Dominant Brajkovic bags Men’s Open title at NAS Cycling Championship
Slovenia’s Jani Brajkovic, a resident of UAE since 2010, took the Men’s Open crown at the 75km Nad Al Sheba Cycling Championship on Thursday night, finishing a mere 0.07 seconds ahead of his friend Vladimir Gusev of Russia.
Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council and Chairman of Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament’s Organizing Committee, flagged off the race, which featured more than 370 riders of different nationalities, in the presence of Nasser Aman Al Rahma, Assistant Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council, Hassan Al Mazrouei, Director of NAS Sports Tournament, Adel Al Bannay, Chairman of the Tournament’s Technical Committee, and a number of UAE Cycling Federation officials.
Brajkovic, winner of the UCI Under-23 Road World Championships time trial title in 2004, took the lead from the start and topped the leaderboard with a time of one hour, 41 minutes and 45.26 seconds despite waiting for Gusev when the Russian suffered a puncture in the middle of the race.
The Slovenian, who finished ninth overall at the 2012 Tour de France and fourth at the 2015 Abu Dhabi Tour, will take home the winner’s cheque of Dhs18,000, while Gusev (1:41:45.33) – Brajkovic’s teammate early in their career at professional road racing teams Discovery Channel and Astana between 2006 and 2008 – will get Dhs12,000 for his runners-up finish.
Slovenia’s Grega Bole, another former world cycling tour professional who was riding for UCI WorldTeam Bahrain–McLaren until 2020, finished third in 1:43:43.46 and will receive a cheque of Dhs9,600. He was followed by the Emirati duo of Talal Mohammed (1:43:43.77) and Khalid Mayouf (1:43:43.82) in fourth and fifth. All the riders who finished between 4th to 9th will get Dhs3,600 each.
“It was a very nice race,” said Brajkovic, 37, who was riding for Slovenia-based Continental cycling team Adria Mobil until last year. “The road itself is so nice that the speeds are very high… there is no problem anywhere.
“There was a lot of riders at the start, so I needed to make sure that I am at the front all the time and not risky fashion.
“Unfortunately, in the middle of the race Vladimir got a puncture and couldn’t get a wheel. But anyways, I decided to wait for him because together we are much, much stronger.”
Calling Brajkovic a deserving champion, Gusev said: “I had a technical problem, a puncture, and he waited for me. He is a very strong rider and a deserving champion. He is also a good friend. Before in professional racing, we were racing for the same team and he was my roommate.
“I came here in 2014 when they started the cycling tour and cycling has really grown in these seven years.”
“Many more people are training now and it is really nice to see all the community riding together here tonight.”
Mayouf, who rides for Abu Dhabi Cycling Club, was pleased with his race thanked the organizing committee of Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament for a great race.
“All thanks to Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, for his unlimited support of cycling,” Mayouf said.
“The organizing committee deserves thanks for their wonderful organization and providing us with a really good, fast course.
“The competition was really strong because of the presence of a number of foreign professionals, so it is really pleasing to get fifth place and, most importantly, finish in the top ten.”
Delighted with the strong and diverse turnout on the opening night of the three-night NAS Cycling Championship, Adel Al Bannay, Chairman of the Technical Committee of Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament, said: “We are really pleased with the wide participation of professional and amateur riders of different skill levels, from different nationalities, in the Men’s Open race.
“It is really heartening to hear words of praise coming from the participants, especially club players, for the organization and strength of competition, and for the precautionary measures that were applied before, during and after the end of the race.”
The second night of the NAS Cycling Championship will see competitors from four different categories – Open Women, Emirati Amateur Women, and People of Determination on Road Bicycles and People of Determination on Hand Bicycles – in action, while the race for Emirati Amateur Men will take place on Saturday.
Men’s Open Top 5: 1-Jani Brajkovic (Slovenia) 1:41:45.26; 2-Vladimir Gusev (Russia) 1:41:45.33; 3-Grega Bole (Slovenia) 1:43:43.46; 4-Talal Mohammed (UAE) 1:43:43.77; 5-Khalid Mayouf (UAE) 1:43:43.82