Iran yesterday held its first international cycling tour event with eight foreign and five Iranian teams taking part.
The Cycling Federation of Iran (CFI) said that the five-day tour features teams from Germany, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Qatar, Switzerland and Uzbekistan.
Yesterday, some 70 cyclists started from the holy city of Qom, 135km south of the capital Tehran, and cycled the Qom-Tehran highway.
The winner of yesterday’s stage was Iranian rider Mehdi Sohrabi, who crossed the finishing line in pouring rain at the mausoleum of the late supreme leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The so-called Presidential Tour, which offers prize money of 466 billion rials (US$50,000), is aimed at giving much-needed exposure to cycling in an Iranian sports scene dominated by soccer and wrestling.
Iran wants the tour to be acknowledged and registered on the calendar of the International Cyclist Union (UCI) as an international event but a lack of big sponsors is proving to be an obstacle.
There is no lack of talent in Iran, however, as is highlighted by Qader Mizbani and Hossein Asgari, two of Asia’s best cyclists.
Mizbani was the first Iranian cyclist to win enough points to compete in world-level races.
The logistics for Iranian riders are mainly provided from Taiwan, with some also coming from European countries.
According to CFI head Asqar Khaleqi the country is taking doping seriously and two local champions were suspended after their tests returned positive.
Iran has no competitive female riders and although sports officials and women’s activists have pushed to promote women’s sports they have so far faced hostility from some influential clergy.
The clerics consider that women’s body movements made while riding a bicycle are provoking to men and therefore not compatible with social rules.
Female athletes in Iran are obliged to cover their hair and body contours even in international events such as the Olympics.
Iran reportedly planned last year to have special bicycles designed for women with a cabin to cover half of the rider’s body thus hiding their body movements while riding.
The new bicycles, which were supposed to be compatible with Islamic regulations, have not yet reached the market.