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Hopes for business boon as hundreds take part in Ajman cycling race

A total of 220 professional cyclists participated in the 90-kilometre ride, with 70 amateurs in the 7km charity ride that supported Al Ajmani Charity Foundation.

AJMAN // Hundreds of cyclists took part in Ride Ajman yesterday, the first competitive cycle race in the country’s smallest emirate, and one tourism chiefs hope will increase business.

Families and friends turned out to support the riders at the event, which was graced with good temperatures and a cool breeze.

The streets were quiet as road closures enabled the riders to go safely around the coastal town.

A total of 220 professional cyclists participated in the 90-kilometre ride, with 70 amateurs in the 7km charity ride that supported Al Ajmani Charity Foundation – numbers that exceeded targets, said Faisal Al Nuaimi, head of Ajman’s tourism authority.

Sport was key to bringing visitors to the emirate, he said.

“We want people to come and see Ajman and to see how beautiful it is," said Mr Al Nuaimi.

“We’ve even had people coming for the race who’ve never been to Ajman before."

He hoped to increase the participation of Emiratis, whose turnout was only about 20 per cent.

“We’re trying to change the mindset and lifestyle of the locals by offering things like this and developing the running and cycling track along the corniche," he said.

Crossing the 90km finish line first for the men was Erwan Sidaner. He completed the race in a time of one hour, 58 minutes and 59 seconds.

In the women’s category, Roisin Thomas won in a time of two hours, 22 minutes and 32 seconds.

They each received Dh3,500 in prize money.

Egyptian expatriate Sameh Nabil, a recreational cyclist who rides up to 25km most days, said the event could help promote the sport in the emirate.

“There are parts of Ajman that are good for cycling, but parts which still aren’t so good, so hopefully this event will help us drive those improvements," said Mr Nabil.

It was the first time in Ajman for Jan Kim, a cycle mechanic from Dubai who was among the first group of finishers in the 90km race, which started from the Fairmont hotel and led to Al Tallal Camel Racecourse and back.

“It was a good event," the Filipino said. “I hope there will be more. It’s a nice way to come and see a new emirate."

However, the price may be a deterrent for participants, he said, comparing the Dh250 price to the Dh50 cost of participating in Abu Dhabi’s race.

Maia Bassal, who works for Fairmont hotels, said she rarely cycled but wanted to take part in the charity event to support a good cause and the emirate.

“It is so refreshing to see Ajman come alive this morning," she said.

“Such events will put Ajman on the map as a sporting destination."

Cycling has grown rapidly in the UAE in recent years, with the country now hosting two UCI Asia Tour events, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

More than 100km of cycling tracks have been laid out across the country, and the UAE is home to several pro cycling teams.

Ride Ajman will benefit “everyone in Ajman" in the long term, said Henny Schaeffer, general manager of the Fairmont Ajman, one of the event’s sponsors.

“There will be a lot of people who will have seen what Ajman is all about," he said.

“So far, cycling has been based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and we want to change that and give people from the northern emirates another place to cycle and compete."

There are plans for the emirate to develop an asphalt track similar to that in Al Qudra in Dubai.

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