We are heading into the second season of the Urban Ultra Women’s Cycle League. The first season wasn’t smooth sailing; the points system was changed midseason, there were disagreements as to which races should be part of the league and we encountered technology problems in indoor racing scenarios. We also witnessed some teams grow from strength to strength and show some real team work and racing tactics. The first season was certainly a valuable experience for organisers, riders and sponsors.
This month, we take a look into some of the more prominent local women’s teams, who share with us what they are all about and what we can expect from them this coming season.
The Team: We are a strong group of determined, focused and competitive ladies, made up of variety of endurance athletes; cyclists, triathletes and runners. We are all committed to regular, high intensity training.
Philosophy: We want our team to improve, but also to inspire other ladies to participate in cycling throughout the UAE. We hope that through our participation and presence in events, we will encourage others to ‘have a go’.
Who to watch: Each lady in our team has a different strength; there are strong climbers and also powerful sprinters.
Team training and social aspect: We often join the Cycle Hub Group Ride taking place at Al Qudra on a Saturday morning, catering for different speeds and distances. We also develop team spirit and support recovery by enjoying breakfast together at the Cycle Bistro after a hard morning of training!
For the community: We hope to show that cycling is accessible for all and it can promote a healthy lifestyle. Cycling is a supportive and encouraging community where you can have a lot of enjoyment!
The Team: We are all about enjoying riding our bikes! We have a good time and we encourage each other. The team is selected from girls riding with The Roadsters’ Friday group ride. We always try to race as a team and use tactics that allow all our riders to get a good race. It’s a very social atmosphere and we have a lot of jokes and friendly teasing of each other.
Goals: Last year we didn’t get the podium victories that we would have liked. The first season was a good learning curve and as our team has not changed greatly, we will be fired up to try some new team tactics.
Team strength: On paper our team is extremely talented individually, although it’s the positive attitude of all the riders which makes us really strong and a fun team to be in.
Who to watch: Yvonne Van Hattam, who is one of ten semi-finalists out of 1,200 women in the Zwift Academy competition to get into a pro-team. Both Yvonne and Deirdre Casey are demons on the hills.
Team training: We are all busy with our own working schedules and families. We mainly meet up for group rides on Fridays or Mondays. Most of the girls also use indoor trainers.
How to join the team: We love a good friendly attitude. Come on a Roadsters ride and say “Hello”.
What to expect this race season: We hope to see more races out of Dubai. We enjoy both the hills and flat cycle races and it’s always fantastic to go to the mountains.
The teams to watch will be Cycle Hub and BeSport
Support: In general we find that women underestimate their capabilities when biking and don’t want to ‘hold others up’. Having a team offers support and reassurance but most importantly, makes it fun!
Strength in numbers: The league has made road cycling more accessible for females by giving them a voice to the race organisers and saying, “We want a separate start.” This makes a huge difference.
The vision: Our vision this coming season is to have two teams; one for racing elite and one for racing open. And we want the riders in the same mind set; that’s the most important thing.
Goals: We aim to get the A Team into a training programme – and to get the B Team focused on getting cycling skills and fitness up.
Team strength: Our main strength will be the support offered by Be Sport Bike Shop – and structure.
Team training: Our training is scheduled and specifically structured for racing.
What does it take to join the team: To join the BeSport team you must have good riding skills.
Inspiring others: We hope to see our team riders flourish as cyclists but also become inspirational role models for females and males across the UAE.
The Team: We love to cycle, pure and simple. For us, it’s all about connecting and inspiring other female cyclists to get out there and ride bikes; and to have fun with it!
Aim: Last year was our first season, so this year we aim to be bigger and better; we can only improve!
Team strength: We can ride as a team, which is a great strength to have. We also have a real mix of great talent for the variety of races we have here in the UAE.
Team focus: We aim to focus on Team Time Trials this year and we train together weekly.
What it takes to join the team: You need to be committed and a team player. We work really well together in both a sporting and a social capacity.
What to expect this season: Racing is really on the up here in the UAE with the help of Sporting event companies like Gulf Multi Sport adding more and more great events to the calendar.
Bringing women together: Women tend to inspire other women, so if we can show that taking part in race events can be fun as well as a great way to improve on fitness, then we will get more women wanting to join in. Healthy encouragement to bring like minds together.
The Team: We are all growing, learning and evolving with experience and time. Our team is all about helping one another achieve a better performance. Having the correct mindset is what keeps us united.
Goals: Same as last season; continue to gain strength by learning to target our training and honing in on skills which we really didn’t understand when we first started riding. We ride with other experienced riders and ask lots of questions.
Who to watch: Orla White, who has been training all summer with different groups of riders to learn skills. Orla has gained a lot of strength too. And Vilma Purvinyte; she is a tenacious new player and a fast learner.
Team training: We try to train together twice weekly. We practise pacelining for TTT events and we target our hills indoors at Bespoke Ride.
If we can do it, anyone can do it: The female teams create a lot of visibility and empowers and encourages other women into the sport. We are responsible for inspiring other women into cycling. If we can do it, so can they.
Goals: To form a dedicated ladies specific race team, based in the UAE and GCC, who has a great passion for the sport. We aim to be present at most of the road races this season.
Training: We will be working on speed and definitely interval training.
Beyond road racing: We also have a dedicated mountain biking race team made of talented and committed riders. This season you will see LIV riders and teams in all triathlons, road racing and mountain biking events.
What does it take to join the LIV teams: We love riders who have a good fighting spirit, who are willing to give their all on the race course and commit to team training and tactics, but the main requirement is to be active and passionate about cycling.
The LIV Club: This is our ladies specific social group ride at Al Qudra cycle track on Saturday mornings and we welcome ladies of all abilities to join. We are a bunch of happy women and you will have fun riding with us!
“Actually I can”: Being the first cycling brand dedicated entirely to the female cyclist, LIV’s powerful message to all of us, “Actually I can”, represents a battle of determination, of will and of spirit. It’s the moment you decide whether to meet your fears – or retreat.
Bikes changing lives: At LIV we create an environment where women can feel part of the sport, be competitive and inspire other women to take part. We strongly believe that bikes can change the world!
Words by: Helle Bachofen von Echt
Helle Bachofen von Echt is a Dubai based amateur road cyclist competing in both local and International events. She is team leader of a UAE based female amateur cycling team and she is also an Indoor Cycling Instructor at Flywheel Sports Dubai. Helle loves traveling with her bike and you can follow her adventures and racing in pictures on instagram @thegirlwhocyclesinthedesert and her blog page www.hellebve.com