- NAME: Rick Zabel
- DOB: 7 December 1993 (Year of the Rooster)
- BIRTHPLACE: Unna, Germany11As is common for many German towns, Unna produces it’s own traditional herbal liqueur. Even though science and modern attitudes about nasty cough medicine-tasting alcohol suggest that “Herting Pörter”, named after the town’s gate or port, is likely harsh and viscid, their tagline is Der Gute Likor, or in English, The Good Liquor. Although the distinct Westphalian dialect is primarily spoken by only the elderly, most residents of the area still have an accent.
- TEAM: BMC Racing Team
As the youngest rider at the Dubai Tour, you’d think there would be very little pressure for neo-pro Rick Zabel to make his presence felt. And perhaps that’s partially true, but when your last name is Zabel, and your dad won the Green Jersey at the Tour de France six years in a row (not to mention his proclivity for amazing haircuts and that fact that he single handedly taught Mark Cavendish how to sprint), people expect things of you.
Luckily Zabel has already achieved plenty even though he’s only 20 years old. This is perhaps due to his deep commitment to the sport, which led him to drop out of high school in 2012 in order to sign a contract with Rabobank’s Continental development team. Soon after, Zabel won the U23 Tour of Flanders and became Germany’s national champion in the same category. Then came a stage win at the Tour de Normandie. He comes into 2014 with high hopes, both for himself and for his beloved Borussia Dortmund, the German football club he supports.
- NAME: Willie Smit
- DOB: 29 December 1992 (Year of the Monkey)
- BIRTHPLACE: Lydenburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa
- TEAM: Vini Fantini-Nippo
If you want to talk to someone about having a balanced life, about the ability to carefully and successfully juggle several activities, interests and responsibilities, while giving them all equal attention, avoid talking to a professional cyclist like you’d avoid a feces-throwing monkey. This is because their lives (cyclists’ not monkeys’) often rely on being singularly focused, which makes exceptions in that regard worth noting.
South African Willie Smit, one of the youngest riders in the Dubai Tour at only 21 years old, is a full-time law student in addition to racing full-time for the Japan-based Vini Fantini-Nippo team.22Willie notes that his teammates are from widely disparate backgrounds and he has trouble understanding most of them. His secret for being able to integrate both activities into his life? When using an indoor trainer Willie places a simple, garden-variety cafeteria tray onto his handlebars in the form of a makeshift tabletop, on which he stacks his textbooks, allowing him to read up on South Africa’s constitutional law from the comfort of Zone 2.
- NAME: Majid Albalooshi33MFS has seen his named spelled as Majid Albalooshi, Majid Al Balooshi, Majed Albalooshi and Majed Al Balooshi. The first seems to be the most common.
- DOB: 31 May 1987 (Year of the Rabbit)
- BIRTHPLACE: United Arab Emirates
- TEAM: UAE National Team
There’s a homogenous quality to professional cycling, particularly when one sees the peloton go by, all in nearly-identical lycra attire that differs only in its dye-sublimation. Sure, the riders wearing those team kits vary in their backgrounds, personalities and skill levels, but their careers share a common experience. That, however, changes drastically in 2.1-level races like the Tour Dubai, as designated by the UCI. In those races, paid professionals riding for the largest most well-equipped teams in the world race alongside amateurs who—in the case of Tour Dubai— are forced to use-up at least three of their Vacation Days just to compete. For example, 26-year old Majid Albalooshi.
Majid races for the UAE National Team but earns a living as an officer in Dubai Central Jail, a sizable penitentiary facility that houses 4,000 convicts in the Al Aweer desert. Though he spends a significant amount of hours training on his bike, he’s unable to say that he’s a cyclist by profession. This is because the UAE cycling federation, which was founded in 1974, has yet to allow any of its riders to become professionals, let alone classify “cyclist” as an occupation. Which means that on Sunday the 9th (the race ends on Saturday and Sunday is NOT a day of rest in the UAE), Majid probably went back to work at Dubai’s central jail in the Al Aweer desert.
- NAME: Evan Huffman
- DOB: 7 January 1990 (Year of the Snake)
- BIRTHPLACE: Elk Grove, CA
- TEAM: Astana Pro Team
Evan Huffman is one of the few 23 year olds from Elk Grove, California that almost never makes references to the movie Borat. It’s hard, and perhaps a bit foolish, to make jokes about a hapless, pseudo-Kazakh character played by a British guy in a movie that was actually filmed in Romania, when you race for a Kazakh-backed team, and so many of your teammates are from that country.
Be that as it may, things are still good for Huffman, who starts his second year with Astana after dropping out of college and jumping straight from the amateur ranks to the sport’s top level (like Andrew Talansky, Huffman rode for Cal Giant-Specialized as an amateur), racing Paris–Roubaix as a neo-pro. Evan started cycling as a tri-athlete. His musical taste is skewed heavily toward metalcore, he enjoys bands like Arizona’s Greeley Estates and California’s Confide.