Yemen cyclists complain of lack of support in the country

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Dressed in their cycling gear members of Yemen’s National Cycle Foundation hit the road as part of a training session.

But navigating through the traffic in the country’s capital, Sana’a, isn’t their only worry; the cyclists say they often face a barrage of abuse from passersby who object to what they’re wearing.

The cyclists say people swear at them, and at times throw stones towards them,

“We face insults, swearing, stone-throwing and so on. And the drivers obstruct our way,” said one of the cyclists, Tariq al-Mouaid.

And that’s not taking into account how often cyclists have to stop for repairs -- which can be costly.

“It is frustrating. God knows how much effort I put in trying to secure the equipment for the bicycle and it is expensive, I spend half of my salary on the bicycle,” Mohamed al-Ansi told Reuters, holding a bicycle missing a wheel in his hands.

The cyclists are encouraged by their coach Saleh al-Ryashi, who trails the sportsmen in a car shouting instructions at them as they push down on their pedals.

But he also gets down to help with the changing of wheels and chains when it’s needed.

“As you can see I am a coach and a mechanic at the same time. Not only I have to instruct the cyclists during training, but also I have to repair the bicycles. We as a team try to secure enough equipment because we have no flat tires on standby,” said al-Ryashi.

Their bikes often fail them, and spare parts are hard to come by in the impoverished country.

“No one supports us, most of the bicycles here in Yemen are either gifts from foreigners or we buy them at discounted prices from people who travel abroad. The union never supported us,” said cyclist Yousef al-Badani.

But the country’s Cycling Union says it supports them as much as they can, but budget restraints also make it difficult for them to do more.

‘‘The cyclists do not have individual bicycles; the bicycles are used by all the cyclists. And despite that, the team still gets represented in the Arab and international leagues. The fact that we have limited number of bicycles makes it difficult for us to dedicate a bicycle to each cyclist,” said Abdulfatah Ismail, Secretary General of the Cycling Union.

The mountainous terrain in the country provides the perfect training ground for the sportsmen.

But with a lack of support and funding the cyclists face a bumpy ride ahead.