Italy opens UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships with gold medal haul

The Italian Cycling federation opened their 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships campaign when four of their riders were crowned UCI World Champions at the magnificent Midmar Dam in Howick, South Africa, on Thursday 31 August 2017. Exactly 100 riders took part in today’s competition alone, which featured tricyclists and handcyclists for men and women.

Germany are hot on their heels with their three-gold-medal tally from their events today. The Italian Team also claimed a bronze medal, taking their medal tally to five, while The Netherlands won two golds, two silvers and a bronze medal.

2015 UCI Time Trial World Champion, Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) said that it felt amazing to be back in South Africa, a country that he last visited in 1993. “I always love it here. Just look at the landscape – we are racing in an absolutely incredible country,” he said, as he gestured towards the magnificent view of the dam with the rolling KwaZulu-Natal Midlands’ hills as a backdrop.

Multiple UCI World Champion and Paralympic medallist Zanardi had an excellent session on the 23.3-kilometre course today, as the Men’s H5 hand cycling class kicked off the afternoon session. “The race went very well for me today, it couldn't have gone any better because I won. The gap wasn't that big though, but at the end of the day, whether it’s an hour or two seconds, I got the gold medal, which is wonderful for me. I’m looking very forward to the road race, which is on Saturday for me. I’m holding thumbs and I’m feeling strong and for me to take another gold home approaching my 51st year would be very special to me.”

Even though she has raced here before, the going was no less tough for Australian Carol Cooke in the Women’s T2 Tricycle class. The 56-year-old seemed to trump the 15.5km course in a time of 33 minutes 03.98 seconds, which she says is “my type of course”.

“I simply love the downhill and love the thrill of going fast,” said the 2015 UCI Time Trial World Champion. “The heat and wind were challenging factors today, and the competition was very close, which made it stressful for me. It was a close race, but I had a wonderful day on the bike and I am very happy to have the gold.”

In the tricycle category, 2015 UCI Time Trial World Champion Hans-Peter Durst (GER) retained his rainbow jersey in the Men’s T2 class after he won his race in a time of 27 minutes 41.14 seconds. T1 tricyclists Sergei Semochkin (RUS) and Shelley Gautier (CAN) won the men and women’s races in 35:45.68 and 38:03.35 respectively.

German H4 handcyclist Christiane Reppe was elated with her gold medal today, especially since she usually dominates the road races, and had never won a Time Trial before. After an emotional build up to the trip to South Africa, where it wasn't clear whether Reppe would actually be participating in the championships or not, it eventually all came together for her on the day.

“It was a really tough Time Trial today because of the ups and downs and the very fast downhills,” said the 30-year-old. “There was a strong side wind and the bike was shaking a bit. The uphills were also very tough. I saw after the first lap that I had a little advantage and the second time around I seemed to extend that advantage. Since I’ve been competing in Para-cycling, I haven’t won a Time Trial – I am a World Champion in the road race, so I am very happy with the title today!”

Team USA came away with three silver medals from day one’s racing, with Ryan Boyle (24) finishing 16.03 seconds off the pace in the Men’s T2 race, while Jill Walsh (54) had a 7.07 second deficit to finish second in the Women’s T2 race as well. In the afternoon, it was William Groulx who claimed silver in the Men’s H2 race, in a time of 29:25.63.

Born and raised South African, now residing in the USA, Samantha Smith, was proud of the team’s achievements today. Now part of Team USA as a Soigneur, Smith said: “I am super excited to be back in my country of birth. I think it is a real privilege to be working for Team USA and I get really enthusiastic about them doing so well and I enjoy being part of their success.”

Swiss rider Benjamin Fruh won gold in the Men’s H1 class when he completed the 15.5km Time Trial in a time of 45:14.14. “Today’s race was beautiful,” he said. “The profile of the course suited me very well today. It’s better for me when it is steep, the flat isn’t the best for me. The beginning of the lap was very hard and the wind was strong but it didn't affect me too much.”

Speaking about his thoughts on the road race, Fruh said, “I’m not too sure if I’ll be as successful in the road race because I think the Time Trial is my specialty, but I will still try my hardest.”

