Arab MTB Championship 2019

Over the summer, the National Team’s focus has been on mountain bike stage racing. Starting with the infamously tough Croatian 4 Islands race, which was truly a baptism of fire for the team. Through the rest of the summer, the racing continued as follows:

  1. UCI 4 Island MTB Stage Race 5 Stages (Cat. UCI S1)  09/13 – Apr 2019  –  4 Elite Category Riders
  2. UCI Cryo Space MTB Stage Race 4 Stages  (Cat. UCI S2)  29- Jun 02 – Jul 2019 – 3 Elite Category Riders
  3. UCI MTB Asian Continental Championships Lebanon 25/28 – Jul 2019 – 3 Elite Category Riders
  4. MEMORIAL STJEPAN GRGAC Road Race Croatia 18-Aug 2019 – 2 Elite Category Riders & 2 Junior Category Riders
  5. FUZINE TO SEA MTB Marathon Croatia 24-Aug 2019 – 2 Elite Category Riders

Head Coach, Szymon Wasiak, explains that these kind of races are better than training camps as they put the riders under performance pressure and they learn new skills while experiencing international competition. Another advantage of mountain bike racing is that it doesn’t require the level of support and resources demanded by the road. This allows our young team to attend and be competitive in more races.

The first test of skills and fitness earned through the summer came at the 2nd UCI Arab Mountain Bike Championships on 29th October to 2nd November. Here is Wasiak’s account of the event.

“Riders and staff arrived in Tunis five days before the actual competition start, to have enough preparation time for course recognition and to practice the technical parts. We tested different tire pressures to make correct adjustments for the terrain and weather conditions. The course was a mix of natural landscape and man-made motocross race track which included many short steep climbs requiring high power and dynamic acceleration. The lap distance was 5.8km. The elite race was six laps and five laps for juniors.

The Team
  • Juniors : Bilal Al Saadi, Nayef A Mesallam
  • Elite : Abdulla Al Khater, Marwan Al Jalham, Abdulla A Afif.
Junior Race

“On the 31 of October, our National Junior Team came to the start line to represent their country after a high intensity warm up on the rollers. Weather conditions were dry and we had perfectly set up the bikes for such conditions. Right after the start though, both of our riders were caught up in a crash caused by one of the Algerian riders and they lost a lot of time right at the very beginning of the race. Bilal Al Saadi made a lot of time in the latter stages of the race and took a solid 8th place with only a one minute gap to the 4th place. Nayef Al Mesallam was 16th. The crash was a huge pity as I can definitely say that top five placings would have been easily possible but this gives us hope and motivation for next year.

Elite race

“One day prior to the Elite race heavy rain started making the planning a bit unpredictable, especially for the tires selection and pressure adjustments. Getting these small details right are crucial elements of MTB racing.

“During the five day camp one of our riders, Abdulla A Afif caught an infection which effectively eliminated him from the race but we got to the start line with two ready to race riders: Abdulla Al Khater and Marwan Al Jalham. The rain was pouring the whole night before and right through race day, making conditions on the course extreme and very slippery. Marwan told me that he came off ten times during the six laps! Moroccan riders dominated the race right from the start and our riders tried to stay in the top ten. Final result: Marwan was classified 14th place and Abdulla Al Khater 16th.

“This summer has been all about learning. The team has been experiencing terrain and conditions which they have never faced before. This championships was another great experience gained and I’m sure that every year will give us opportunities to improve riders’ skills and ability to race at the highest world level.”