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Worlds notebook: Crashes, ‘mega-worlds,’ and missed starts

David Lappartient was re-elected to a four-year term as UCI president during the UCI Congress while junior and U23 riders endured endless crashes.

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Crashes blight U23 and junior men’s races

LEUVEN, Belgium (VN) — “It was really hectic. It seemed like there was a crash in every corner.”

That’s U23 rider Matthew Riccitello of USA Cycling, summing up the sensations in the crash-riddled road races to open the 2021 world championships.

After four days of racing against the clock, the men’s junior and U23 peloton saw its first taste of the twisting and diving road circuits that will feature in racing through the weekend.

Someone counted 15 crashes in the junior race, and there were even more in the U23’s.

“I had to avoid a lot of crashes,” said U23 rider Luke Lamperti, who led USA Cycling with 10th. “It was definitely not a safe race.”

Narrow roads, an over-abundance of traffic furniture, and a nervous and ambitious bunch made both races quite dangerous.

One Belgian rider almost crashed into a shop window in the U23 race, while riders hit the deck almost constantly in both races.

“We lost Sean Quinn and Magnus [Sheffield] to crashes, but the rest of us were able to make it through safely,” Lamperti said. “It was not easy o the circuits, but for losing two guys, the plan was executed pretty well.”

LEUVEN, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 24: Soeren Waerenskjold of Norway and Lennert Van Eetvelt of Belgium injured after being involved in a crash during the 94th UCI Road World Championships 2021 - Men U23 Road Race a 160,9km race from Antwerp to Leuven / #flanders2021 / on September 24, 2021 in Leuven, Belgium. (Photo by Dirk Waem - Pool/Getty Images)
Crashes were numerous in both the junior and U23 men’s races Friday. (Photo: Dirk Waem – Pool/Getty Images)

Both the “Flanders circuit,” which features a steep cobbled climb, as well as the Leuven circuit, with four shorter climbs, produced its fair share of incidents.

“It was hard, because there was a sprint out of every single corner,” said U.S. junior rider Colby Simmons. “You had to go with the surge each time. The goal was to avoid crashing. I didn’t crash, but I heard some behind me. There were some high nerves, and because it was a super-hard course, so everyone was still there.”

The course lived up to its billing as “Flanders-style” racing, with narrow roads, endless cornering, and a lumpy, unpredictable profile.

“Surviving — that was the main thing,” said U.S. junior Artem Shmidt. “It was exactly like a kermesse, but a much longer and much harder one. The race is about positioning. If you don’t accelerate out of those corners, you’re going to get boxed in.”

For U23 rider Riccitello, it was a number’s game. Narrow roads plus big peloton, equal a lot of crashes.

“It’s just what happens when there are 170 or so riders, and all of them want to win the race or contribute in some way,” Riccitello said. “Everyone is told before the race at what crucial point of the race they need to be at the front, and you can only go three-wide, and all 170 riders want to be in that same spot.”

Lithuanian riders miss junior men’s start

Lithuanian riders Edgaras Zekas and Jomantas Venckus appear as DNS in Friday’s junior men’s race.

Why? They showed up too late, and missed the scheduled start. Both were spotted later on the course … as spectators.

Equal time trial distances for men and women TT’s  in Australia 2022

Australian worlds officials confirmed that the elite men’s and women’s time trial courses will be the same distance in 2022.

Early reports suggest that a 37.5km course will be contested by the world’s best time trialists, with both races being held on the same day and the same course.

The UCI also caused a stir when it suggested that a U23 race could be contested in 2022, but one coinciding with the elite women’s road race.

Also read: UCI hints at U23 title but not stand-alone race in 2022

That would be a similar model followed by the U.S. pro championships for many years, when the U.S. national champ was decided by the best U.S. pro finisher in an international field, in Philadelphia, through 2005.

That plan saw quick blowback on social media, with many calling for a stand-alone race for the U23 women.

SNOWSHOE, WV - SEPTEMBER 19: Evie Richards of Great Britain during the Women's Elite Cross-Country Olympic distance race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup on September 19, 2021 in Snowshoe, West Virginia. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Mountain biking will be among 13 disciplines featured in the UCI’s ‘mega-worlds’ in 2023. (Photo: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

‘Mega’ worlds still on track for 2023

The UCI confirmed Friday it’s moving ahead with its planned “mega worlds” to coincide with the 2023 championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

The plan is to pack the world championships with 13 different disciplines into one busy period that will coincide with the year ahead of each quadrennial Olympic cycle.

Officials said despite disruptions caused by COVID-19, plans are still in place to hold the event in 2023, a first in cycling history.

Here are the disciplines that will coincide during the “mega worlds:”

  • Road
  • Track
  • Trials
  • Para-cycling road and track
  • Mountain bike cross-country, marathon, and downhill
  • Indoor
  • Gran fondo
  • BMX racing, and freestyle flatland and park

UCI Congress re-elects David Lappartient, confirms Rwanda for 2025 worlds

The annual UCI Congress coincided with the racing action Friday, with David Lappartient being re-elected to a second, four-year term without opposition.

‘I want to continue to serve our sport,” Lappartient said. “Every day, when I wake up, I think of ways to expand cycling.”

Also read: Inside the UCI’s decision to create a sanctioned gravel worlds

Lappartient, 48, has certainly done that in his first four-year term, when he helped expand the number of national federations recognized by the UCI from 81 to 201. That’s a nice number, especially since each federation must pay the UCI some 5,000 euros per year, giving the cycling governing body 1 million euros per year.

Among the new governing bodies accepted for 2022 includes Vatican City, a city-state that includes about 800 full-time residents.

Also read: Rwanda, a step forward, or ‘sports-washing’?

The Congress also confirmed Rwanda as the site of the 2025 world road cycling championships. The news leaked Thursday, but Friday’s official announcement will see Africa’s first host of a UCI worlds.

“The goal was not just to have the worlds in Africa, but to allow all the African nations can participate,” Lappartient said. “It will not only be a world championships in Africa, but it will also be the championship for Africa.”

BRUGES, BELGIUM - SEPTEMBER 22: (L-R) David Lappartient ‎of France President of the Union Cycliste Internationale UCI, Eddy Merckx of Belgium Ex Pro-Cyclist and His Majesty the King Philippe of Belgium handing over the world champions' jerseys during the 94th UCI Road World Championships 2021 - Team Time Trial Mixed Relay a 44,5km race from Knokke-Heist to Bruges / #flanders2021 / TT / on September 22, 2021 in Bruges, Belgium. (Photo by Simon Wilkinson - Pool/Getty Images)
David Lappartient, left, shown here with Eddy Merckx and the Belgian king, was re-elected to a four-year term Friday. (Photo: Imon Wilkinson – Pool/Getty Images)