Cairo welcomes the world’s best junior track riders to Africa

The planet’s finest Junior female and male cyclists are gearing up to shine on the south shores of the Mediterranean sea as the Egyptian capital prepares to host the 2021 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, from Wednesday 1st to Sunday 5 September.

Over five days off intense competition, the new international velodrome of Cairo will see rainbow jerseys awarded in 22 events – the highest number since the inception of the event in 1975 – with gender parity across the board: Scratch Race, individual and team sprints, individual and team pursuits, keirin, points race, Omnium, time trial, Madison and, for the first time, the elimination.

The competitors will be particularly motivated after the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the postponement of this year’s event from April to September. Finally, the world’s best junior track athletes can do what they do best – compete – as they have done since the first edition of the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, back in 1975. Since then, the event has visited all four corners of the planet and, for the 46th edition in 2021, will settle in Egypt.

“The Junior category only lasts two years, but it’s a critical phase in athlete development,” said Cycling Canada’s NextGen coach Jenny Trew in the spring, as she feared her young proteges wouldn’t be able to fly to Cairo. Canadians are now among the 46 nations who confirmed their participation in the event.

The return to Africa, after previous editions in Casablanca (Morocco) in 1986 and Cape Town (South Africa) in 1997 and 2008, sees a record number of African nations participating, including countries competing for the first time.

The host nation has 11 riders (four women and seven men) to try and claim, at home, a first medal for Egypt in the history of the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships. Algeria, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are the other African nations competing, to be compared with the three that participated in 2019 (Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa).

They’re already training in the Cairo facilities ahead of the big events, with the first finals – the women’s Scratch and the team sprints, both for the men and women – taking place on day one of the competition. In total, 258 riders are registered to compete in Cairo.

A good percentage of the field is coming straight off the UEC European Track Junior Championships held in Apeldoorn a couple of weeks before the UCI Worlds. The racing was exhilarating in the Netherlands with riders from the Russian Federation dominating the medal standings in the junior ranks, alongside Great Britain (who aren’t participating in Cairo).

Of eight gold medals for the Russians, Alina Lysenko took four: in the individual and team sprints (alongside Elizaveta Bogomolova and Elizaveta Krechkina, as the women’s team sprint is now raced with three riders, like the men’s), the 500m time trial and the keirin. In Cairo, she’s signed up for the individual sprint, the keirin and the time trial, and as a substitute for the team sprint. An intense five days of competition awaits for this rising talent.

Lysenko and her team sprint partners are not the only Russian gold medallists from the Europeans to chase further glory in Egypt. Nikita Kalachnik comes to Cairo in confident mood after taking gold in the men’s sprint and keirin; Alena Ivanchenko won the women’s points race; and Alina Moiseeva was the last woman standing in the elimination race.

Other recent European Champions that are set to race the UCI Worlds include Germany’s Willy Weinrich (1km time trial), Italy’s Samuele Bonetto (individual pursuit) and Valentina Basilico (Scratch), and Czech Republic’s Matyas Koblizek (points race).

Alongside all this European talent, let’s not forget the strong entrants coming from Asian strongholds such as Malaysia and Hong Kong, as well as India, who’ve ridden to the forefront in recent years. The USA squad also features the versatile talent of Kaia Schmid, who shines not only on the bike but the skis, too. She is just one of many talented young track cyclists with their eyes on the rainbow jersey in Cairo.