it's natural to want to catch a look when you have such a famous guy in Dubai," said Abdullah Moosa, 60, an Emirati who had just finished a 40km ride on the track.