Journey to the UCI World Cup

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The journey to qualify for the UCI World Cup is not a short one. Nor without stress, adversity or thousands of kilometres under your heels. For non-Olympic disciplines, 250 points are required in each event to be eligible to compete in any of the five World Cup events in the 2018/2019 season. A new rule introduced for this winter required that the points must be accumulated six weeks in advance before the corresponding World Cup you wish to compete in. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to race a UCI event the weekend prior in order to last minute qualify, but rather cross the globe to accumulate points throughout the season, keeping in mind that UCI points are only eligible for one calendar year.

My first opportunity to pick up UCI points for the 2018 season was at the Australian Track Championships held in Brisbane, QLD in February. I finished 2nd in the Scratch Race (behind Maloja Pushbikers team mate, Josh Harrison) which is one of the simplest of track disciplines, 60 laps (15km) first rider over the line wins. The following day I placed 3rd in the Points Race, a slightly more complicated event which see’s intermediate sprints every 10 laps, awarding riders 5, 3, 2, 1 points across the line, with the rider with the most points at the conclusion of the event awarded the victor. As an added incentive, the final sprint has double points on offer while taking a lap on the field will grant you an additional 20 points. With two podium placings my UCI campaign was off to a good start.

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The next opportunity I had to add to my tally was two months later in the oldest track event in Europe, the Blaus Band held on the historic Zurich velodrome. Finishing 2nd in the Points Race in the UCI Category 2 event continued my ascension to the 250-point marker. After eight weeks competing in Europe I boarded a plane to the United States to chase points in UCI events held in North America. In the two UCI events I competed in, I won the Omnium (a multi-disciplined, four event race) and placed 4th in the Madison with team mate Nick Stopler.

My original plan was to return to Australia and compete in the Oceania Championships (Australia & New Zealand’s version of the European Championships) held one week before the first World Cup (Paris) to gain the remaining points I required. However, the new UCI rule would instead demand that I travelled back to Europe on my way home from the United States to gather enough points before the six-week cut off in two weeks’ time. In one of the more impressive feats in my travel / racing history, I flew 7 hours from New York to Frankfurt, drove 4hrs to Zurich and then competed that very night in the UCI C2 Scratch Race. What made the effort all the more worthwhile was taking the victory and ensuring myself a place on the start line in Paris for the Scratch Race.

My final objective was to travel to Prostejov in Czech Republic to also qualify for the Points Race. With a 3rd placing from the Australian Championships and 2nd from the Blaus Band event in Zurich, I need only finish inside 16th place to qualify for the World Cup. The two day Prostejov GP event featured an Omnium and Madison on Day 1 and Scratch Race and Points Race on Day 2. With the Omnium and Madison events being Olympic disciplines their UCI ranking differs from the 250 point system but I competed in both regardless, finishing in the top 8 in the Omnium and 4th in the Madison paired with Josh. The next day would be a disaster and full of stress however, as the entire day of racing was rained out and subsequently cancelled. I was still 70 points short of the 250 point limit and desperately running out of time. My only option left was to remain an additional week and travel to Lithuania to compete or cut my losses and return to Australia, focusing solely on the Scratch Race for the first World Cup. After spending the best part of five months already competing overseas across Europe and North America with fatigue mounting, I made the decision to abandon chasing the remaining points for the Points Race and return to Australia instead to continue my preparation.

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Fast forward 6 weeks and I am one day out from both my and the Maloja Pushbikers very first World Cup. To ensure my place in the final, I must first qualify in the top 12 riders in my respective Scratch Race heat held during the afternoon session. With both countries and UCI trade teams from all over the world competing this will be no certainty nor easy feat. My pre-race ambitions are to first qualify safely and then bide my time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack in the evening. I am hoping that I can rely on both my ability and knowledge of my competitors to navigate the team to a great showing in their very first UCI World Cup.

 

My equipment for the event included: Fuji Elite bike, EDCO wheelset (rear disc supported by Bike Components), SQ lab saddle with handlebar/stem combination provided by Syntace and wrapped in Guee grip tape. To ensure I get to the finish line as fast as possible I was wearing a speedsuit designed by Maloja, Alpina aero helmet and Roeckl gloves.

Thank you to all our incredible sponsors throughout the season for making this possible.

Sometimes there is only one thing left to do…Race!

 

YOURS,

Stephen
#beapushbiker

 

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Photos: Arne Mill/ Frontalvision

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Anne

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