Sports in Bahrain have reached the pinnacle in 2017. The previous year saw Bahrain achieve remarkable results in various national and international sports competition. We sat down with Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the president of the Bahrain Cycling Association for an interview. He also gives us a sneak peek on what the year 2018 awaits for cyclists in Bahrain.
The year 2017 was gratifying and positive as we saw a significant growth on the cycling front in Bahrain. A remarkable number of rides and events took place on the Island. There was significant participation in most events throughout the year.
Highlights of 2017 Cycling Year
The Cycle Safe Campaign was one initiative where cyclists took to the roads. They aimed to shed light on how cyclists and motorists could share roads safely. This event was a good beginning, and I believe more similar campaigns will be held in 2018 to spread awareness to make Bahrain roads safer for cyclists.
For the first time, Bahrain hosted the 2017 Asian Cycling Championships. Bringing an incredible event to this part of the world especially in Bahrain was quite exhilarating. Bahrain now has a stable positioning in the cycling map of Asia and the world of Cycling. We have made a mark in the International Level with the introduction of Team Bahrain Merida in the 2017 UCI World Tour.
The dream of having our very own professional cycling team took shape last year. Now we can support and follow our team which is an inspiration to cyclists here. The Pro Cycling Team is a huge triumph for Bahrain as we move forward into a promising 2018. This would be some of the highlights of the 2017 year of Cycling!
Events with Team Bahrain Merida
The event was quite spectacular because it is not often that people get to ride with the pros. Given the opportunity again, more people would attend such events, and it would be unbelievable. Team Bahrain Merida performed exceptionally well in 2017. We hope that they will gain more exposure and thrive in the 2018 season.
More than 300 cyclists came together to raise awareness about breast cancer. In association with Think Pink Bahrain, Team Bahrain Merida gave back to the Bahraini community as they actively supported the campaign. It was not an easy task to pull off such an event, but it spread a lot of awareness about women’s health. The campaign did have positive impacts on the community.
Bahrain National Cycling Team- 2018
The Bahrain National Cycling Team is gearing up for the 18th edition of the Asian Games. It will be during August in Indonesia. With pride, we can say that the National team delivered good results last year. Razan Soboh claimed the bronze medal in the U-23 Women’s Individual Time Trial category of the Asian Cycling Championship. We look forward to seeing Saad Alsaadi joining the professional team soon.
We saw a significant transformation in the Triathlon competition especially last year. The initial days saw only a few people registering for Triathlons mainly expats. Triathlon has come a long way since then, and we can confidently say that cycling is not far behind.
Optimistic 2018 Cycling Year
For this year we have a lot of events lined up especially Bahrain MTB BikeFest and Road National Championship during March. Boost Bahrain was set up with a passion for encouraging individuals to embrace sports and lead a healthier lifestyle.
In 2017, Bahrain had amateur races, and we plan on lining up more this year. We have observed that these amateur cyclists are strong competitors with great potential. The idea is to get more and more people involved in this open event.
We will be emphasising more on the National Team, the 2018 Asian Games and the Asian Cycling Championship in Myanmar in February. Our top junior riders have received medals in the Arab Cycling Championship in the UAE, and we hope they can continue to progress.
Training for the Pro Levels
We focus on nurturing and training our riders to reach the professional level. It does not depend on their age instead it is their adaptability to the training regime. The training is intense and requires a high amount of commitment from the riders which is why the training in itself is crucial. The idea of sending them to a development team is to help prepare them better for the next level. Training in Bahrain is not ideal for this level of sport hence its necessary to train outside Bahrain all the more. For different riders, there are several things happening simultaneously.
We have a continental cycling team registered in Bahrain known as VIB sports. Riders are given the opportunity to take part in the Asia Tour. A rider will be able to race in the Asian Calendar if he is not placed with the development.
We have been doing a lot of races across Asia and Africa, Morocco, Turkey where the riders gain exposure. Above and beyond we send them to Europe for the training camp during summer. Bahrain is not an ideal training spot during summer as the conditions are favourable. We instead send our riders to Europe for training and cycling. At present we have around 10 -20 riders ranging from the junior to the elite level.
Dedication is a key ingredient every athlete must have in sports.Shaikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa –
Bahrain Cycling Association
The Bahrain Cycling Association caters to young developing riders between the age of 12 to 18 years. The BCA does not purely focus on cycling but also on football, volleyball making it a mixture of many sports. They have their own training sessions but importantly they target and take part in our events. Riders for the National Team are selected from the association. It is our aim to encourage people to host local events where riders can take part.
There are mainly two objectives that we have for this year and they are:
Mountain Bike Racing
Establishing mountain bike racing in Bahrain is an event we want to bring about. Competing outside may seem difficult due to the nature of the race. At the same time we are focused on road and track cycling.
A one day BMX Track Racing event I believe would be popular for cycling as its an Olympic sport as well. It’s a fast sport as the bike is smaller and a short race. With numerous happening simultaneously they will have to manoeuvre through the course and finish. It would be thrilling to watch the race.
The time duration for any cycling race is usually quite long, and people still tend to watch. Sometimes you have to give what the spectator wants and not what the sport needs. Events that we have done in the past have taken place in the middle of the city which is good. It’s sometimes better to go to the public than expect them to come and watch.
Our riders are incredible because of their dedication which is why they reap awards. We may not have the best of things, but our team is very committed. Dedication is a key ingredient every athlete must have in sports.
His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa is very much dedicated when it comes to his training. When he wins, he is appreciated for this very aspect. Everyone needs to set a goal be it in any sporting event. More importantly, you must have a role model to look up to for motivation and encouragement. Many triathletes admire and respect his highness.