We’re one week away from the 2019 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships (14th-18th August) to be held in the German city of Frankfurt (Oder). History will be made by the planet’s finest young track athletes. Some will be favourites, some will surprise all. But we predict this sextet will be worth watching…
Megan Jastrab (USA)
Seventeen-year-old Megan Jastrab is one of the USA’s rising stars on both road and track. The list of her achievements in 2019 are extraordinary and include podiums at two UCI Women Junior Nations’ Cup events: victory in the Trofeo da Moreno - Piccolo Trofeo Alfredo Binda and second at the Gent-Wevelgem. Added to these are the junior national titles in the road race and criterium – incredibly, her 20th and 21st national titles. Jastrab’s natural talent is married to a famed work ethic. Take 2017 where she crashed and badly bruised her hip preparing for the 2017 California State Junior Track Championships. Jastrab’s father, Mike, found his daughter knocking out a huge amount of stomach crunches that very same day!
Zach Bridges (Great Britain)
Great Britain’s recent Paralympic and Olympic success across all sports was arguably built on victories on the track where Team GB has traditionally shone. That conveyor belt of talent continues to roll out world-class track stars including Zach Bridges, who last year became the first Welsh Junior cyclist to break the 48-minute barrier in the 25-mile time trial. Bridges went on to compete in his first UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, in Aigle (Switzerland) and despite being knocked off his bike twice finished eighth and ninth respectively in the team pursuit and individual pursuit. He saw his participation as a learning curve, and since then that curve’s risen steeply with victory in the U23 Gent Six-Day event and, more recently, the national Junior individual pursuit.
Alessa-Catriona Propster (Germany)
Alessa-Catriona Propster is one of the most versatile cyclists on the track, as she regularly competes in the 500m time trial, keirin, sprint and team sprint. She’s also one of the most successful. Just look at last month’s UEC European Track Juniors Championships where Propster not only won the women’s keirin and sprint titles, but took second and third respectively in the 500m time trial and team sprint. At last year’s UCI World Championships in Switzerland, Propster won one gold in the team sprint while her compatriot, Lea Sophie Friedrich, wrapped up four titles. Don’t be surprised if Propster emulates her former teammate – who now joins the Elite ranks - in Frankfurt.
Dillon Geary (South Africa)
Dillon Geary heads a strong South African squad after a stellar season that included gold at the South African National Track Championships back in March. The Junior Men’s points race powerhouse showed a cool demeanour on that spring day when he pulled away from a small lead group to ultimately lap the entire field, giving him the 20 points that sealed success. The 17-year-old not only proved to himself he has what it takes to compete on the world stage, but also his parents. They thought his initial interest in two wheels at age 11 would prove to be a ‘phase’, so said they’d pay half for his bike and he’d pay the rest. Six years later, the investment – and hard work – is paying off. Geary’s brother, Aidan, also lines up in Germany in the sprint and time trial.
Lauren Robards (Australia)
Lauren Robards is so committed to the sport she loves that at the end of 2018, the young trackie upped sticks from Canberra to Brisbane to take up a scholarship with the Queensland Academy of Sport. Currently balancing her track career with studies in pharmacy, Robards still managed to qualify to represent one of the strongest nations in track cycling. She enjoyed her first taste of world action in 2018, finishing fourth in the team pursuit and seventh in the individual pursuit – not bad for a first major championship. Now that Robards has access to the excellent facilities at the Academy of Sport, tapping into world-class nutrition and training advice, a medal’s the very least of her ambitions.
Riley Pickrell (Canada)
Canada’s Riley Pickrell will compete in the endurance events and will look to transfer his form on the national scene to the world circuit. In April, Pickrell won the Canadian Junior keirin, points race, elimination race and team pursuit as well as taking second in the kilo. These are added to the five national titles he won in 2018 – a year in which he won three stages of the Tour de l’Abitibi (Canada). His 2019 Worlds preparation has included a warm-weather training camp in California and a mix of road, criterium and track racing. He’s also benefitted from racing his debut season for Vancouver-based outfit, Trek Red Truck Racing.