After a decade, the UCI Track Cycling World Championships return to Pruszkow, Poland, at the end of February for the culmination of the track cycling season. Completed in 2008, the Pruszkow Arena hosted track cycling’s 2009 UCI World Championships and the 2010 European Championships.
The UCI Track Cycling World Championships presented by Tissot are the oldest World Championships in cycling, dating back to 1893. In the 1800s, the International Cycling Association, the predecessor to the UCI, regulated the sport, with the UCI taking over in 1900. The 2019 event, taking place from February 27th to March 3rd, marks the 116th edition of the UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Over 450 athletes from 49 countries (260 men and 192 women) are registered to compete in Pruszkow, an increase of nine countries over last year. For the third year, titles will be awarded across 20 events: the addition of the Women's Madison in 2017 brought parity to the programme for men and women. This year’s championships will also count towards the Olympic Qualification Ranking, with countries battling for spots at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The events contested at the Pruszkow Arena can be broadly broken down into sprint and endurance, with each of those comprising individual and team events.
The sprint events consist of the individual sprint, keirin, 1000m/500m time trial (men/women) and the team sprint. Sadly, the defending women's UCI World Champion in the team sprint and individual sprint - Kristina Vogel - will not be able to defend her title after suffering a career-ending injury before the start of the UCI World Cup season. The women's sprint should be a battle between Hong Kong's Lee Wai Sze, winner of four rounds of the Tissot UCI Track Cycling World Cup, and Australia's Stephanie Morton, winner of the other two rounds. Expect those two to battle for the keirin title as well, along with Laurine van Riessen, of the Netherlands. Russia and China were the only countries to win two team sprint events at this season’s UCI World Cup, so this competition is quite open.
The men’s defending UCI World Champion in the individual sprint Matthew Glaetzer (Australia) is certainly favoured in this event, after winning three World Cup rounds, while the Netherlands won all four of the team sprint events they entered. In the keirin, watch out for Matthijs Buchli (Netherlands) and Hugo Barrette (Canada) who tied atop the UCI World Cup standings.
The endurance events consist of the Omnium, individual pursuit, Scratch Race, points race and the two team events - the team pursuit and the Madison. The Omnium changed its format significantly two years ago, dropping the individual timed events, with riders competing in four mass start events in a single day.
Defending UCI World Champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands has won all three of the women's Omnium World Cups she entered this season, but the British riders Katie Archibald and reigning Olympic Champion Laura Kenny also won the only World Cups they entered. The team pursuit is wide open, with defending UCI World Champions USA missing anchor rider Chloe Dygart. World record-holders Great Britain won three World Cups in the team pursuit, while Australia, New Zealand and Italy each took victories at different rounds. Wild is also the defending UCI World Champion in both the points race and the Scratch Race, while Great Britain, defending UCI World Champion in the Madison, is fresh from the overall UCI World Cup win in that event.
In the men's endurance events, the Omnium has seen six winners in six World Cups, with local hopes lying on defending UCI World Champion Szymon Sajnok, of Poland. In the team pursuit, Denmark has two World Cup wins, but don’t rule out Australia, who set a new world record last year. Denmark also won the World Cup title for the Madison, with wins in all four events they entered, while New Zealand won the remaining two World Cups.