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The UAE team
UAE Tandem team prepares to cycle coast to coast Countdown begins for cyclists who are visually impaired
UAE Tandem team prepares to cycle coast to coast Countdown begins for cyclists who are visually impaired

DUBAI: The countdown has begun for a unique challenge in the UAE as a team of sighted and visually impaired cyclists prepare to ride over 200 km coast to coast on Friday, February 16th, 2007.

The UAE team is made up of experienced and novice cyclists. The team members who are visually impaired will ride on tandems as the “stoker” (in the rear position) with a sighted person as the “captain” (at the front). Emirates Bank is supporting this event enabling the tandems to be brought specially to the UAE and raising funds for Foresight, to help find a cure for hereditary eye disease. The initiative will enable local people who are partially sighted and blind to participate in a new sport.

The tandem riders will complete the course in relays and each 20 km leg of the ride will be a physical challenge. The team aims to complete the journey between 7 and 9 hours meaning the pace of cycling will be very swift. Training has already begun in earnest involving members of the Emirates Association of the Blind, Foresight and Tamkeen and cycling enthusiasts from Dubai who have generously given their time, support and expertise.

Catherine Wallwork from Foresight was a “captain” at the first training session. “It was an inspirational moment when the team members who are visually impaired were introduced to the tandems for the first time,” she said. “Several had ridden bikes as children before they lost their sight, but no-one had ever ridden a tandem or been on the road for years. Within 15 minutes they were cycling confidently. It was a terrific experience.”

Sulaiman Hamid Al Mazroui, Cheif Manager – Group Affairs, Emirates Bank, expressed support of this unique community activity supported by his organisation. “We applaud the determination and commitment of all the Cycle foreSight team members, both sighted and partially sighted in taking on this physical challenge.” Emirates Bank has generously donated funds to cover the purchase of the tandems and to Foresight for research into finding a cure for hereditary eye diseases, such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, that make people go blind.

The Cycle foreSight team will start their journey from Le Meridien Mina Siyahi, Dubai at 6.30 am and follow a specially planned route to Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach, Fujeirah, where there will be an awards presentation ceremony.

“Le Meridien Al Aqah have always been committed to its social responsibilities, and we are honoured to participate in this good cause event .We are looking forward for this event, and we are going to exert our maximum efforts to facilitate the UAE tandem team ride” said Patrick Antaki, General manager, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort.

Cycle foreSight is under the honoured patronage of HH Sheik Marwan Mohammed Hasher Al Maktoum who will participate in the ride using his own tandem. The event has been organised by non-profit organisation Foresight, whose Chairwoman Katy Newitt, will be one of the visually impaired stokers. Huge support has been provided by Wolfgang Hohmann, owner of Wolfi’s Bike Shop. “We couldn’t have planned the event without him”, said Katy, “and I thank him for his immense generosity, expertise and contact with the local cycling community.” Hertz Car Rental has also played a major role in providing transport for the cyclists and the tandems.

Katy pointed out that fundraising is just part of this unique initiative. “There is now the opportunity for people who have lost their sight to be able to cycle.” The tandems will have a permanent home at the Emirates Association for the Blind in Sharjah giving long term access to the pleasure of cycling. “I thoroughly enjoyed my first ride on the tandem,” said Adel Al-Zamar, Vice President of the Association, “and it has given my fitness training a real focus. It is great to be part of this team event.”

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