Qatar’s Moosa Khalfan finished second as UAE’s Majid al-Balooshi won his maiden GCC Road Cycling Championship title yesterday at the Losail circuit.
Al-Balooshi clocked 21:48.10s to comfortably defeat Khalfan by seven seconds after the 138km Katara-Losail race as Kuwait’s Abdul Hadil al-Azmi came third in the 19th edition of the championship.
For the past decade, Yousif Mirza has been the man at the forefront of cycling in the Emirates. But yesterday at the Losial circuit, it was al-Balooshi who crossed the finish line first to win the title.
“This is the first time that I’ve won the GCC title. It was a tough race on a windy day. But we have a good team and we controlled the race well today. In cycling, there is never one person winning anything. He has to depend a lot on his teammates, so the credit for my win goes to the entire team,” al-Balooshi said.
Talking about the race, al-Balooshi added: “We started in Katara fast. We started to push after three kilometres. Our plan was to control the race first and then assess the situation before the dash for the medal. Bahrain looked good in the beginning as they had a good number of riders in the peloton. We started to attack after two or three break-away attempts. We kept launching our attacks to weaken the rivals.
“Then on the final straight, the Kuwaiti and Qatari riders were the first to kick in. I was fourth to start the sprint but I managed to pass them to win the race,” the 30-year-old rider said.
Khalfan’s second position is the only victory for the 10-member Qatari team.
“I’m very happy with the silver medal. It is a good win for Qatar. This was a very difficult race for all of us. There was rain and wind, that kept changing directions, which made our job even more demanding,” Khalfan said.
“I got separated from the peloton early in the race. I had to put in a great deal of effort to not only recover my way into the pack, but also find a good position before launching the dash for the line,” the 28-year-old rider added.
Qatar Cycling Federation (QCF) president Dr Mohamed al-Kuwari also felt that Qatar team was not strong at the moment.
“Moosa won a good race today. But I feel we had a strong team in the past, but this time we are not that strong. UAE riders are very good and they have dominated the races, but we have some plans for our team and hopefully we will have a good team in the coming years,” said Dr al-Kuwari.
Mirza, who won the Elite Individual Time Trial beating his brother Badr, was thrilled to see al-Balooshi on the top of the podium.
“It’s a dream for me to see other Emiratis get on that podium,” Mirza, who failed to finish at the podium yesterday, said.
“The development in cycling here over the past couple of years has been tremendous. It’s a huge leap. Our rulers all practice cycling regularly,” said Mirza, who took part in the Dubai Tour this year with the UAE-Abu Dhabi Professional Cycle Team.
Riders pose with officials after the final day of the GCC Cycling Championship organised by the Qatar Cycling Federation yesterday.