Malta Cycling team in Emirates Tour

Monday, December 16, 2013, 9:25

Photo by Jonathan Zammit Moore From left: Maurice Formosa, Christian Formosa, Charles Sammut, James Mifsud, Joseph Buttigieg, Etienne Bonello, Carl Attard, Jason Vella

The Maltese National Cycling Team has recently participated at the Tour of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The Stage race covered 545km over four days and was classified as a UCI 2.2 category race fielding a total of 18 National and Continental teams. Malta was represented by Carl Attard, Maurice Formosa, Christian Formosa, Jason Vella, James Mifsud and Etienne Bonello assisted by Charles Sammut and sports therapist Joseph Buttigieg.

Unlike to what was expected, the race was affected by heavy rainfall and strong side winds making the going tough through the unsheltered desert roads.

With a field of over 100 riders the 6-man Malta team showed to be at par with other teams and rode intelligently trying to secure a podium result. Malta lost one of its main elements in the first stage when Maurice Formosa fell victim of a general crash under heavy rainfall, he was forced to abandon the race due to superficial injuries and bicycle damage. In the second stage which was also ridden under heavy rain Etienne Bonello tried to make amends to the previous day’s results by mixing it with the front runners in the final sprint, positioning himself very well for the final rush to the line. He failed to secure a top placing despite finishing a few meters away from the winner.  The third and longest stage had nothing less but two climbs and a total distance of 165km. The stage was on fire from the first few kilometers and the strong side winds blew the peloton apart with the Maltese riders being caught out in the second group. Both Jason Vella and Bonello tried hard to reel back in the front runners but as soon as the first climb arrived it was obvious that Vella was on a good ride powering himself up joining the 30 strong front group. His success efforts were cut short by an untimely puncture near the end of the race forcing him to drop back for a wheel change. The final day was a 120km loop in the desert characterized by heavy wind gusts and undulations. The race was very aggressive with the main contenders still fighting it for the overall victory. Once again the red and white riders gave it all in the end with Carl Attard and James Mifsud leading Bonello into the final sprint. President John Zammit had words of praise for the Maltese showing, “The Maltese team is going from strength to strength and the way they rode in Sharjah is proof of that. They raced against professional riders and national champions from countries with far more resources than ours and still managed to hold their own, this is augurs well for the future and development of the team” The trip was made possible with the assistance of the Maltese Olympic Committee, Kunsill Malti Ghall-Isport and Emirates Airlines.

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