UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships: mixture of confirmed champions and new talent
It is difficult to imagine a better motivational boost than the one that Slovakia’s ACT 4 team received shortly before the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
The quartet of Alica Vinczeová, Dora Szabo, Viktoria Glofakova and Henrietta Domin did not break any records or win an elite competition. Instead, the 2011 and 2015 World Championships bronze medallists came top in an audience vote to win the ‘Čzesko Slovensko má Talent’ television show and receive a €50,000 prize that will come in very handy for this up-and-coming indoor cycling nation.
Slovakia’s newest stars of the small screen are among the favourites to collect a medal in Stuttgart. Although ACT 4 is being held as an open category for the first time this year, only Austria have taken up the option of fielding a mixed team.
The battle for gold is likely to be contested by the last two teams to stand on the top step of the podium, with Switzerland represented by current world record holders and 2014 winners Sirnach, while Germany are pinning their hopes on reigning UCI World Champions RSV Steinhöring.
As the world’s number one indoor cycling nation, the UCI World Championships hosts will be hoping to come away from the event with the maximum possible medal haul, with anything other than another German one-two likely to cause a sensation in the Pairs Women category. Reigning Champions Nadja and Julia Thürmer and 2015 runners-up Lena and Lisa Bringsken simply hold too great an advantage over their rivals and will be determined to prevent any significant slip-ups. Meanwhile, Swiss pairs Nathalie Steinemann/Michele Griesser and Fabienne Gamper/Rahel Nägele lie in wait behind the outright favourites and could pose a threat if they deliver flawless performances.
The path to a fourth title for perennial performers and three-time UCI World Champions André and Benedikt Bugner in the Pairs Open category is far from straightforward this year. The brothers will face a strong challenge in the form of debutants Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann, while Hong Kong duo Ip Hin Bon and Yu Pok Man are expected to battle it out for the bronze with mixed pairs Lukas Burri and Fabienne Hammerschmidt of Switzerland and Austria’s Marcel Schnetzer and Jana Latzer.
Six candidates are in contention to reach the final four of the men’s solo category. While Germany are almost certain to take home the gold, it remains to be seen which of their riders will claim the rainbow jersey. Experienced defending champion Michael Niedermeier will have to fend off ambitious youngster Lukas Kohl in his fourth UCI World Championships: the two athletes were the only riders to pass the 200-point mark in this season’s German Championships.
Given the host nation’s dominance in this event, challengers Yannick Martens (SUI), Wong Chin To (HKG), Martin Schön (HUN), Lukas Burri (SUI) and Tomas Rozboril (SVK) are unlikely to be in contention for more than a bronze medal.
The women’s event is looking somewhat unpredictable this year, with injury forcing 2015’s surprise winner Adriana Mathis (AUT) to watch from the sidelines as seven of her contemporaries battle it out to become the next UCI World Champion.
As the world’s best performer this year and current UCI world record holder, Germany’s Lisa Hattemer is the favourite to clinch gold. Compatriot Viola Brand will be aiming for a medal at her third UCI World Championships after going home empty-handed from both previous outings. Brand received a valuable confidence boost just a week before the competition by winning the renowned ‘Grosser Erlenbacher Weinpreis’ event.
Indoor cycling fans are eagerly awaiting the UCI World Championships debut of Austria’s Julia Walser. Three weeks short of her 16th birthday, the U-19 world record holder could give herself the perfect gift with a strong free programme. Among the other medal contenders are 2015 runner-up Nicole Frybortova (SVK), Seraina Waibel (SUI), Melanie Mörth (AUT) and Nathalie Walter (SUI).
Austrian pair Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll are once again the favourites to take home the cycle-ball title as they aim to become world champions for the fourth year running. While such a victory would enable Schnetzer to collect his fifth gold since 2011, former UCI World Champions and last year’s runners-up Altdorf (Roman Schneider/Dominik Planzer) will be keen to try and spoil the party.
German duo Gerhard and Bernd Mlady from Bavarian team Stein can count on the support of many of the 6,000 spectators gathered in Stuttgart. Fans spurred German team Gärtringen all the way to the title at the Porsche Arena in 2010, and the Mlady cousins will be hoping history repeats itself as they prepare to make their UCI World Championships debut.
Meanwhile, can Equipe de France repeat their bronze medal coup of 2015? Like the pairs from the Czech Republic (Jiri Hrdlicka/Pavel Loskot) and Belgium (Brecht Damen/Niels Dirikx), Benjamin Meyer and Quentin Seyfried will be doing their best to frustrate the favourites and avoid the last-place finish that would force them into a top-flight relegation play-off against the second division champions.