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Cyclist Al Mirza leading the home challenge

Dubai: UAE cyclist Yousuf Al Mirza is hoping to see his national team take a forward step into the unknown as they make their international debut at this week’s Dubai Tour 2014.

“Honestly, this is the first time in an international race for me and my teammates. So just participating and representing the UAE is really such a huge honour for us all,” Al Mirza told the media here on Tuesday.

“This race is going to be a whole new step for me and for my colleagues. I know the roads well and that could be a huge advantage to us,” he added.

The 24-year-old Al Mirza has been riding for the UAE for the past eleven years and is currently at No.1 on the Asian rankings.

“We’ve grown up on these routes and that can be a huge help for us. But the more important focus will be to see how we stand against such top international competition,” Al Mirza noted.

“This is such a huge honour for us all to represent our country and we thank Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, for all the trust that they have reposed in us,” he added.

Al Mirza’s other teammates are Majid Al Beloushi, Mansour Al Beloushi, Ahmad Al Mansouri, Mohammad Al Mansouri, Mohammad Al Murrawwi, Khalid Al Thani, Ahmad Qaed and Aziz Mahdi.

“One of the best effects on cycling has been that our sport has suddenly started moving in the right direction. Not only has it become popular but people are adopting cycling as a means to stay fit,” Al Mirza said.

“This race is going to be one big test. We have trained hard for the past one month in Portugal and now it is time to see how far we can go,” he added.

Meanwhile, RCS Sport, organisers of Dubai Tour 2014, is confident that this week’s race will dent nothing of the European dominance on the cycling calendar.

Mauro Vegni, the technical director who has been overseeing preparations for the event, took time off to speak to the media a day before the race is officially flagged off with the Individual Time Trial on Wednesday.

“There is no damage done to the European races. In fact it is more than a welcome addition to have cycling races at this time of the year where the racers can prepare in advance for the season ahead,” Vegni said.

“The beauty of this race is the attractive technical dimension it will have over the four days. Instead of just four sprint stages we decided to start with a time trial and then take the cyclists through parts of the city that bring in the entertainment value as well,” Vegni said.

“Personally, I think the Dubai Tour is a perfect fit for the cycling world,” he added.