UCI Para-cycling Road Worlds: Italy starts off with a bang!
Team Italy set the tone Thursday, day one of the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, winning four gold medals in time trial events. Team Germany also impressed, grabbing three world titles.
Italy’s Alessandro Zanardi (H5), a former race car driver, added yet another UCI rainbow jersey to his growing collection. With an average speed of 37km/hr, Zanardi narrowly defeated the Netherlands’ Tim De Vries by two seconds; Portugal’s Luis Costa took the bronze medal.
Luca Mazzone (H2), Francesca Porcellato (H3), and Paolo Cecchetto (H3) also helped Italy celebrate cycling excellence today with their wins.
Victory was particularly sweet for Porcellato. The reigning UCI World Champion in both the time trial and road race suffered major injury last year which saw her lose the use of her right arm just two months before the Rio 2016 Paralympics. After fighting back to take two bronze medals in Rio, Porcellato proved that she is truly on top of her game in Pietermaritzburg: “I am just so happy,” she said. “I worked a lot for this. I wanted this medal, and I wanted this colour! My win today is good for me mentally.”
Though the Netherlands missed out on gold in Men’s H5 racing, Jetze Plat graciously provided his country with a gold in H4 racing, simply flying past fellow competitors Rafal Wilk (Poland) and Krystian Gierda.
“It was the best time trial I’ve ever had in my life! I just spent three weeks training at altitude and I knew the course would suit me,” exclaimed Plat, who now possesses his first-ever UCI World Championship title.
Not even age can stop Hans-Peter Durst
Germany’s Hans-Peter Durst may be nearing his sixties, but nothing seems to slow down this T2 para-cycling powerhouse; Thursday, Durst out-paced American Ryan Boyle and New Zealand’s Stephen Hills. However, victory wasn’t always a given, as by mid-course the German was lagging behind Boyle, but he rallied back to gain 16 seconds on the American.
“Ryan is very strong, so it’s almost a shame that he didn’t win,” commented Durst, who now has five consecutive wins under his belt. “However, I’ve been told that five wins in a row is a record, so today’s win is very special to me.”
Andrea Eskau (H5) and Christiane Reppe (H4) also snapped up gold medals for Team Germany.
After winning silver in the time trial two years ago in Nottwil (Switzerland) and at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, Eskau was more than happy to go one better in Pietermaritzburg. Reigning UCI World Champion in the road race, she will be hoping to make it a double with the time trial victory already under her belt: “It’s always such a great feeling to win. Both the ITT course and the road race course here suit me. You need to be powerful but not too technical which is good because I’m not a technical rider.”
Canada’s Shelley Gauthier will also be packing a glorious rainbow jersey in her suitcase—her fourth consecutive world title in the T1 time trial event. Gauthier beat Russia’s Yulia Sibagatova, while South Africa’s Toni Mould earned host country South Africa’s first medal of the Championships.
In Women’s H2, Carmen Koedood (Netherlands) took home gold ahead of Ireland’s Clara Staunton; para-cycling alone to victory in the H1 category, Emilie Miller (Australia) will also takes home gold, as will fellow Australian Carol Cooke (T2), a two-time gold medalist at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
Benjamin Früh (Switzerland) won H1 gold, ahead of Nicolas Pieter Du Preez in front of his home South African crowd.
Lastly, Sergei Semochkin (Russia) took an impressive win ahead of Rickard Nilsson (Sweden) and Leonardo Melle (Italy) in the Men’s T1 category.
Friday C and B (Tandem) athletes will take on time trial events—stay tuned!