The UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships start today in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, and will conclude on Sunday 18 August. The world’s finest young track stars battle for rainbow honours over five days of action in the 1,000-capacity Oderlandhalle velodrome with its 250m long track
In 2018, Germany topped the medals table with a total of seven, including four gold. Incredibly, all the golds were for Lea Sophie Friedrich: in the keirin, individual sprint, 500m time trial, and team sprint (alongside Alessa-Catriona Propster and Emma Gotz). Will Germany succeed again? Can last year’s runners-up Italy go one better? And which riders provide the other strongest challenges?
The championships begin with the team pursuit, where teamwork is the name of the game.
In 2018, New Zealand and Italy won the men’s and women’s team pursuit respectively. Both teams feature different line-ups in 2019 but look just as strong. The Kiwis’ quartet comprises Keegan Hornblow (aged 17, a road cyclist since the age of 12, and only recently convinced to switch to the track), Laurence Pithie, Conor Shearing and Kiaan Watts. Italy return in the form of Camilla Alessio, Giorgia Catarzi, Sofia Collinelli and Eleonara Camilla Gasparrini – Italian national Junior road and ITT champion and 2019 European Junior Onimum winner.
After Wednesday’s team pursuit qualifiers comes the women’s scratch qualifiers over 5km (20 laps) and then the final of 7.5km (30 laps). Simply put, the winner is the rider who completes the set distance first. Poland will prove strong contenders in the women’s race. Junior European Champion Nikola Wielowska is only substitute with teammate Zuzanna Olejniczak – only 17 and also riding road races – the team’s favoured scratch rider in Germany.
The men’s scratch competition takes place on Thursday and is 10km long (40 laps) with just the final and no qualifiers. Denis Denisov is one of the favourites, the Russian rider taking July’s European scratch title at an incredible average speed of 40.909km/hr. He’ll face a bruising battle from his rivals including the likes of Spain’s Raul Garcia Pierna who won bronze at the Europeans in Gent (Belgium).
The men’s and women’s team sprints follow the women’s scratch qualifiers on Wednesday. In the men’s race, Germany will arguably be the ones to beat after recently winning the European Championships: their Worlds team features the same trio of Laurin Drescher, Julien Jager and Domenic Kruse. Don’t discount Poland’s Konrad Burawski, Szymon Welens and Mateusz Sztrauch, though, who finished just two-tenths of a second behind the Germans in Gent. Poland will also challenge in the women’s race, thanks to Nikola Seremak and Wielowska who took gold in Gent.
This is always an amazing spectacle… Germany’s Alessa-Catriona Propster (winner of the sprint and keirin in this year’s European Junior Championships), leads the country’s charge in 2019 and will be looking to inherit the title from Friedrich. As for the men, Poland’s Cezary Laczkowski won his country’s sole 2018 world track gold. One of Konrad Burawski or Mateusz Sztrauch will look to replicate that victory in 2019.
In the men’s keirin, India’s Esow Alben could surprise many and take the honours. The impressive young track rider held off Kazakhstan’s Temirkhan Siazbekov to win the junior keirin title at January’s Asian Track Championships. Siazbekov’s also racing in Germany and will equally be one to watch.
Germany’s Propster won European gold in Gent so is an obvious choice in the women’s event. But ignore China’s Jingye Sun at your peril. The young Chinese rider looked imperious in winning the keirin title at the 2019 Asian Junior Track Championships.
The Omnium comprises a scratch competition (5km for women; 7.5km for men); a tempo race (5km for women; 7.5km for men); elimination; and points race (60 laps and six sprints for women; 80 laps and eight sprints for men). Italy’s Vittoria Guazzini won the 2018 women’s race with 142 points. Her compatriot Lara Crestanello is the team’s great hope in 2019 though many see America’s Megan Jastrab – the former BMX rider is a rising star and has recently signed for a professional road team – as a challenger. France’s Donovan Grondin won the 2018 men’s race with 115 points. Teammate Vincent Yon leads France in 2019.
One of the most intense races, the individual pursuit, will be held on Friday for the men and on Saturday for the women. Sergey Karmazhakov is arguably the one to beat in the men’s event, the Kazakh rider winning individual pursuit gold in the 2019 Asian Junior Track Championships.
Britain looks strong in the women’s race with Elynor Backstedt taking individual pursuit gold in Gent. Backstedt’s the daughter of former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus
Elynor Backstedt and former GB road champ Megan… quite a pedigree.
Also on Friday is the men’s points race over 25km (100 laps). Can Australia’s James Moriarty match countryman Lucas Clapp’s gold of 2018? Maybe, maybe not, especially as South African’s Dillon Geary will be looking to add world gold to his 2019 South African National Championships title. Back in March, the 17-year-old belied his age to remain cool, calm and composed en route to victory.
In the women’s event, many eyes will fall on Ireland’s ever-consistent Lara Gillespie, who won silver at the Europeans points race in July and European gold in Switzerland in 2018. In fact, the Irish teenager won three silvers in Gent. She also won silver in June’s Irish road national championships. Australia’s Ashlee Jones will summon the spirit of her favourite rider ever, Greg LeMond, in search of gold.
Saturday morning sees the women’s 500m time-trial qualifiers. Germany’s Christina Sperlich is a ready-and-able replacement for the uber-successful Friedrich.
Australia provide two impressive male riders: Graeme Frislie and Rohan Haydon-Smith. But the Aussies will do well to hold off Greece’s Konstantinos Livanos, recent victor at the European Junior Track Championships. Also keep an eye on the Netherlands’ Daniel Kool who finished second that day.
Sunday sees the qualifiers and finals of the mighty Madison where teams of two take part in a relay race of 20km for women (in the final) and 30km for men (final). France and Australia won the women’s and men’s events, respectively, in 2018. France aren’t racing the women’s event in 2019. The United States could slip into their crown thanks to the talented duo of Zoe Ta-Perez and Megan Jastrab. Australia return in the men’s with Moriarty and Liam Walsh.