Austrian cycle-ball UCI World Champions to defend title at home
Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll have won UCI World Championships gold every year since 2013, and with the Austrian cycle-ball riders competing on home soil in Dornbirn, this remarkable record could well continue in 2017. The pair will be aiming for their fifth UCI rainbow jersey less than ten kilometres as the crow flies from their home arena at RC Höchst. The event marks something of a homecoming for outfield player Bröll, who played for RV Dornbirn alongside his brother Tommy until 2009.
Schnetzer and Bröll suffered their last defeat at a UCI World Championships in Malaysia two years ago when, while defending their world title, they were beaten 6-1 by Switzerland in the preliminary round. The duo exacted their revenge with a 5-4 victory in the final that year, and have not lost any of their ten World Championships matches since then.
Although the four-time UCI World Champions are the host country’s brightest medal hope, Swiss pair Roman Schneider and Dominik Planzer (Altdorf) will do everything in their power to repeat their 2012 triumph after finishing runners-up for the past three years. Outfield player Planzer has announced his retirement for the end of the year, so these championships will mark the team’s last appearance together on the international stage.
Germany’s Bernd and Gerhard Mlady (RMC Stein) are also medal contenders, after the cousins secured bronze at their UCI World Championships debut last year. Father-son pairing Jiri Hrdlicka and Jiri Jr. (Svitavka) are also among the teams to watch: with nothing to lose and no weight of expectation on their shoulders, the Czech Champions could yet cause a sensation. The older Hrdlicka, 43, brings a wealth of experience as a former two-time UCI World Champion while Jiri Jr. (21) adds youthful energy to the side.
Belgium (Damen Brecht/Dirikx Niels) and France (Meyer Benjamin/Seyfried Quentin) are always capable of springing a surprise, as the French proved by clinching bronze in 2015. Both sides have repeatedly caused the four leading countries to stumble in the early rounds, and one of them will likely have to defend their top-flight status in a relegation match against the Group B winners.
New young teams in Group B
Exciting times lie ahead in Group B as two new U-23 teams seek to shake up the established order. The first newcomers, Liechtenstein, are represented by Lukas and Markus Schönenberger from RMV Mosnang in Switzerland. Lukas rides alongside Ralf Breitenmoser in the Swiss top flight, the Nationalliga A, where they finished seventh this season. Liechtenstein ended their U-23 European Championships campaign in sixth place.
The second pair of debutants are Arnak Mkhitaryan and Artak Vosdkanyan, who represent Armenia. Both riders are based in Belgium and compete with different partners in the first and second divisions of the Belgian league. They also featured at the U-23 European Championships, finishing ninth.
Meanwhile Matsuda Ko will make his World Championships comeback for Japan after a four-year absence. Having made his last appearance in Aschaffenburg in 2012, he is now aiming to return t Group A with his current team-mate Akatsu Riku. Ko and former partner Naoya Kinoshita were the last Japanese pair to feature in the top division, in 2008 and 2009.
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