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Bahrain’s first-ever professional cyclist, Ahmed Madan, will be making his race debut today in the challenging ‘Tour de Hongrie’ across mountainous terrain in Central Europe, writes Abu George.
He re-joined his teammates after a short Ramadan spell back home in the kingdom in readiness for the start of the challenge on the southern bank of Lake Balaton in the picturesque town of Siófok.
“I’m determined to do the very best I can and support my teammates,” he said. “I’ll not let them down or my country. I trained hard and I’ve trained well.
“I have received so much support during my Ramadan trip home. I would like to thank everyone. Now for the race – I’m so excited!”
Madan will be representing Team Bahrain Victorious, founded by Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, His Majesty King Hamad’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs and Supreme Council for Youth and Sport chairman.
While the excitement surrounding his first-ever professional stage is palpable, it will be a relatively flat 173km route – with the exception of one Category 3 climb after 50km – to Kaposvár.
Madan expressed most excitement for the 204km Queen Fourth Stage with more than 2,000 vertical metres to be climbed and featuring a double ascent of Hungary’s highest mountain, Kékes.
The popular Bahraini sporting hero has been preparing well, having spent a month sleeping at 1,500m altitude in Andorra. Training has been tough. Opening the door to the apartment block, his day often started with a 20km descent of the mountain.
This may sound fun for some, yet snow on the road, hidden ice patches, potholes and biting temperatures painted a different picture in these most beautiful mountain surroundings.
Of course, having reached the bottom he then had to turn around and come straight back up again. He admits to having had to get used to carrying and wearing several jackets and gloves.
In addition to calling home regularly he recovered from his exertions by reading the Quran or watching some of the European cycling races.
Madan has enjoyed spending time with his family when he returned to Bahrain. He confesses to having enjoyed several Ramadan buffets at home before settling back into his preparations for Hungary.
While it is impossible to replicate the hill climbs in Bahrain, his training and food was deliberately tapered to ensure he remained in peak condition ahead of today’s race. Arriving at immigration the day before Ramadan he managed to shed 2kg and was working towards his target ‘race-weight’ of 64kg.
Fasting meant that Madan trained at night. Conscious of the dangers of cycling on Bahrain’s roads he wisely invested in several very bright lights.
Life has changed for him in Bahrain. He is now recognised regularly and gets inundated with requests to conduct media interviews.
Yet he remembers those that have helped him on the way to sporting recognition, not just his former coaches and colleagues.
Madan has returned to visit his old school twice, the Nasser Vocational Training Centre, determined to show his gratitude to former teachers.
He credits them for shaping him into who he is, focusing not just on teaching physics and chemistry but also on developing a broader appreciation of being a valuable member of society and now, a role model.
A keen F1 fan he has enjoyed family gatherings around the TV watching recent races and particularly enjoyed the excitement of Imola. However, he has discovered a new love – watches!
After winning a race in Bahrain last year he treated himself to a new one and has his eye on several new acquisitions – if he achieves his goals!
The upside is that it is easier to collect watches than his other passion, sports cars, and certainly more convenient to take them around Europe with him.
Team Bahrain Victorious is taking a strong team to Hungary that combines youth with experience. Madan will be joined by Phil Bauhaus, Santiago Buitrago Sanchez, Heinrich Haussler, Marcel Sieberg and Fred Wright. With this being his first-ever professional race he is looking to learn yet contribute as much to the team cause as possible, supporting more experienced riders in their pursuit of victories.
A regret that Madan does have about returning to Europe is that he will miss his brother, Haider’s forthcoming wedding. However, with the wonders of modern technology he will be watching the event live.
However, there will be many more tuning in from Bahrain to watch Madan’s progress throughout the race.
l Catch up every day with Madan through the GDN sports pages and online.