2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships begin with Australian medal haul

Australia has taken an impressive early lead in the medals table at the 2019 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Emmen, the Netherlands, while the record breaking Briton Dame Sarah Storey added another rainbow jersey to her extensive collection.

Although Thursday was the first full day of racing, action kicked off the evening before with the mixed team relay in the city centre: teams of three riders from the H1-5 categories raced three laps each of a 1.42km circuit.

The powerful Italian triumvirate of Paolo Cecchetto (MH3), Luca Mazzone (MH2) and Alessandro Zanardi (MH5) took the first gold of the championships in 21:28mins. The USA team, comprising William Groulx (MH2), Brandon Lyons (MH3) and Thomas Davis (MH4), beat Germany (Annika Zeyen, WH3; Bernd Jeffre, MH4; Vico Merklein, MH3) to silver by just 3secs in 21:42mins. Meanwhile it was a fierce battle behind the top teams, with France, Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium near tied after the first lap. All but France faded as the race rolled on, with the French finishing fifth behind Spain.

Thursday began with the men’s C2 individual time trial around Emmen city centre. The competitive field of 24 para-cyclists battled over two 10.4km laps. An impressive Darren Hicks (AUS) held off current world number one Ewoud Vromant (BEL) to win the first individual gold of the five-day championships. Canada’s Tristen Chernove, second in the rankings, took bronze.

It was déjà vu in the women’s C5 time-trial as Dame Sarah Storey (GBR) retained her world title in style, beating silver medallist Anna Harkowska (POL) by 58secs. Germany’s Kerstin Brachtendorf finished third. Storey has now won an incredible 30 world titles across swimming and cycling.

The morning session continued to be successful for Australia as Emily Petricola stormed to gold in the women’s C4 time trial, her winning time of 30:55mins courtesy of an average speed of 40.354km/hr. Team-mate Meg Lemon took bronze with 2016 Paralympic gold medallist Shawn Morelli (USA) sandwiched in-between for silver.

The men’s C1 were up next and, based on 2019 UCI World Cup form, there was a surprise as multiple winner Ricardo Ten Argilés missed out on the medals in fourth. The Spanish athlete recorded a strong time of 30:56mins – but not strong enough to leapfrog Canada’s Ross Wilson in third. 2018 winner Michael Teuber (GER) added silver to his collection, but missed out on gold to the USA’s Aaron Keith, who was the only one to duck under 30mins in 29:30mins.

Australia continued on a roll when pre-race favourite Paige Greco justified that tag with a C3 gold-winning time of 32:10mins. Nevertheless, Greco was threatened by Keiko Sugiura of Japan, who finished less than 3secs behind the Australian. Clara Brown of the USA took bronze.

The People’s Republic of China then racked up its first medal of the championships: gold, in the women’s C2 category thanks to an impressive 20.8km time trial by Sini Zeng. Zeng carried over her form from her victory in August’s UCI World Cup in Canada, to beat second-placed Sarah Ellington (NZL) by 47secs (34:15mins to 35:02mins). Colombia’s Daniela Munevar Florez won bronze.

It was a case of who would win which medal in the women’s C1 category as three para-cyclists fought over gold, silver and bronze. China won out with Wangwei Qian recording the fastest time of 37:27mins. Great Britain’s Katie Toft finished second ahead of Australia’s Kaitlyn Schurmann.

The men’s tandem then took centre stage with three laps of the 10.4km circuit. True to form, 39-year-old Dutch para-cyclist Vincent ter Schure and pilot Timo Fransen - who’d enjoyed a clean sweep of UCI World Cup victories in Corridonia (ITA), Ostend (BEL) and Baie-Comeau (CAN) – recorded a magnificent average speed of 51.587km/hr to win gold in 36:17mins. It was a staggering effort by the experienced duo who had to be on their best form to beat Great Britain’s Stephen Bate and pilot Adam Duggleby (36:44mins). Poland’s Marcin Polak and Michal Ladosz grabbed bronze.

In the men’s C5, Australia won its fourth gold medal of the first day thanks to Alistair Donohoe (39:22mins). Donohoe is only 24 years old but has already won Cycling Australia’s Elite Para-cyclist of the Year award three times. He had to be at his best, however, to hold off the Netherlands’ Daniel Abraham Gebru by less than 2ecs. Brazil’s Lauro Chaman finished third.

The men’s C4 race was also a close affair, Slovakia’s Jozef Metelka beating Russia’s Sergei Pudov by 18secs (40:40mins vs 41:08mins). Carol-Eduard Novak of Romania won bronze.

A golden day for the gold-and-green squad concluded with the man known as Diesel Dave – David Nicholas - winning gold in the men’s C3 category. Australia’s fifth gold medal of an astonishing first day came via a 41:25min winning effort – over a minute ahead of second-placed Matthias Schindler (GER). Britain’s Ben Watson won bronze.

Thursday’s final event – the women’s tandem – saw Ireland’s Katie-George Dunlevy and pilot Eve McCrystal retain their 2018 title in style (41:02mins), beating the New Zealand pairing of Emma Foy and Hannah van Kampen by 55secs. Great Britain’s Lora Fachie and Corrine Hall won bronze.

Friday’s action begins at 10am CET with the men’s T2 time trial.