HOT summers, mild winters, good roads and plenty of mountains, not to mention two velodromes—Uzbekistan has a great deal to offer when it comes to cycling.
Building on these assets, the Uzbekistan Cycling Federation (UCF), under the presidency of Tanzila Narbaeva, is currently leading a concerted effort to step up the sport in the Central Asian country.
With neighboring nations choosing Uzbekistan as a destination for their training camps, Uzbek cyclists regularly have the opportunity to rub shoulders with cyclists from abroad.
The ideal cycling conditions and historical tourism sites on offer have motivated Uzbekistan to bid to host the Asian Championships in 2019. If granted, this would be the country’s biggest-ever cycling event, and no doubt build on the already growing popularity of the sport.
For although absent from the limelight in recent years, Uzbekistan’s cyclists are present in the sport’s history books. Few will have forgotten Djamolidine Abdoujaparov whose ferocious sprints earned him the Tour de France’s green sprinter’s jersey on three occasions in the 1990s. More recently, Tashkent-born Zulfiya Zabirova was 1996 Olympic Champion and 2002 International Cycling Union (UCI) World Champion in the time trial, and Sergey Lagutin, born in Fergana, was Under-23 UCI World Champion in the road race in 2003. He currently rides for UCI Professional Continental Team Gazprom-RusVelo and his father is a national coach in Uzbekistan.
Road to Tokyo 2020
Now, the aim of the UCF is to prepare the country’s athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
To ensure widespread development throughout the country, the Uzbekistan Cycling Federation, which was founded in 1991, has 14 regional branches. All of them have sponsorship to ensure they can provide regional cyclists with adequate equipment and competent staff. This year the UCI, through the World Cycling Centre’s Bikes for the World program, donated 10 bikes to the federation to help with its development work.
Cycling departments have been set up in sports schools, all regions have Olympic Reserves Colleges, and there has been an increase in the quota for cyclists admitted to the Uzbek State Institute of Physical Culture and Sports.
More and more opportunities are opening up for cyclists, not least with the Tashkent Cycling Team established by the UCF and which joins the ranks of the UCI Continental Teams in 2018.
Another successful project has been the federation’s assistance in the founding of the cycling team “Queen Sport Project—for the People of Spirit” for young cyclists with type 1 diabetes. It is no coincidence that several Uzbek cyclists are part of the development and Junior structures of the UCI Professional Continental team, Team Novo Nordisk, whose mission is “to inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes.”
Mass-participation rides are very popular throughout the country, with thousands of participants taking to their bikes in Youth, Women and Masters events held in all regions.
DEVELOPMENT OF WOMEN CYCLING
THE women’s events are becoming increasingly popular, and one of the UCF’s priorities is to develop women’s cycling even further.
With former Olympic and UCI World Champion Zabirova as a role model, more and more Uzbek women are taking to their bikes, and a dedicated Women’s Committee works for the development of women’s cycling.
Its activities include the organization of a Female Cycling Marathon, which aims to promote healthy families across all generations. On a more competitive level, two female under-23 national riders have signed contracts with United Arab Emirates-registered Al Asal Cycling Team, which competes nationally and abroad.
While efforts are currently concentrated on road and track cycling—the velodrome in Tashkent is currently under reconstruction—it is the federation’s desire to extend its activities to include mountain bike and BMX. The goal is to build a BMX track in Tashkent which could become a training centre for riders not only from Uzbekistan but also those from across the border.