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Old 11-03-12, 16:00
Toonser Toonser is offline
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Default Cycling in Yemen: an uphill struggle against insurgency and ignorance

Challenges for Yemen's National Cycle Foundation include steeps hills, a lack of money – and angry locals trying to kill them

The cyclists have been pedalling through the dusty outskirts of Yemen's capital, Sana'a, for just 30 seconds when the first rock comes hurtling at their wheels.

None of the seven riders of Yemen's National Cycle Foundation so much as flinch, as the perpetrator, a local shopkeeper, identifies himself. He shouts and waves an arm. "You gays! Cover up!"

Dressed in an eclectic assortment of sun-faded Lycra cycling attire, and riding an archaic selection of bikes in varying state of repair, the group keeps silent, and together, as they keep on pedalling.

Yemen must be one of the few countries in the world where a group of young men, on their morning ride can, and regularly does, attract such anger and ignorance from passersby. Their crime? Wearing shorts and tight jerseys.

As the riders approached the first steep climb, their coach, Saleh al-Riashi, emerges from the sunroof of an accompanying vehicle. He makes this trip three times a week, every week, with near-religious devotion, barking commands out of the car's roof, much like the director of a pro-team on the grand tour.

It is inaccurate to describe the team as the national cycling team of Yemen, simply because they have lacked the resources to travel anywhere as a team since 2006.

Riashi is the only member of the current team to have competed abroad. He says that when they arrived in Egypt in 2006 to compete in the Arab Club Championships, his Yemeni team were almost laughed off the starting line.

"Our bikes were probably 20 years old, and our clothes worn … but we soon showed we are serious racers … we finished sixth out of 13 teams and received an apology," he says.

Riashi, who competed in the 2008 Tour of Sharjah, is now preparing his team for the next challenge, this year's Arab Club Championships, despite some key shortcomings. "We are probably $2,000-$3,000 dollars short of money to even get our riders to the start line, beyond the problems with our equipment."
This is an account by Joe Sheffer of the day he spent with the team (the original story was on RTE World Report, 7:40 in), and team members Tariq Al-Mouyad and Sultan Almahdi are amongst those who have commented on the story.

Joe also has some pictures of the team on Flickr.

I'd love to make a contribution towards the team but haven't been able to find how to do so. Failing that, it does sound like a perfect sponsorship opportunity for an equipment manufacturer
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Old 11-04-12, 16:10
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CycleLove CycleLove is offline
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What a great story... makes me realise that I'm only facing *tiny* battles on my commute compared to these guys

I've just started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help these guys get to their next race — here's the link if you want to donate:


Last edited by CycleLove; 11-04-12 at 16:34.
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Old 11-05-12, 10:37
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CycleLove CycleLove is offline
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Thank you for making the first donation Toonser
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Old 11-06-12, 01:03
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ElChingon ElChingon is offline
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Yemen sounds so much like the average group ride anywhere else on Earth, have those guys ridden anywhere else? Can't wait till they experience the car/motobike that zips in front of them at top speed almost or actually knocking riders down, or; the driver that wants to play chicken out on the open road; the car passenger that decides to toss non-empty beer/soft-drink cans at riders; the car passenger that tosses water balloons are riders, the car passenger that tosses fire crackers at riders; the driver that decides to merge with the peloton guess they want to suck some wheel as well ; the driver that ignores the bike lane and moves it to it for any random number of reasons while you are occupying the lane; I could go on!
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