Sand Dunes and Mirages

Nathan Haas shares his experience of riding the UAE Tour and discovering the magic of Dubai.

By Nathan Haas

5 min read by Nathan Haas

Pro Rider, Nathan Haas, gives us an insight to what the UAE has to offer

“Whilst we don’t get to take in every moment, vista, or experience of where we ride in the world tour of cycling, it takes us to some of the most incredible places in the world to ride bikes. Especially to those outside the famed, historic, and well-known European destinations…

The UAE is no exception.

Who knew what glorious riding was on offer.

I’d never have pictured myself flying there for much other than a beach holiday and splurging on shopping I no doubt don’t need, but alas, it turns out to be one of the untapped or rather, underrated biking meccas of the world with a uniquely warm, committed and inviting cycling community.

Staying in Dubai, I had trouble finding my way out of the city.

But a quick chat to a local bike shop, Pedal CC, and I was soon being picked up and driven to the Al Qudra bike track.

A short drive out of the city (you can ride there, but it’s less than ideal) you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, the sand dunes hypnotically surrounding you. There is just a small village of boutique coffee stores, bike shops, and food services. This is the head of the trail so to speak, as behind it lays a matrix of purpose-built bike tracks paid for by the prince of Dubai (who’s a huge cycling fanatic).

There are 100’s of kilometres of the smoothest, cleanest bike track with inbuilt drinking stations throughout. There are some climbs, not huge, but enough to call them a Strava segment – Al Qudra 85km. Otherwise, it’s just a flowing heaven of car-free, blissful riding. Did I mention the amazing coffee?

The UAE Tour is one of those crazy race experiences that I’m so lucky to be able to have as a pro cyclist. 

Our breakfast buffets are rich with local dates (the dried fruit, not the hot evening out), tabouli and hummus. There were countless teas like nothing I’ve ever tasted awaiting me.

As we drove to the stage starts, in our race provided vans, the camels chew at us from a distance. The sun hits the dunes creating mirages of heatwaves and the office and luxury towers of the city centres melt away into the mirages, submitting to the more natural beauty.

The local dignitaries greeted us at the start, in traditional clothing and custom. Although the audiences might not be what they are at a European race, we can see the pride for the sport seeping through every sand particle here.

Outside of the bike track, the two climbs we’ve raced in the Tour of UAE are standouts.

Of course, they are challenging, even in the pro peloton, but just because Ventoux is hard doesn’t mean anyone should be scared of it. And don’t worry, it’s no Alps!

The Jebal Hafeet and Jebal Jais climbs are worth exploring.

Jebal Hafeet was built with cambered turns so that supercars can use it for uphill races. Because of this, the surface and gradients really offer a unique challenge. It’s about 7km’s and super steep in parts (bring your climbing cassettes). But the view from the top is nothing short of insane! There is also a luxury hotel on the top if you were inclined to stay there, but the downhill is more than worth the climb!

The Jebal Jais is much longer – over an hour for most but the gradient never gets much about 6%. It passes past some magnificent rock formations and the colours here are unique. There isn’t much at the top, but about 4km’s down the descent, there is a high-class food truck village which could be an adventure of its own. Really, this climb is not to be missed if you’re in the area. 

What about bike shops?

You’d be mad to think there isn’t a luxury bike shop in Dubai.

Let me introduce Pedal CC, perhaps the most special bike shop I’ve ever visited. Pedal CC is owned by two extremely passionate and lovely locals who have travelled the world for inspiration for the fit-out, style, and flavours this bike shop café has turned into. If you’re in the market for rare built, mind-bending bikes, high-end equipment, or simply want an exceptional coffee whilst watching bike racing on one of their many big screens, here’s your cycling hub in Dubai.   

My top tip? Avoid the February crowds in Mallorca, and come join us pros in the UAE for a real trip, and something a bit different on the bike!

By Nathan Haas

Professional Cyclist