After the BMX Racing and BMX Freestyle, the combined cycling event at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) gets under way in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Saturday.
For both the men’s and women’s competitions, teams of two athletes will each compete in five events on five consecutive days: three on the road (team time trial, road race and criterium) and two for mountain bike (cross-country Eliminator and cross-country Short Circuit).
Consistency will be a major factor, with the final ranking established according to each team’s combined results after all five events.
For an event including mountain bike and road cycling, nobody could be better qualified than Austria’s Laura Stigger, Junior UCI World Champion in both disciplines. The 18-year-old will team up with Hannah Streicher (17) to defend the Austrian colours.
Laura Stigger claimed the hearts of the Austrian home crowd – and many other fans at the same time – when she rode to victory in the Junior Women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck on September 27th. Her performance was even more incredible given that it was only her second-ever road race. In fact, Laura Stigger is a mountain biker, and three weeks earlier had claimed the Junior Women’s XCO title, for the second consecutive year, at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships presented by Mercedes-Benz in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
In the days leading up to her competitions in Argentina, the triple UCI World Champion is serene: “I will enter the competition calmly, without pressure, because I have already exceeded the targets I set myself for 2018. Nonetheless, I am an athlete, so I want to have success. I can promise that there will be enough concentration and commitment!
The Olympic experience
“I am looking forward to experiencing the Olympic flair which I read about as a child. It is a unique situation getting to live together with many sports people from different nations in a small space.”
If time allows, she intends to watch other youngsters competing in different sports.
“I am quite a sporting freak and I would like to watch some of the other competitions, particularly as every athlete will be giving their best possible performance.”
Laura Stigger is used to success. She is unbeaten in mountain biking in 2017 and 2018, and having only just turned 18 – she celebrated her birthday two days before her victory in Innsbruck – has three rainbow jerseys to her name. Is one of them more special than the others?
“I am equally happy with all three jerseys. Each one has a story of its own behind it. To put it straight, I am simply happy I have been able to get all three of them. Every World Championships requires the highest level of concentration. The most difficult for me was naturally the race in Innsbruck because my roots are in mountain bike. I was not so familiar with the tactics of road cycling racing.
“My dream was to win a medal in Innsbruck, but to succeed in this phenomenal way was something nobody reckoned with. I was a rank outsider and therefore I felt no pressure. The enormous number of fans pushed me to the extreme so from that angle, it was a clear advantage racing at home in Tirol!”
Asked whether she will continue to race on the road, the young athlete would not be drawn: “After Buenos Aires I will take my time making a decision. But at heart, I am a mountain biker. Next year I move up from Juniors to Under-23s and my prime goal will be to establish myself there as fast as possible.”
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