Switzerland takes first Gold medal in Dornbirn
Day one of the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships has come and gone. A crowd of 3,000 spectators were in attendance in Dornbirn, Austria and thousands more followed the proceedings on live streams, witnessing a moving opening ceremony, cycle ball drama and a first decision of the very top level.
The first title went to Switzerland. In the 4 Open Class, Celine Burlet, Jennifer Schmid, Melanie Schmid and Flavia Zuber repeated their triumph from the previous year, scoring 225.13 points to justify their favourites tag and keep their challengers at arm’s length. Germany (216.04 points) came in second, while bronze went to Slovakia (184.03).
“We can hardly put it into words!” said the team from Sirnach immediately after their victory. “It was unbelievable to ride here in Dornbirn in an atmosphere like this.” Admittedly, this had not necessarily been their best performance of the season, but “we fought through,” they continued. “We said to ourselves beforehand that we go out onto the track together, we rode together and we leave the track together – no matter what happens.” Each of them evidently agreed that such team spirit was key to the win.
For Germany and their foursome from Steinhöring, this was the final chapter in a hugely successful story. For the second year in a row, they rode with a different line-up: Katharina Gülich, Ramona Strassner, Ramona Ressel und Michaela Schweiger, who replaced Christine Posch, ended their careers with a silver medal. Since 2010, the team from Steinhöring had competed at no less than seven world championships with various personnel, winning four titles in succession between 2010 and 2014 and silver medals in the last two years. It is a truly remarkable record that makes this German team the most successful ever in UCI World Championship history. Only one rider was present for all six of those tournaments, however: Katharina Gülich. “When things are at their best, that’s when you should call it a day,” she said in explaining her decision to retire. Additionally, a raft of talented youngsters is coming through in the club and Gülich made it clear she did not intend to hamper their progression. “We want to make room for them.”
The third-placed team from Slovakia, comprised of Alica Vinczeova, Dora Szabo, Viktoria Glofakova and Henrietta Domin, also took to the track at last year’s world championships. “Due to our jobs and studies, we’re all living in different places, which only leaves us the weekends to train,” said Vinczeova. That perceived disadvantage did not appear to harm them too much, however, as the quartet delivered their best-ever performance at a world championship. In their home country, the three-time bronze medal winners currently enjoy something resembling star status since 2016, filming adverts with compatriot and road-cycling world champion Peter Sagan. “We want to use our popularity in order to make our sport more well-known,” said the four winners of a national TV talent show some years ago. “We’ll carry on putting on a show.” They also plan to stay in the sport as coaches when they retire from riding.
The Austrians, meanwhile, gave a good account of themselves on home turf, but Leonie Huber, Lea Schneider, Julia Wetzel and Lukas Schneider, the only mixed team in the competition, had to settle for fourth. They may be disappointed but there is surely to more to come from this young team in the future.
In the cycle-ball event, defending champions and clear favourites Austria underlined their intent on winning a home world championship with a resounding opening-day win. Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll were simply too strong for Belgium’s Damen Brecht and Niels Dirikx, winning 12-2. Switzerland (Roman Schneider/Dominik Planzer) saw off France (Benjamin Meyer/Quentin Seyfried) 7-2, while Germany defeated Czech Republic in the evening’s final match. Cousins Bernd and Gerhard Mlady won out 6-3 in a competitive affair against father-son duo Jiri and Jiri Hrdlicka.
In Group B, world championship debutants Liechtenstein (Lukas an Markus Schönenberger) are top after day one, ahead of Hungary (Toma Vilmos/Tamas Arendas). Both teams are unbeaten in four matches so far. Behind them in second place are Japan (Akatsu Riku/Matsuda Ko), followed by Hong Kong (Ho Wing Tai / Kwan Chun Hin).
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