This time last week I was in the middle of the desert, taking part in the bi-annual Dubai coast to coast ride. It was a testing but spectacular 220km group cycle through sand-dunes and craggy hills and showed me a surprising side to a part of the world which I used to think was just hotels and shopping malls.
A week in Dubai was the perfect winter training location. As some of you will know from my social media, I have a big new focus on open water swimming for this year. I will announce the plan in early April. My swimming has always been very weak and so I am enjoying that stage in any new sport when you commit yourself to a lot of training and can see big steps forward. I am sure that progress will start to plateau with time, but since the New Year the progress has been great. In Dubai I was able to open water swim every day. None of the locals and not many tourists were swimming as they consider this their mid-winter – but the water was a beautiful temperature for some long training sessions.
I also joined some friends for a fast early morning ride around the specially built Dubai Cycling Course, which is an incredible 85km of perfect tar in the middle of the deserts just for road cyclists to train on. The vast sandy horizons meant that when the wind picked up it can be slow going, but it is normally a very fast, flat route and a joy to ride on a custom built roadies course where the only traffic you need to watch out for is the occasional camel!
We left Dubai city at 5.30am for the coast to coast with a group of about 75 riders. Organised by the Duabai Roadsters, most of the ‘locals’ were Europeans who now live and work in the Gulf. For the first hour many were commenting the chill, as they wrapped up in arm and leg warmers. All things are relative and it felt like a warm summers ride in Scotland! We made it across at 31.9km/h which felt good. It is always satisfying to leave the sea and arrive at the sea, having crossed a country!
Some photos from the training in Dubai
The Queen’s Baton Relay – one of the great traditions...