The UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships (ICWC), which kick off in Switzerland this Friday, have a slightly “exotic” touch, thanks to the participation of athletes from countries which are not among the traditionally strong indoor cycling nations.
It is no secret that Germany is the dominating artistic cycling nation, and its reigning UCI World Champions who will be in Basel to defend their titles are Lena and Lisa Bringsken (Pair Women), Lukas Kohl (Single Men), and Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann (Pair Open).
But also appearing on the entries list for the Worlds in Basel (6-8 December) are, for example, Turkey and Greece, where a search for indoor cycling clubs would be in vain. Neither nation has been represented at this event in the recent past. They will be joined by athletes from the USA, Portugal, Spain and Italy who are in similar situations.
What unites the athletes representing these countries is that they all live and work in Germany, but will compete in the UCI World Championships for their country of origin.
For example, Junior athlete Ilayda Su represents Turkey, but rides at the RV Herrenzimmern club in Germany. Just as Ilayda is ready for her ICWC debut, so is Alexandra Georgiadis, whose club is RV Wendlingen, and who will be wearing the national jersey of Greece. Both Ilayda and Alexandra come from clubs that have already produced big champions.
Other starters from Germany are Michelle Lynn Bestler, representing the USA; Tamaris Franke Fontinha, wearing Portugeuse colours; Isabella and Giuliana Zübner of Italy; and Daniel Andrés Hecktor representing Spain. They each want to achieve good placings around the middle of the ranking, while the Zübner sisters are confident of a top-ten placing.
Meanwhile, making an ICWC comeback will be the original Canadian, Francis Gadbois.
The artistic cyclist made his first appearance on the UCI World Cup stage in 2010 and continued to compete until 2014, although indoor cycling came second to his career as a professional circus performer. He would entertain the thousands of spectators with unusual tricks before and after his competitions – for example, with a sideways somersault over his stationary bike or with a knife juggling act that impressed the crowds.
This year, Gadbois will appear on Friday evening, immediately after the opening ceremony and the first cycle-ball A-group match.
In the cycle-ball competition, two B-group teams include riders competing for their country or origin rather than their country of residence.
Representing Liechtenstein are the duo of Markus and Lukas Schönenberger, who live in Switzerland and can expect support from the local crowds. In 2017 and 2018 the brothers won the B Division, but then failed in the playoff to reach the A-group, both times against France. They will be looking to rectify that this year.
Armenia is being represented by two residents of Belgium: Arnak Mkhitaryan and Artak Voskanyan, who play for SNA Gent. The first-league duo wants to make the podium, after finishing fifth the two previous years.
Among the big favourites, however, are reigning UCI World Champions Markus Bröll and Patrick Schnetzer (RC Höchst / Austria) who will be looking for their sixth world title in what is their last UCI World Championships together.