UAE Team Emirates’ Yousif Mirza made his WorldTour debut at Tour of California in May this year. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE’s ace cyclist Yousuf Mirza is determined not to stop of anything short of a podium spot at this month’s Asian Indoor Games to be held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

Mirza, who returned from the team base in San Pellegrino in Southern Italy at the end of August, is presently continuing his preparations in the UAE along with the four other national squad cyclists till their departure for Ashgabat on September 15.

Last month, the UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC) cleared the names of a 55-member squad representing the nation in seven sports of the total 21 that will be held during the eleven days of the competition from September 17-27. The UAE is sending athletes in seven disciplines, namely in athletics, billiards, bowling, cycling, chess, jiu-jitsu and futsal.

Mirza is undoubtedly among the biggest names so far in UAE cycling. Besides the multiple times he has won the Emirati national titles, the Khor Fakkan-born lad has gone on to win the silver medal in the road race at the 2015 Asian Cycling Championships, thus becoming the first Emirati to earn an automatic qualifying spot at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

Now enriched with valuable experience following his first full year spent with an UCI WorldTeam while riding with UAE Team Emirates, Mirza is confident he can start delivering on his potential on the Asian stage. Earlier this year, Mirza came in fourth at the 37th Senior and 24th Junior and Para Asian Track Cycling Championships held at the indoor cycling velodrome in New Delhi, India.

“Tha experience in India will definitely help and it is logical to think that I am due for a podium spot in Ashgabat as I’ve put in a lot of hard work since February. For sure, the Asian Games will attract the best riders from the continent, but I am confident that the experience of the past few months will help a lot,” he added.

In Ashgabat, Mirza will participate in the Omnium and then combine with Ahmad Al Mansouri, Mohammad Al Mansouri and Mohammad Al Murawwi for the Team Pursuit. Nasser Al Marmarri, the fifth member on the squad, will take part in the 200 metres sprint and Kirin.

Given the vast experience of the squad, the hierarchy at the UAE NOC is expecting at least one medal from the cyclists with Mirza being the most likely candidate. But the team leader that he is, Mirza believes his teammates are also in an ideal position to land medals. “The members of the UAE national squad have spent the last four months training in Europe. So I expect all of us to be at the same cycling level. The goal before us will be to improve our record in the Team Pursuit, and hopefully that will be good enough for a medal,” Mirza hoped.

The UAE NOC is expected to formally announce the national squad for the Fifth Asian Indoor Games some time next week before the athletes depart for Ashgabat on September 15.

CYCLING SQUAD

Yousuf Mirza: Omnium and Team Pursuit

Ahmad Al Mansouri: Team Pursuit

Mohammad Al Mansouri: Team Pursuit

Mohammad Al Murawwi: Team Pursuit

Nasser Al Marmarri: Kirin and 200 metres Sprint