ABU DHABI: It has been a career-defining year for Safiya Al-Sayegh, with a four-medal haul at the Arab Track Cycling Cup and the awarding of a professional cycling contract, a historic first for an Emirati cyclist.
The talented youngster enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2022 after she became the first Emirati woman to join a World Tour Pro Team amid an incredible season of on-track success.
“The young Safiya couldn’t have imagined the milestone moments that I’ve experienced over the past year,” she said. “It has been my best season so far, and I’m so proud to have captured the national championship along with the Arab ITT Championship, and a podium finish at the Asian ITT U23 championship this year. Signing my first pro contract was an incredible moment and it’s safe to say all the hard work has paid off.”
Al-Sayegh took up the sport at 14 when she began cycling with her father around her local neighborhood each evening. While she excelled in team sports at school, her cycling passion grew stronger when Safiya discovered there was a national team in the UAE, and from that point her career quickly took off.
Now at university, finding the balance between a cycling career and her studies in graphic design has been quite difficult, but Al-Sayegh is enjoying juggling the two.
“It has always been challenging but great fun to combine my life on the track and in the classroom. Since I started competitive cycling in 2016, it’s been hard to find the right balance between both, but I’m fighting to keep performing well on both fronts and will keep doing so until I graduate.”
The cycling community continues to grow in the UAE, with major international events including the UCI Gran Fondo World Series, and cycling brands such as Colnago recently introduced to the Emirates.
Team UAE has seen unprecedented success with their star performer, Tadej Pogacar, emerging as a two-time winner of the Tour de France in recent years, and the continued growth of the community is something that Safiya believes will result in a new generation of cycling stars emerging in the near future.
“The love for cycling is only growing bigger and deeper here in the UAE. We’ve seen that the last few years have turned our sport into one of the most popular across the nation and having the support of our wise leadership will hopefully help the sport evolve over time.
“As well as the health and fitness benefits for young people who like to lead active lives, knowing that the sport is supported and having role models based here in the UAE is a privilege, and I hope we’ll see more young cyclists get on their bikes in the future.”