Dubai: Slovenian Jani Brajkovic, a resident in the UAE since 2010, took the Men’s Open crown at the 75km Nad Al Sheba Cycling Championship on Thursday night, finishing 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 Organising 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, took home the winner’s cheque of Dh18,000, while Gusev – Brajkovic’s teammate early in their professional career at Discovery Channel and Astana between 2006 and 2008 – received Dh12,000 for his runners-up finish.
Slovenia’s Grega Bole, another former professional who was riding for UCI World Team Bahrain–McLaren until 2020, finished third in 1:43.43 and he was followed by the Emirati duo of Talal Mohammed and Khalid Mayouf in fourth and fifth.
“It was a very nice race,” said Brajkovic, 37, who was riding for the Slovenia-based 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 at risk. 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.”