Artistic cycling: four out of five UCI World Champions to defend their titles in Austria
The 2017 UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships get underway Friday in Dornbirn, Austria, with five artistic cycling titles up for grabs. And Austria’s national coach Günter Nicolussi is confident his athletes will shine in front of their home crowd and win a title, or at least a medal: “We might not be the largest or most diverse side, but we have some strong points when it comes to performance,” he said. “We manage to push all the way to the summit of the sport and clinch a gold medal every two or three years.”
Single Women: High hopes for hosts
The UCI World Championship hosts are particularly hopeful for their athletes in Friday’s Single Women event: “I’m confident that one of our two riders, Adriana Mathis and Julia Walser, will clinch the title,” said Hubert Schneider, Sporting Director of the Organising Committee. “The competition is completely open in the women’s event, so it’ll be a question of who holds their nerve and performs best on the day.”
Adriana Mathis took a surprise victory at the 2015 Worlds, the only competitor in the Final 4 to deliver a faultless routine. Experience will be key for the RC Meiningen athlete, who is preparing to make her sixth UCI World Championships appearance for Austria.
The event will already be the second UCI World Championships for 16-year-old Julia Walser (Gisingen). “If the conditions are right, Julia is also in a good position to ride her way to the top,” predicts Schneider. “The competition floor is the same one as at the 2008 UCI World Championships, and it garnered plenty of praise that year,” he added.
The home favourites will be strongly challenged by the top two German riders Viola Brand (Unterweissach) and Milena Slupina (Bernlohe). Brand will be making her fourth World Championships appearance, having won silver in 2016, while Slupina is preparing to make her debut at the event.
Among the outsiders with a shot at the podium are Swiss competitors Seraina Waibel (Pfungen) and Nathalie Walter (Löhningen). Missing from the line-up are defending UCI World Champion Lisa Hattemer of Germany, who failed to qualify, and Slovakia’s Nicole Frybortova, who has temporarily switched to exhibition riding.
ACT 4: Swiss to defend title
After an impressive season, defending UCI World Champions Switzerland are the clear favourites to take the first world title of the weekend, in the ACT 4 event on Friday evening. Melanie and Jennifer Schmid, Céline Burlet and Flavia Zuber from Sirnach will take to the floor as world record holders and this year’s top performers. However, with a line-up boasting several former UCI World Champions, the German quartet Steinhöring (Katharina Gülich, Michaela Schweiger, Ramona Ressel and Ramona Strassner) will definitely be eyeing gold for this, their final competition together.
Other contenders are Austria (Leonie Huber, Lea Schneider, Julia Wetzel and Lukas Schneider), the only mixed team in the competition, and last year’s bronze medallists Slovakia (Alica Vinczeova / Dora Szabo / Viktoria Glofakova / Henriette Domin).
Pair Women: Thürmer sisters aiming for another gold
Germany’s first clear hopes of a rainbow jersey will rest on the two pairs disciplines.
Sisters Julia and Nadja Thürmer (Mainz-Finthen) will be disappointed with anything but gold after dominating the entire season. Also present are last year’s silver medallists, siblings Lena and Lisa Bringsken (Böhl-Iggelheim), while hosts Austria will be hoping for a medal from Rosa Kopf and Svenja Bachmann (Sulz), who scooped bronze at the U-19 European Championships this spring. Their main rivals for a spot in the Final 4 are Swiss duo and European U-19 runners-up Laura Bruder and Julia Hämmerli (Hombrechtikon/Stäfa) and their compatriots, 2016 UCI World Championships bronze medallists Fabienne Gamper and Rahel Nägele (Uzwil/Wülfingen). Austrian team Anna Lins and Elisa Engljähringer (Altenstadt) have an outside chance of reaching the last four.
Open Pairs: exciting German duel expected
Arguably the most exciting duel at this year’s UCI World Championships will be in the Open Pairs event. After winning four successive world titles with relative ease, defending champions André and Benedikt Bugner (Klein-Winternheim/GER) will face some formidable competition from last year’s runners-up Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann (Öhringen) who have been particularly competitive this season. Competition between the two pairs reached a climax at the German Championships, where they were awarded joint first place. However, Hanselmann and Schefold generally outperformed their rivals at the Three Nations Cup between Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Three other pairs are in medal contention. Home fans will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s result, when Marcel Schnetzer and Jana Latzer (Altenstadt/AUT) finished third. Hong Kong’s Ip Hin Bon and Yu Pok Man finished alongside them in 2016 and will be keen to make the most of Asia’s biggest chance of a medal. Fifth last year, the mixed duo of Lukas Burri and Fabienne Hammerschmidt (Uzwil/SUI) have improved strongly this season, raising their difficulty score considerably: they currently hold the third-highest score of the year.
Single Men: final competition of weekend
The grand finale on Sunday is reserved for the Single Men event. Germany’s Lukas Kohl (Kirchehrenbach) could pull on the rainbow jersey again if he can keep his programme error-free, but debutant and compatriot Moritz Herbst (Wendlingen) will be waiting to pounce on any mistakes. These two riders are widely expected to collect the gold and silver medals.
Meanwhile the race for bronze is wide open after the withdrawal of Switzerland’s Yannick Martens, who finished third in 2016. The rankings suggest that multiple UCI World Championships bronze medallist Wong Chin To (Hong Kong) and Lukas Buri (Uzwil/SUI) are the leading candidates to take the final podium spot, while a flawless routine could give Hungarian Martin Schön (Bukod) the perfect opportunity to collect his country’s first UCI World Championships medal.