Adil Moroj dreams of becoming Saudi Arabia’s first pro and racing Paris-Roubaix
The 24-year-old is spending this season in Europe as she targets a pro contract. She recently spent time with Jayco-AlUla at the Amstel Gold Race.
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Adil Moroj has big dreams to become the first Saudi Arabian pro cyclist.
The 26-year-old only took up cycling two years ago, but she’s hoping to secure a pro contract before 2023 is out, and is already being nurtured by the Jayco-AlUla squad.
Moroj recently spent a day with the squad at the Amstel Gold Race. As well as getting to see her first professional race up close and personal, she was able to pick up some valuable tips from the team’s current roster.
The visit has only furthered her desire to go professional, and she wants to be in the bunch by the time the classics come around next spring.
“I was telling everyone that I came to watch the race, and it was my first time to watch a pro race in Europe but believe me by next year, I will come to race, not to watch,” Moroj told VeloNews.
“I learned many things [at Amstel] and it was such a good motivation for me and an inspiration for me to learn and hear from the pro riders actually.
“They gave me a lot of advice from how to race in Europe, what the difference is, and what the challenges and difficulties are. It was really interesting to hear their stories and get to learn from their experience.”
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Moroj, who is staying in Girona at the moment, has been in Europe since early April and plans to race primarily across Belgium and the Netherlands as she looks to develop as a rider. She hopes that by the end of the summer that she will have done enough to earn herself a professional contract.
If it all goes to plan, she dreams of one day being able to ride Paris-Roubaix.
“I will say here until September, or maybe even after September, because I have a purpose and aim, and that’s to join a pro team by the end of the year. I’m trying to develop myself in this period of time,” Moroj said.
“The most interesting race for me is Paris-Roubaix, which is the one that I’m aiming to race. For the next few years, I want to prepare myself for this race, and I’m aiming to race Paris-Roubaix in 2026.”
While a trip to Europe to race was already in the plan for Moroj, her connection with the Jayco-AlUla came by chance after the men’s team stuck around for a few days after the Saudi Tour in February.
The race is held in the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia, which is a major sponsor of the Australian squad and is where Moroj has lived for the last six months.
She took the chance to tell them her story and things moved on quickly. After another meeting with the team in March, she was on her way to Spain with a new bike and the backing of a WorldTour squad. The team also has an option to sign her, should she prove herself as a rider this summer.
“I was planning already to come to Europe and Spain, especially, in the summer. I already had a plan that I would cover everything, and plan for everything on my own,” she said. “I met Jayco-AlUla in AlUla. We got to know them, and I told them my story and what I’m planning to do over the rest of the season of the year. As soon as they heard my story, they said they would support me as a rider, and I was really glad for that.
“They asked me what bike I was training on, and I told them that I didn’t have a road bike for the last few months. So, Liv [Jayco-AlUla’s women’s bike supplier -ed] sponsored me with a bike. I literally got everything from them from A to Z to be here in Europe.”
Hooked on cycling
Moroj’s dreams of becoming a professional cyclist have come quickly for her after she only started riding a bike regularly around two years ago. At the time, riding proved to be a form of escapism for her as she dealt with the death of her father.
She was able to go out and ride as the notoriously strict rules for women in Saudi Arabia were beginning to become more relaxed. It didn’t take long before she was hooked on riding and wanted to see how far she could progress.
“I used to be very attached to my father, and after he passed away, I felt like I was lost. I didn’t know what to do or where I have to go, and I found the bike,” Moroj said. “It was when they allowed the females in my country to go and do outdoor sports. So, I started cycling as a hobby just to spend time outside and, day by day, I found myself starting to be very addicted and attached to cycling.
“I found how cycling can change many sides of me, like how it could affect my mentality, my mindset, my mood, my body. I started to think about how is cycling around the world and how races are happening around Europe. Then, I started to think that I have to be a pro cyclist. But the problem was how to start, and which path should I go.”
The 24-year-old was planning to move to another city to study at university when she began riding, but cycling quickly took over her plans and she moved to AlUla toward the end of 2022. In a country where women experienced very limited rights, Moroj stood out on her bike.
“In the beginning, it was a little bit hard. It was a bit difficult challenge for females especially. Still people there have their mentality and mindset, and not all of them accepted that, but that was in the past,” she said.
“They start to change this idea about women and cycling, and I’m really happy because the cycling community in Saudi Arabia is starting to become larger.”
Moroj, who grew up in a small town near Mecca as the fourth of five siblings, had lots of hobbies in her youth, from budding guitarist to tennis player. She changed her passions so often that her family didn’t expect her to stick to cycling for too long.
However, cycling is the one activity that has stuck and Moroj’s family is fully behind her ambitions.
“I was the one in the family who always wanted to jump outside the comfort zone and came up with out-of-the-box ideas,” she said. “I would always come up with a different topic talent I wanted to learn. I decided to be a guitarist, so I told people I want to be a guitarist and I have to get a guitar.
“I started to play guitar and after two months I came up with another idea, I want to play tennis and then I don’t want to be that anymore, I want to be a motorbike racer. When I start cycling, they thought it was something that I would do for a short period of time and I will get bored of this, but when I started to race and finish all these races I became more addicted and they believed in it. They I really want to be a pro cyclist and they support me and my cycling journey.”
If Moroj is able to secure the professional contract she would be the first full professional from Saudi Arabia, male or female. She wants to use the opportunity to inspire other riders from her home country, as well as projecting a different view of women from Saudi Arabia to the wider world.
“It would mean a lot to me, and I’m really looking forward it. I think it will reflect a good image of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi female and how we are capable enough to race. People, especially in Europe, still have a really narrow vision about Saudi Arabia. They are still thinking that Saudi women are not able to compete or to be equal with other women [from elsewhere], but we are,” Moroj said.
“It’s really important for me to share this experience from Europe with my country and the riders, and show how they can be a real pro. I know that feeling when you want to start a journey, but you don’t know which path you have to go. For the young generation, and the young riders, I don’t want them suffer, I don’t want them to feel like they are lost.”