World Championships: for athletes of all ages
Friday 27 August 2021
Every year, the UCI Road World Championships always makes for a spectacle. Sometimes the age of the world champion is cause for excitement. As was the case at the women’s World Championships in 1981 and 2019. These races are important milestones in the annals of cycling.
All eyes were on Jeannie Longo at the 1981 women’s World Championships, which just like the men’s took place in Prague. The young Frenchwoman had already caused quite a furore and the circuit in Prague suited her to a tee. So everyone expected that she would win the rainbow jersey for the first time.
First the riders had to complete a 53-km course. Of the 73 riders who started in the World Championship race, fifteen joined in the sprint for the World Championship title. In that sprint, it wasn’t Jeannie Longo who was the fastest, it was German rider Ute Enzenauer. Longo ended up finishing second. Interestingly enough, the German athlete was just 16 years and 229 days old when she won the race, making her then - and still to this day - the youngest world champion ever.
That record by Enzenauer was not broken at the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Harrogate. On the contrary even. The winner of those World Championships didn’t enter the history books as the youngest world champion, but as the oldest. Until then, Jeannie Longo was the record holder in that regard. She was 36 years and 341 days old when she was crowned world champion for the fifth time in 1995, making her for a long time the oldest world champion. Until Annemiek Van Vleuten was crowned world champion in 2019. She completed a 104-kilometre solo flawlessly, and at 36 years and 355 days old, was just fourteen days older than the Frenchwoman Longo.