The final UCI World Championships of 2018 take place this weekend in Liège, Belgium, where artistic cyclists and cycle-ball teams will battle for the rainbow jersey.
Five artistic cycling World titles are up for grabs at the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships, with four of the reigning UCI World Champions in Liège to defend their titles.
Friday evening will be special for defending ACT 4 Open UCI World Champions RV Sirnach (Switzerland). Céline Burlet, Jennifer Schmid, Melanie Schmid and Flavia Zuber will be taking their curtain call after a glorious career that has seen them win the World title three times since 2014, missing out only in 2015.
Again favourites in Liège, they will face fierce competition from RSV Steinhöring/GER. The team boasts another new line-up for this year’s event, with Katharina Gülich the only rider to have represented the side since 2010. The team from Slovakia, SKC Kolarovo also has some new members, while the only mixed team in the competition (Höchst/AUT) will be determined to finally take home a medal this year in their third bid for a podium place.
In the Women Single competition, another two Swiss riders will be making their final appearances at the Worlds: Swiss National Champion Nathalie Walter (Löhningen) and Switzerland’s record holder Seraina Waibel (Pfungen).
The leading favourite for gold in this category is defending UCI World Champion Milena Slupina (Bernlohe/GER). Her challengers include World Championships new-comer Iris Schwarzhaupt (Stuttgart/GER) and 2015 UCI World Champion Adriana Mathis (Meiningen/AUT). Fans are eagerly anticipating the return of Denise Boller (Gisingen/AUT), who has had two children since winning the competition in 2010 and last competed at the event in 2013.
All eyes will be on two-time UCI World Champion Lukas Kohl (Kirchehrenbach/GER) in the Men Single category. 2017 runner-up Moritz Herbst (Wendlingen/GER) is expected to provide a solid challenge to his superiority, with Chin To Wong (HKG), Lukas Burri (SUI) and Martin Schön (HUN) also in the mix.
In the Pairs Open event, reigning UCI World Champions Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann (Öhringen) will have to fend off up-and-coming European Champions Patrick Tisch and Nina Stapf (Magstadt), while Swiss mixed duo Lukas Burri and Fabienne Hammerschmidt (Uzwil) and brothers Hin Jeff and Leung Lim Tsz (HKG) will also be vying for a place on the podium.
The retirement of sisters Nadja and Julia Thürmer (GER) means there will be new UCI World Champions in the Pairs Women event this year. Main contenders include UCI World Cup winners Caroline Wurth and Sophie-Marie Nattmann (Gutach/GER), and their compatriots Lena and Lea Bringsken (Böhl-Iggelheim/GER), who will also have their eyes on gold after three successive silver medals.
Cycle-ball: RC Höchst looking to win back the rainbow jersey
The cycle-ball tournament in Liège promises to be exciting with the presence of reigning UCI World Champions – cousins Bernd and Gerhard Mlady (RMC Stein/GER)) – but also the Austrian pairing of Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll from RC Höchst who will be doing their level best to win back the rainbow jersey.
Schnetzer/Bröll won four titles together between 2013 and 2016 before their run came to an end last year – on home soil, of all places, in Dornbirn. This season, the two of them again went unbeaten right up until the final UCI World Cup ranking tournament in their own stadium, ensuring that they will be looking for revenge over the Germans in Liège.
Switzerland has an outside chance of success with the newly-formed partnership of Roman Schneider and Paul Looser (RS Altdorf). The two have plenty of World Cup success with previous partners and will be a force to be reckoned with.
Experience is also the order of the day for the Czechs, who are banking on two-time World Champion Jiri Hrdlicka Sr. (2003/2008) and Pavel Loskot (SC Svitavka). Local favourites Brecht Damen/Niels Dirikx (Beringen) will make the most of home advantage, while Quentin Seyfried will be hoping to create an upset or two when he teams up with his brother Mathias for the first time.
In Group B, Liechtenstein are eyeing promotion in just their second appearance. Lukas and Markus Schönenberger won the B category in their World Cup debut in 2017 but lost the relegation play-off against France on penalties.
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Watch it live this Sunday at tv.uci.org