Under the patronage of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Egypt is well placed to host the 2021 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships for the first time and with much government support.
Over five days of intense competition, the new international velodrome in Cairo will see rainbow jerseys awarded in 22 events – the highest number since the inception of the event in 1975 – with gender parity across the board: Scratch Race, individual and team sprints, individual and team pursuits, keirin, points race, omnium, time trial, Madison and, for the first time, the elimination.
According to the website of the Union Cyclists Internationale (UCI), athletes will be particularly motivated after the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the postponement of this year’s event from April to September. Finally, the world’s best junior track athletes can do what they do best – compete – as they have done since the first edition of the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships, held in Lausanne, Switzerland, back in 1975. Since then, the event has visited all four corners of the planet and, for the 46th edition in 2021, settles in Egypt with the participation of 46 nations which confirmed their participation in the event.
The return to Africa, after previous editions in Casablanca (Morocco) in 1986 and Cape Town (South Africa) in 1997 and 2008, sees a record number of African nations participating, including countries competing for the first time.
“It is a great opportunity for Egypt to be honoured with hosting such a prestigious championship and the number of nations participating amid the Covid-19 pandemic reflects the trust and confidence given to Egypt as a hosting country,” Wagih Azzam, vice president of the UCI and president of the African and Egyptian cycling federations, said. “We have prepared a splendid championship that stands out for Egypt’s fame and we will do our best to make it a real success. We thank the government for giving a good supporting hand to the Egyptian Cycling Federation to be able to host such an event and build such an outstanding velodrome in no time.”
Egypt as the host nation has 12 riders (four women and eight men) in its quest for a first medal at home in the history of the tournament. Algeria, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are the other African nations competing, to be compared with the three that participated in 2019 (Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa).
With Egypt’s huge and newly constructed velodrome, athletes are training day and night for the competition finals, first of which are the women’s Scratch and the team sprints, both for the men and women. In total, 258 riders are registered to compete in Cairo.
Some of the stars you have to watch are the Russians Alina Lysenko alongside Elizaveta Bogomolova and Elizaveta Krechkina. Other recent European champions that are set to race include Germany’s Willy Weinrich (1km time trial), Italy’s Samuele Bonetto (individual pursuit) and Valentina Basilico (Scratch), and the Czech Republic’s Matyas Koblizek (points race). There are also a few Asian stars from Malaysia, Hong Kong and India, in addition to the USA squad.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly