The cream of artistic cycling embarks on its second UCI World Cup season this Saturday, March 9th, in Prague. After the success of last year’s inaugural competition, the Czech capital once again hosts the opening round of the UCI Artistic Cycling World Cup. Comprising four rounds in four different countries, the 2019 series will run through until November.
The 39 acts from 13 nations on the start list for Prague include all reigning UCI World Champions in the five disciplines: Women’s and Men’s Singles; Women’s and Elite Pairs, and Act Four Open.
Lukas Kohl, representing RMSV Kirchhrenbach, is the Men’s Singles defending champion and clear favourite. With his submitted score of 208 points, he leads a German trio which is strong enough to occupy all three podium spots: UCI World Championships silver medallist Moritz Herbst (Wendlingen / 206.70 points) and European Championships silver medallist Marcel Jüngling (Dornheim / 200.70) have similarly high starting points, so Kohl cannot afford to make a mistake.
During preparation in his hometown, Kohl has had guests from the Far East. A delegation from Macau has been in Germany since Monday, preparing for the UCI World Cup alongside their role model. It is not uncommon in the indoor cycling family for top riders to pass on their knowledge despite still being competitive.
In the Women's Singles, Iris Schwarzhaupt (SK Stuttgart / GER) competes wearing the UCI rainbow jersey for the first time. She is the top seeded starter in Prague with her submitted score of 199.90 points. Schwarzhaupt’s compatriots World Championships silver medallist Milena Slupina (TSV Bernlohe / GER – 198.9 points) and overall UCI World Cup winner in 2018, Mareen Haase (RV Hoffnungsthal / GER), will do their very best to put pressure on the reigning UCI World Champion. Adriana Mathis (RC Meiningen/AUT), 2015 UCI World Champion, also goes to the Czech Republic searching for a podium place.
The Germans are also clear favourites in the Pair disciplines. In the Open class, in which men's and mixed pairs compete against each other, the two-time UCI World Champions and Max Hanselmann (RV Öhringen/GER) expect stiff competition. The 2018 UCI World Championships bronze medallists Patrick Tisch and Nina Stapf (RV Magstadt / GER), have extended their submitted score and move closer to Schefold / Hanselmann, as do the UCI World Championships silver medallists, Lukas Burri and Fabienne Hammerschmidt (Uzwil / SUI). These three pairs start only eight points apart and have a marked advantage over the rest of the field.
The Women’s Pairs are similarly close, with three German teams setting the tone. The field is led by UCI World Champions Lena and Lisa Bringsken (RCV Böhl-Iggelheim / GER), closely followed by the UCI World Championships second-placed duo of Sophie Nattmann and Caroline Wurth (RSV Gutach / GER) with a slight lead over the third German pair of Helen Vordermeier and Selina Marquardt (RV Oberjesingen). Anything but a triple success for these Germans would be a surprise.
The Act-4 team from Switzerland, however, is the only non-German participant in one of the top three positions in the starting order. Making their UCI World Cup debut, Ronja Zünd, Fabienne Haas, Laura Tarneller and Nadine Bisseger (Rheineck / Uzwil) won bronze in the Swiss Championships and compete in Prague with the toughest freestyle routine.
The reigning UCI World Champions from RSV Steinhöring (GER) start the competition with a slightly transformed team. Katharina Güllich has given up her place, so Ramona Ressel, Julia Dörner and Annamaria Milo welcome newcomer Annalena Vollbrecht to complete the quartet.
Following the first round in Prague on Saturday, the UCI Artistic Cycling World Cup will continue in Merelbeke (Belgium) on 25th May, Bokod (Hungary) on 10th August and Erlenbach (Germany) on 30th November.