Conti & Co put UAE front and centre of the cycling world
For the cycling fans amongst us, May signals the end of the Spring Classics and start of the season’s first Grand Tour– the Giro d’Italia. A three week, 3,000km bike race around some of the most beautiful countryside on the planet.
For UAE Team Emirates, it is their third Giro since forming back in 2017 and also their most successful. Star Sprinter Fernando Gaviria took a well-documented stage win in the first week, but his achievement has since been eclipsed by team mates Valerio Conti and Jan Polanc who collectively wore the iconic pink leader’s jersey for eight stages consecutively. It has been unbelievable feat for the Emirati outfit.
The team’s impeccable performance has put the UAE and its national flag on the top spot of the Giro’s podium – and therefore front and centre of the world’s sporting media – for the past seven days. This global exposure was one of the key objectives the UAE wanted to deliver through its ownership of a WorldTour team. However the second objective has been met much closer to home in Abu Dhabi.
The team’s purpose domestically has always been to use its influence to create a cycling culture within the UAE – something our Middle East office has been at the forefront of for over two years. In 2018 they created the UAE Team Emirates Youth Academy and earlier this month it was rolled to 410 kids, from three schools, providing more than 50 hours of coaching for children of all different cycling abilities.
It culminated with a community open day which saw a further 98 kids, from 17 different schools, participate in skills lessons and compete in a time trial on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit. Most importantly, 85% of the participants were Emirati, 36% were female, 58% had never owned a bike before and 41% went from being unable to balance to cycling unaided.
With continued success on the WorldTour and ongoing initiatives like the Youth Academy it’s hoped that, one day, the UAE will see an Emirati national on the Giro podium wearing the ‘Maglia Rosa’.