Like all good buses, you wait for ages then 2 come along in succession, and so it is with this blog…
If you’re a cyclist and come to live in Abu Dhabi, you might expect the same sort of options you might get in Europe, Australia etc, where a city of a similar size might have multiple ride options, different clubs and a variety of routes. You’d be very wrong. No clubs, no bike paths a poor road infrastructure hugely limit your options, down to 4. If you’re a social rider, or just like pedalling, the Raha group is for you; if you are used to a competitive ride, the GMS-Yas team is your option; option 3 is solo on the big highways; or you can drive out to option 4, the 100km closed cycle path at Al-Wathba. Having done all 4 options, there is a definite time and place for each. I mean every rider likes a social now and again, or a solo ride, as much as they do a competitive spin.
This blog is on the GMS-Yas ride.
Each Friday at 5.30am in the summer, or 6 in the winter, anywhere from 10-30 riders meet for what can be commonly termed as the smash fest. Depending on the weather the level of hurt changes – summer being a killer in the heat but a more sociable pace, winter is a big ball swinging exercise that can often not be for the faint hearted. Distance will be anywhere from 100km to 160km with the average pace low 35km\h in summer to 37km\h in the winter; frequently travelling at over 45 is not unknown.
The standard route is out to a petrol station on the main Abu Dhabi to Dubai highway, not very inspirational or picturesque, but the coffee is ok.
We start with a steady build up for about 20km out to the new highway at the back of Al-Falah, a relatively new development, and then on to a brand new 5 lane highway to Dubai. Now begins 16k of through and off, ramping up to 50+km\h, and a final sprint on a downhill 60km\h leadout – if you haven’t got an 11, or fast spinning legs, you are not even going to get to sprint! This 16km section can be so hard that your group of 20 at the start can be reduced to 4-5 doing the chaingang and, realistically, just 2 or 3 in with a chance at the sprint. We have a regroup after the sprint and then move onto phase 2 of the ride out – normally about 5km of chill and then its back into the through and off. In the summer this is generally another 16km, but its steadier and the final sprint for the ADNOC is more relaxed. In the Winter, its a whole new ball game – you are probably looking at 30km of through and off before the sprint, a very painful experience, the best part of 80kms before the coffee…. there are easier races!
The coffee break is always welcome!
The return home is always shorter, always headwind and always harder. The tiredness from the outward section can really bite on the way back, the through and off is shorter but more intense for it, and we have proper echelons – it’s just a brutal section. There are 2 sprints, one after the echelons and headwind section and then the final sprint, which tends to come to the boil as we reach the last 3km as we have a small bridge which is a launchpad for the push for the end.
The final km’s from the sprint back to the start point and coffee are very slow!
A little bit about the riders… we are a solid group and have been riding together for a long time, so the strengths and weaknesses are well known. When new riders come along they really have to click in and integrate fairly quickly – if you show competence and ability no problems, if you lack a little bit, then you are in for a quick education session, but everyone gets there in the end. Like all good club rides, you have the strong guys, the savvy guys, the old wily foxes and of course the stalwarts, without whom it would never exist.
Luckily all egos are left on the road, the coffee breaks are chilled and no hard feelings harboured…generally!
And finally… we are ably supported by our support driver, Majid, there is always a seat available for the riders that need to bail – he even has his Kerala disco for you waiting.