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Afghan women’s cycling team inspires the British Army at the UCI world championships

Early in August, elite Army cyclist, Sapper Louie Urquhart-Dixon from the Island of Arran joined the Afghan Women’s Cycling Team at a special civic reception, hosted in Glasgow, to celebrate the excellence and commitment of the cycling team.

There are few more inspiring tales than that of the Afghan Women’s Cycling Team, who were in Glasgow for the UCI World Cycling Championships. The British Army in Scotland has a close relationship with Glasgow’s Afghan community, stemming from shared sacrifices in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2021. The women’s cycling team, drawn from Afghan communities in the UK, Switzerland and Italy, is a story of determination, courage and triumph over adversity that the Army admires. 

The British Army takes sport really seriously and joining has been a better option for me as a cyclist and athlete all round. I’ve got lots of cycling friends who went to Europe to race; many didn’t make it and are now stuck. In the Army, I get time to train and I’m supported by Army Cycling." Sapper Louie Urquhart-Dixon,
33 Regiment Royal Engineers

The Army’s Chrissy Murray, herself two times UK National 24-Hour Time Trial champion, arranged for Louie to join the women and other members of the Afghan community at the gathering. Louie was joined by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Clark, who served in Afghanistan as an advisor to Afghan troops in Helmand. 

Louie exchanged notes with the Afghan National Women’s Champion, Fariba Hashimi, who has travelled from Italy and was preparing for the Women’s Time Trial the following day. Already cycling at national level, Louie, a former Arran High School pupil from Shishkine, was persuaded to join the Army two years ago by Chrissy Murray herself and has no regrets.

Louie said: “The British Army takes sport really seriously and joining has been a better option for me as a cyclist and athlete all round. I’ve got lots of cycling friends who went to Europe to race; many didn’t make it and are now stuck. In the Army, I get time to train and I’m supported by Army Cycling.”

Lieutenant Colonel Clark said: “The values that lead to sporting excellence are identical to core Army values: courage, selfless commitment, discipline and respect for others. Focus, fitness, training and competitive edge leads to success on operations, which is why the Army sponsors 59 different sports, and supports many more."

"By being here in Glasgow for the UCI World Championships despite all the challenges, and giving the competition their heart and soul, these elite Afghan women cyclists are an inspirational example of these values to us, and I’m honoured to have met them.”    

Louie will still be cycling for the Army but wants to focus on his Army career for a while. He heads off to 33 Regiment Royal Engineers, which specialises in bomb disposal and search. Louie also wants to attempt the gruelling selection process for the parachute forces later this year – for that he know he will rely heavily on a mindset that drives athletes like him to perform at the highest level.

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