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HomeArts & CultureMy UAE: The pedal power of Emirati cycling advocate Faisal Al Nuaimi

My UAE: The pedal power of Emirati cycling advocate Faisal Al Nuaimi

Faisal Al Nuaimi is passionate about cycling. From hills to flats, this two-wheeled warrior loves pedalling the streets of Ajman City, his hometown and a growing sports-tourism hub.

Cycling five times a week, mostly after work, Al Nuaimi covers up to 70 kilometres in a regular workout, interspersed with two days’ running. It has changed his body dramatically, trimming off 19 kilograms of fat in one year and helping him put on 7kg of lean muscle.

“I can’t describe how great I feel after a ride,” he says. “Cycling gives me an elevated sense of happiness. It has improved my heart rate more than any other sport, and I love how it lets me meet new people.”

Al Nuaimi, general manager of Ajman Tourism, started cycling 12 months ago. In March last year, he and other tourism figures brainstormed ways to promote the emirate and attract more visitors. A former general manager of one of Ajman’s five-star hotels suggested a cycling race. After further discussion, they agreed to launch Ride Ajman, a 92km competition open to all nationalities.

“The event came together very easily,” the 40-year-old says. “It took just one month to organise and drew 350 participants. Of these, 240 entered the 92km race and the rest entered the charity race, which raised Dh110,000.”

The event is being held again this year, on April 7. The main race has been extended to 104km and there’s also a 52km race for Emiratis. Al Nuaimi hopes that more and more people will fall in love with the sport and its benefits.

“At Ride Ajman last year, I noticed that all the participants were smiling. When they finished the race, they were laughing and clapping – everyone was so positive. It was like cycling was the secret to life,” he says. “I wanted a slice of that, so three days after the event, I joined a professional cycling team. I did three sessions a week. It was fantastic and I improved very quickly. At the start, I thought: ‘I can never be as good as these guys.’ But gradually I got better. I learnt that success in cycling is all about the mind. Thirty per cent is down to physical ability, but 70 per cent is mental attitude.”

Al Nuaimi has tried many sports, but cycling, most captured his imagination.

“Cycling is my No 1 sport. You get the chance to meet interesting new people – perhaps a company CEO. It also helps improve your leadership skills – if you invite other people to ride with you, you have to lead them,” he says.

Last month, he and six other cyclists rode 460km from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi. Marking the UAE’s National Sports Day, Al Nuaimi led the team through all seven emirates and completed his longest ride to date. Looking to next month’s Ride Ajman, he’s excited to watch more than 600 entrants, nearly double the amount who took part last year.

“I will ride the route one day before, to make sure it is safe,” he says, “but, as per the competition rules, on the day, I will not take part. Now that I am a cyclist, it is frustrating.”

Al Nuaimi can still draw satisfaction from the fact that the event is helping to put the emirate on the map as a sports destination. Today, Ajman hosts the popular ­Desert Warrior Challenge obstacle course. Next winter, it will also hold its first half marathon.

“Ajman is the smallest emirate in the UAE. Building big attractions is not impossible, but it’s difficult because of its size. What we’re doing instead is providing sport-tourism activities, things visitors from all over the world can come and take part in,” he says. “We’ve received interesting comments from professional cyclists in the US and the UK. They want to visit and take part in Ride Ajman.

“I love Ajman. It’s quiet and the people are friendly. It’s dangerous to do anything badly here, because everyone knows about it very quickly. Fortunately, we received great feedback after Ride Ajman last year. We hope for the same again this year.”

What three things do you always pack when you travel?

My camera, running shoes and laptop.

What kind of bike do you ride?

A Pinarello Dogma F8. I love it. It’s amazing.

What’s your favourite book?

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by American author John Gray. I’ve read it three times. The first time I didn’t get the point and didn’t believe it. Then I read it again. Men and women do not speak the same language.

If you could take your family anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Semmering in Austria. It is the most inspiring place for me – the woods, the greenery, the snow, the mountains.

What’s your favourite place in the UAE?

Fujairah. The nature and the mountains make me happy and relaxed.

Is your glass half-empty or half-full?

Half-full. I’m an optimist. Small things make me happy. We should be ready for challenges in life.

What advice can you offer to anyone taking up cycling?

Do not stop for any reason. Find the right team to join. Don’t do it alone. Be happy.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I’d stop war. Then plant flowers and give them to people.

Who is your favourite sportsperson and why?

British cyclist Mark Cavendish. I met him last year. He’s funny and a very strong sportsman.

What was the last tourist attraction you visited in the UAE?

Jebel Hafeet. I was attending the last stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Rihanna’s latest CD.

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