In the handcycling category, 2015 UCI Time Trial World Champion Francesca Porcellato (ITA) retained her rainbow jersey when she completed the 15.5km course in the Women’s H3 class in a time of 31:16.70. Germany’s Andrea Eskau won the women’s H5 race in 27:47.61, while Carmen Koedood (NED) won the H2 class in a time of 51:27.92, also over a distance of 15.5km. The afternoon session saw Dutchman Jetze Plat claim the gold medal in the Men’s H4 race along the 23.3km route, in a time of 36:39.14, while Italian Paolo Cecchetto claimed a gold medal in a time of 39:30.59. The final two handcycling classes of H2 and H1 completed a 15.5km route, and the gold medals went to Luca Mazzone (ITA) and Benjamin Fruh (SUI) in a time of 29:19.00 and 45:14.14 respectively.

Summary of Results – 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships Pietermaritzburg

Session 1

Women’s H5 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Andrea ESKAU (GER) 1971 27:47.61
  2. Laura DE VAAN (NED) 1980 29:06.63 +01:19.02
  3. Jennette JANSEN (NED) 1968 30:09.82 +02:22.21

Women’s H4 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Christiane REPPE (GER) 1987 32:08.05
  2. Sandra GRAF (SUI) 1969 33:21.34 +01:13.29
  3. Svetlana MOSHKOVICH (RUS) 1983 33:22.44 +01:14.39

Women’s H3 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Francesca PORCELLATO (ITA) 1970 31:16.70
  2. Renata KALUZA (POL) 1981 33:14.03 +01:57.33
  3. Anna OROSZOVA (SVK) 1963 33:52.38 +02:35.68

Women’s H2 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Carmen KOEDOOD (NED) 1996 51:27.92
  2. Ciara STAUNTON (IRL) 1985 1:10:24.36 +18:56.44

Women’s H1 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Emilie MILLER (AUS) 1995 1:47:32.51

Men’s T2 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Hans-Peter DURST (GER) 1958 27:41.14
  2. Ryan BOYLE (USA) 1993 27:57.17 +00:16.03
  3. Stephen HILLS (NZL) 1981 29:21.08 +01:39.94

Women’s T2 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Carol COOKE (AUS) 1961 33:03.98
  2. Jill WALSH (USA) 1963 33:11.05 +00:07.07
  3. Jana MAJUNKE (GER) 1990 34:14.85 +01:10.87

Men’s T1 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Sergei SEMOCHKIN (RUS) 1986 35:45.68
  2. Rickard NILSSON (SWE) 1988 38:09.64 +02:23.96
  3. Leonardo MELLE (ITA) 1971 38:56.77 +03:11.09

Women’s T1 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Shelley GAUTIER (CAN) 1968 38:03.35
  2. Yulia SIBAGATOVA (RUS) 1983 38:08.46 +0:05.11
  3. Toni MOULD (RSA) 1983 1:06:38.81 +28:35.46

Session 2

Men’s H5 Time Trial 23.3km

  1. Alessandro ZANARDI (ITA) 37:47.96
  2. Tim DE VRIES (NED) 37:50.59 +00:02.63
  3. Luis COSTA (POR) 38:35.47 +00:47.51

Men’s H4 Time Trial 23.3km

  1. Jetze PLAT (NED) 36:39.14
  2. Rafal WILK (POL) 38:27.81 +01:48.67
  3. Krystian GIERA (POL) 39:04.52 +02:25.38

Men’s H3 Time Trial 23.3km

  1. Paolo CECCHETTO (ITA) 39:30.59
  2. Heinz FREI (SUI) 39:55.97 +00:25.38
  3. Charles MOREAU (CAN) 40:22.98 +00:52.39

Men’s H2 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Luca MAZZONE (ITA) 29:19.00
  2. William GROULX (USA) 29:25.63 +00:06.63
  3. Sergio GARROTE MUAOZ (ESP) 31:21.98 +02:02.98

Men’s H1 Time Trial 15.5km

  1. Benjamin FRUH (SUI) 45:14.14
  2. Nicolas Pieter DU PREEZ (RSA) 46:52.67 +01:38.53
  3. Harri SOPANEN (FIN) 50:39.42 +05:25.28