As Céline Burlet, Jennifer and Melanie Schmid and Flavia Zuber were hoisted onto their team-mates’ shoulders after the ACT4 artistic cycling medal ceremony, the disappointment on their faces finally ebbed away. After initially letting the tears flow, the Swiss quartet from Sirnach got to celebrate one last time as they completed the customary lap of honour.
Having already announced that they would not be competing in 2019, it was the three-time world champions and title holders’ final appearance at a UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships. In Liège, Belgium, on Friday evening, they were on course to clinch gold for much of the competition. With the most difficult routine of any team, the Swiss were the last quartet to take to the floor for what should have been an exhibition capping off a hat-trick of victories. Burlet, Schmid, Schmid and Zuber were ahead until the final minute of their display when disaster struck. A fall cost them valuable time and prevented them from performing their final pose before the time limit. Their final score was 204.93 points.
Germany were the beneficiaries of their mistake. Katharina Gülich, Ramona Ressel, Julia Dörner and Annamaria Milo had already delivered their strongest performance of the season to record a new personal best of 216.76 and set the bar high for Switzerland – too high, as it turned out. The result meant the team from RSV Steinhöring (near Munich) won the rainbow jersey at the first attempt. While Dörner and Milo are making their debut in the competition, Gülich has now collected six World Championships golds and Ressel a further two.
The smiles on the faces of Austria’s mixed team were as wide as those of the four girls on the top step of the podium. Just as they had hoped, 2018 U-19 European Championship silver medallist Julia Wetzel, Leonie Huber, Lea and Lukas Schneider (RC Höchst) delivered a masterclass on their third appearance at the World Championships, scoring 192.36 to leave Slovakia (169.54 points) in their wake. Lukas Schneider also made history by becoming the first man to win an Act4 medal at the World Championships, as this discipline was only open to all-female teams until two years ago.
In cycle-ball Group A, defending champions Germany opened their account with a tough 3-2 win over France. While cousins Bernd and Gerhard Mlady seemed to be very much on top of their encounter with brothers Quentin and Mathias Seyfried, they had to contend with the French pair’s clever defensive play.
Local heroes Brecht Damen and Niels Dirikx (Beringen) got the desired boost from the vociferous Belgian fans. The pair put in a respectable performance in the opening match against four-time world champions Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll (Höchst/AUT), ultimately suffering a 7-2 defeat.
Three former world champions battled it out in the last match on the first day of the World Championships. Switzerland’s Roman Schneider (2012 winner) and Paul Looser (2002) faced Czech pair Jiri Hrdlicka Sr. (2003/2008) and his partner Pavel Loskot. After going a goal behind, the Swiss duo turned things around to 4-2 in their favour by half-time and eventually came away with a 5-3 victory.
The four favourites for the Pairs Open crown successfully navigated qualifying. Defending champions Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann (GER/151.36 points), debutants Patrick Tisch and Nina Stapf (GER/144.81), Lukas Burri and Fabienne Hammerschmidt (SUI, 143.84) and Hin Jeff Lim Tsz and Leung Lim Tsz (HKG, 112.03) will all compete in the Final 4 on Saturday afternoon.
As expected, Liechtenstein got off to a stunning start in Group B of the cycle-ball competition. Lukas and Markus Schönenberger posted resounding wins in their four games against Canada (8-0), Malaysia (12-0), Armenia (7-0) and Hong Kong (5-2). Their tussle with overnight runners-up Japan and third-place Hungary gets underway at 8.00 local time on Saturday.
RESULTS - Day 1
1. Gülich Katharina / Ressel Ramona / Dörner Julia / Milo Annamaria (GER) - 216.76 points
2. Burlet Céline / Schmid Jennifer / Schmid Melanie / Zuber Flavia (SUI) – 204.93
3. Wetzel Julia / Huber Leonie / Schneider Lea / Schneider Lukas (AUT) – 192.36
4. Dora Szabo / Domin Henriette / Kulich Eszter / Mihalics Panna Rebeka (SVK) – 169.54
Mixed Elite - qualification
1. Schefold Serafin / Hanselmann Max (GER) – 151.36
2. Tisch Patrick / Stapf Nina (GER) – 144.81
3. Burri Lukas / Hammerschmidt Fabienne (SUI) – 143.84
4. Lim Tsz Hin Jeff / Lim Tsz Leung (HKG) – 112.03
5. Gruna Tomas / Masek Jakub (CZE) – 96.04
6. Fournier Gauthier / Lembrez Audrey (FRA) – 75.34
Cycle-ball Group A
GER 3-2 FRA (2-1)
AUT 7-2 BEL (3-0)
SUI 5-3 CZE (4-2)
Cycle-ball Group B
LIE 8-0 CAN
HUN 3-2 MAL
JPN 5-2 ARM
HKG 3-1 CAN
LIE 12-0 MAS
HUN 4-3 ARM
JPN 8-3 HKG
MAL 2-2 CAN
LIE 7-0 ARM
HUN 3-3 HKG
JAP 6-1 CAN
ARM 4-2 MAS
LIE 5-2 HKG
HUN 5-2 JAP
Single Women – qualification, preliminary results
Rieb Alice FRA – 116.95
Franke Fontinha Tamaris POR – 90.98
So Cheuk Lam HKG – 87.45
Hugyecz Zsofia HUN – 86.27
Kondo Nazuki JPN – 82.36
Schrooten Jennifer NED – 80.86
Bestler Michelle USA – 77.32
Zan-Fabian Panna Klara UKR – 73.45
Zibrita Natalia SVK – 66.09
Sugta Julianna HUN – 62.96
Rakocz Dora SVK – 58.22
Schrooten Brenda NED – 57.16