Tony Martin was well beaten by an Arabian racehorse in a special race in Dubai but he seemed to enjoy making an early season debut in the Middle East.
The German world time trial champion arrived in Dubai on January 2, joining Alberto Contador, Ryder Hesjedal and Vincenzo Nibali as the ambassadors of the new Dubai Cycling Course and the new Dubai Tour stage race that will be contested for the first time in the spring of 2014.
Martin heads back to Europe on Saturday and will join his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates in Spain for a training camp. He will then attend the official team presentation at the Ghent velodrome on January 15. Martin was hesitant to reveal his race programme until the presentation.
"It was the first time I've raced against a horse and it was a fun experience. It's something I can tell my kids about in 30 years' time," he said after being beaten by several lengths after the one kilometre race.
"When I heard about it, I laughed about it. But for people here horses are a big symbol and they want to combine their culture with ours, so it's a good idea."
Martin trained in the desert for several hours on Thursday, joining Contador, Hesjedal and Nibali for another ride on Friday before the race.
"This is my first time in Dubai but I think the race will be really well organised. It's an amazing place, with all the skyscrapers and buildings. I think the new circuit will be a great place for people from Dubai to ride their bikes because it's not so safe in the city. It's been a nice experience riding in the desert.
Martin's time trial ability makes him an automatic contender for week-long stage races. The German rider has won the Eneco Tour, Volta ao Algarve, Paris–Nice, the tour of Belgium and the last two editions of the Tour of Beijing.
"I'd like to ride next year. This is my first time in Dubai and if I have the chance, I think I'll come again," he said.
"It's a crazy place in a positive way. We were treated like kings here. But I think cycling can fit well. They're interested in cycling and we're interested in other cultures and so it's a good deal for everybody."