Two new World Champions crowned in Dornbirn
The UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships in Dornbirn crowned two new world champions on Saturday. Germany’s Milena Slupina scooped the rainbow jersey in the Women Elite event while compatriots Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann secured gold in the Pairs Open competition – and the scoring in these two disciplines could scarcely have been any more exciting.
The thriller that began in the women’s event during Friday’s preliminary rounds continued unabated the next day. First up was Swiss contender Seraina Waibel, who was unable to deliver a flawless programme and missed out on a medal with a score of 140.63.
Austrian rider Adriana Mathis fared better and was on track for a result around the 180-point mark for much of her routine before suffering a fall. Nevertheless, her score of 170.10 was enough to secure the bronze medal. The 2015 world champion was happy with this result after missing the event through injury last year – not least because she almost missed out on a place in the final round.
Next up on the competition floor was a top-quality duel between two German athletes separated by the smallest of margins in the preliminary round. First Viola Brand threw down the gauntlet with a score of 183.29. “I was glad that it went so well,” she said later. “I definitely could have won, but after coming away empty-handed from two World Championships, I’m happy with my silver medal.”
Novice Milena Slupina from Bavarian club Bernlohe ultimately emerged as champion after responding to her team-mate’s programme with a score of 184.22. “I rode without fear in the final,” the new world champion later said. “The pressure was much greater in the qualification round because I was determined to get to the medal round no matter what. Once I did that, I didn’t mind which medal I won. I was extremely focused but could feel the atmosphere while I was riding. It was a fantastic feeling, and for it to have resulted in a gold medal is just the icing on the cake.” She attributed her success to her improved preparations this season, before disappearing into the crowd at the Dornbirn post-event party with the words: “I won’t be going to bed for a while yet!”
The Final 4 of the Pairs Open event was full of drama. While local heroes Marcel Schnetzer and Jana Latzer (Austria) improved on their own personal best in the preliminary round, several mistakes in the final meant they had to settle for 128.89 points at their home World Championships after winning bronze in 2016.
Serafin Schefold and Max Hanselmann (Öhringen) put holders André and Benedikt Bugner (Klein-Winterheim) under pressure in the first round, with the Bugners narrowly edging out their rivals by 163.09 points to 162.67.
Schefold and Hanselmann raised their game once again to 164.28 in the Final 4. The Bugner brothers fought back magnificently before making a decisive error. With the clock ticking down, the final exercise ended in a fall and a score of 153.76.
“We have continually improved in a season that got off to a rocky start for us,” said Max Hanselmann as the Bugners began to process their first final defeat. “This obviously hurts after winning four World Championships in a row,” said André Bugner, “but Schefold and Hanselmann rode much better than us in the final and we made a crucial error at the end.”
Lukas Burri and Fabienne Hammerschmidt were over the moon with their bronze medal. The Swiss mixed pair improved significantly on last year’s performance, setting a new national record in the preliminary round. The duo were then rewarded for another strong programme in the final with a place on the bottom step of the podium. Lukas was even serenaded by the 3,500 spectators to mark his birthday.
Group A of the cycle-ball competition went almost exactly according to plan for defending champions Austria. Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll won the first round to progress directly into the semi-final. While Germany presented the pair with their first stern test of the competition, forcing them to settle for a 3-3 draw, resounding 7-0 and 11-3 wins over France and the Czech Republic and a hard-fought 5-3 victory over Switzerland placed them firmly at the top of the group.
As the knockout games began, second-placed Switzerland (Dominik Planzer/Roman Schneider) met fifth-placed Belgium (Damen Brecht/Niels Dirikx), while third-placed Germany (Bernd and Gerhard Mlady) took on fourth-placed Czech Republic (Jiri and Jiri Jr. Hrdlicka).
French pair and 2015 World Championships bronze medallists Benjamin Meyer and Quentin Seyfried must fight for their place in Group A on Sunday against newly-crowned Group B champions Liechtenstein (Lukas and Markus Schönenberger).
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