As we usher in the new artistic cycling season, some familiar faces will be missing from the competition floor, while new talented riders will be looking to take their place.
When the 2020 UCI Artistic Cycling World Cup opens in Koblach, Austria, on February 29th, one special name in particular will be absent from the start list: Viola Brand from RSV Unterweissach, Germany. The Women Single European Champion, and triple UCI World Championships silver medallist announced her retirement from competition in mid-February.
“After almost 20 years of competitive sports, I decided to end my active career,” the 25-year-old student announced to her more than 239,000 followers on Instagram.
If her retirement is a surprise, the timing of the announcement – in a year that the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships will take place “at home” in Germany – may be even more so. In November, Stuttgart is set to host an event that’s all about the UCI rainbow jerseys: a piece of clothing that Viola Brand was never to wear.
“Of course it's something that is missing,” says Brand. “But I just showed a perfect freestyle at the last World Championships, mastering the ‘Maute-Jump’, the jump from saddle to handlebar. I'm very proud of that.”
Brand allowed herself plenty of time to make her decision. “It was very difficult for me because I am very grateful for what sport has given me over the years. It made me who I am today,” Brand says, “But I have now reached the point where I can no longer spend the 100 percent required for competitive sports. I miss the fun of the competition and the associated performance-oriented training.”
German national coach Dieter Maute regrets her departure: “We lose an absolute model athlete. I hope that Viola will continue to be a great representative for us and that maybe at some point in the future will also be involved in artistic cycling.”
It's time for Brand to undertake new activities. “I am very much looking forward to future projects with my bike. Although I will no longer be seen in the competition area, I will be at performances, shows and of course on social media.”
Farewell, Bringsken sisters
Two more faces will be conspicuous by their absence from the competition floor: the double UCI World Champions and three-time silver medallists in Women’s Pairs, Lena and Lisa Bringsken (Böhl-Iggelheim, Germany). “After much deliberation, we decided to take this step,” says Lena, at 24, the elder of the successful duo.
The sisters, who won the team classification in their federal state athlete election in January, announced their farewell during the ceremony.
Bravo, Bugner brothers
Meanwhile, the multiple UCI World Champions in the Pairs Open, André and Benedikt Bugner (Klein-Winterheim, Germany) had already announced their retirement shortly after the 2019 UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships, where they won the silver medal. After a long injury break, they had worked their way back up to the top. Six years after their first rainbow jerseys, the brothers had come full circle in Basel, Switzerland.
These retiring athletes clear the way for new blood. Some of these rising athletes will be competing at the UCI Artistic Cycling World Cup opener in Koblach, Austria. Germany’s depth of talent means it can close the resulting gaps almost seamlessly with talent moving forward from the second row. But it is not so instantaneous for riders and teams from Austria and Switzerland.
Following Koblach, the 2020 UCI World Cup will continue in Komarno, Slovakia, on June 27 and Hong Kong on August 8. The final will be held on November 21 in Albstadt, Germany, before the absolute highlight of the season: the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany, one week later (November 27-29).