Dubai: UAE Team Emirates’ local hero Yousuf Mirza is “thrilled, excited and motivated” that he can at last be in a position to compete towards a goal following the release of a racing calendar by the world governing body, UCI.
The Union Cycliste Internationale announced a revised and truncated 2020 UCI World Tour earlier this week, that is scheduled for a start with the Strade Bianche on August 1 and conclude with the Vuelta a Espana on November 8.
The new UCI series will include 25 events, after the five events held at the beginning of the season - Santos Tour Down Under (Australia), Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race (Australia), UAE Tour (United Arab Emirates), Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite (Belgium) and Paris-Nice (France) -, and the cancellation of six events at the request of their organisers due to the effects of the pandemic.
“At last, I can see some hope that we will be back in action very soon,” Mirza told Gulf News from his residence in Khor Fakkan.
“I’ve been indoors for nearly two months now and it can be frustrating for everyone. But, I have been doing my training indoors under the supervision of our Sports Director [John Wakefield]. And now, with the lockdown period complete and the UCI announcement I feel like a weight has been lifted,” the 31-year-old rider added.
The first Emirati cyclist to ride for a UCI World Team with the Abu Dhabi-based UAE Team Emirates, Mirza started outdoor practice sessions on the road earlier this week with UAE National Team members and brothers, Mohammad and Ahmad Al Mansoori in their native Khor Fakkan.
The three riders (adhering to rules in place that a maximum of three can engage in any sporting activity) have so far been doing a little over two hours of road cycling each session. “For a rider’s point of view, the announcement of a new calendar is my biggest joy. And my most immediate reaction was that I was thrilled, excited and motivated all at the same time. For the moment, we are out for two hours at a time. But gradually, we will continue increasing the time and be back to at least six hours a day,” Mirza said.
“And now that I have started training on my bike again, I have a goal. This is a huge motivation for me going forward for the rest of the season. I have been training indoors for nearly two months. And now we are out on the road. The next big thing for all of us will be actual competition that will start in August. There’s no doubt how excited I am about this,” he added.
Mirza has worked his way through the ranks after winning multiple national titles. He first shot into prominence after landing a silver medal at the 2015 Asian Cycling Championships, that gave him the right to be part of the UAE squad at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Following the disbanding of the Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team Dubai in 2016, Mirza was picked up by the UAE Abu Dhabi team in 2017, making him the first Emirati to ride for a UCI World Team.
The UAE Tour was among the last of the sporting events held in the UAE, earlier this year. The race was consequently won by British rider Adam Yates of Mitchelton–Scott as he was leading the race prior to the cancellation on the penultimate stage.
Yates had taken the race leader’s jersey following the third stage, one of the two mountain-top finishes on Jebel Hafeet, to lead by more a minute over UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogacar – who ultimately was second in the general classification while also taking the white jersey for young riders.
“At the moment, nothing is clear about which rider goes where. The team management will do the splitting and each of us will be informed accordingly. On my part, I have to continue training and be ready to go where I am sent to fly the UAE flag,” Mirza said.
NEW UCI CALENDAR
August 1: Strade Bianche (Italy)
August 5-9: Tour de Pologne (Poland)
August 8: Milano-San Remo (Italy)
August 12-16: Criterium du Dauphiné (France)
August 16: Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic (Great Britain)
August 25: Bretagne Classic - Ouest-France (France)
August 29-September 20: Tour de France (France)
September 7-14: Tirreno-Adriatico (Italy)
September 11: Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec (Canada)
September 13: Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal (Canada)
September 29-October 3: BinckBank Tour
September 30: La Flèche Wallonne (Belgium)
October 3-25: Giro d’Italia (Italy)
October 4: Liège-Bastogne-Liège (Belgium)
October 10: Amstel Gold Race (the Netherlands)
October 11: Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (Belgium)
October 14: A Travers la Flandre (Belgium)
October 15-20: Gree - Tour of Guangxi (China)
October 18: Tour des Flandres (Belgium)
October 20-November 8: Vuelta a Espana (Spain)
October 21: Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne (Belgium)
October 25: Paris-Roubaix (France)
October 31: Il Lombardia (Italy)
Dates yet to be confirmed for EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg (Germany) and Eschborn-Frankfurt (Germany).