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Liwa Cycle Challenge has bikers in a spin about stunning desert surroundings

posted on 17/01/2015: 2089 views

Hundreds of cyclists traded city streets for desert roads on Friday as they took part in one of the most lucrative races in the region.

The second annual Liwa Cycle Challenge offered Dh150,000 in prizes, with an equal purse for men and women.

"Just as our leaders do not differentiate between women and men, we too wanted to show that women are equally valued in our competition,” said Mohammed Al Qubaisi, who founded the race and also finished 10th in its 117-kilometre elite category. Mr Al Qubaisi said he created the competition because it combined two passions – the desert in Liwa and cycling, which he took up more than seven years ago.

"I first started cycling because my football injuries started to catch up with me and, at the time, people were laughing at me, telling me it was a child's sport,” said Mr Al Qubaisi, who rides between 300km and 400km each week and participates in regular cycling and triathlon contests.

Finishing first for the second year in a row in the women's elite category was Louisa Lobigs, who flew in from Qatar for the race.

"Very few competitions in the world offer equal prize money, but it's a reflection of how much female racing, and racing in general, is growing in the UAE,” said the 24-year-old Australian.

"Every time I come back here I see cycling growing more and more.

"I hope Qatar follows the UAE's example.”

Also competing in the women's elite 117km category was Nadine du Toit, 34, who also began cycling after a football injury.

What started out as a way for the Dubai-based life coach to exercise while recovering, quickly became a passion.

"I got hooked. When I first got on a bike I felt free and alive,” said Ms du Toit.

"They started calling me Nadine the Machine.”

Although the Liwa challenge was 70km further than she had ever ridden, she said the picturesque landscape was an ideal setting.

"It's wonderful to bike in the desert – the fresh air, the lack of cars, and the safety that it provides make it a delight to ride,” she said.

Organised by Adnoc, where Mr Al Qubaisi is deputy director of human resources, and Adco, which he worked for last year, the race not only offered cyclists a chance to race among the dunes but provided them with tents, shower facilities and food for two nights.

"We wanted people from all over the region to come and see the beauty of this area, to ride among the picturesque dunes and sleep under the desert stars,” he said.

Mr Al Qubaisi said he hoped the race's 117km course would become one of the four stages of the inaugural Abu Dhabi International Tour in October. – The National -


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