Cycle-ball is traditionally a family affair. The success of brotherly pairings has been a feature of the sport ever since the days of legendary riders Jan and Jindrich Pospisil, who won an incredible 20 World Championship titles for the former Czechoslovakia between 1965 and 1988. Along the way, the Pospisils also finished runners-up five times and bronze medallists twice.
Among the other siblings to become cycle-ball World Champions on at least one occasion are Swiss pair Adolf and Erwin Oberhänsli and German duos Karl and Oskar Buchholz, Andreas and Thomas Steinmeier, Jürgen and Werner King, Michael and Sandro Lomuscio, and most recently, Mike and Steve Pfaffenberger, who won the title in 2005.
The UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships have yet to witness a father-and-son team, though all that will change this year, when 43-year-old Jiří Hrdlička and his son Jiří Jr launch their bid to win a medal in Dornbirn, Austria.
The 21-year-old outfield player is looking forward to taking to the floor with his father, despite explaining that “we didn’t plan for this to happen.”
Indeed, as recently as three months ago there was little indication that the pair would join forces. Hrdlička Sr began riding with Pavel Loskot in 2011 after winning the world title on two previous occasions, once with Miroslav Berger in 2003 and again with Radim Hason in 2008. Despite being threatened with relegation to the B Group in 2015 after placing sixth at the UCI World Championships in Malaysia, the duo recovered to finish just outside the medals in fourth a year later.
They were well on track to represent the Czech Republic at this year’s season finale when Loskot suffered an injury in the summer: Hrdlička Jr stepped in as his replacement. The younger Hrdlička has spent the last 13 years riding with Roman Stanek, finishing third at the U-19 European Championships in 2014, and currently competes in the second-tier CZE Liga.
His temporary partnership with his father has proven to be a resounding success. “I played in the last round of the Extraliga with dad before heading to the Czech Championships,” said Jiří Jr. “It went amazingly well, and we won the title to qualify for the World Championships.” For the 21-year-old, representing his country alongside his father in Dornbirn is “more than a dream come true.”
Interestingly, the younger Hrdlička only watched his father live at the UCI World Championships for the first time last year in Stuttgart. “I’d never been there in person before; I just used to watch him on internet streams,” he explained. This year he will be providing a completely different kind of support as his team-mate.
So what can we expect from the freshly crowned Czech Champions at the 2017 UCI World Championships? “Our main objective is to enjoy it,” said the younger Hrdlička. “We’re not the favourites and nobody is expecting us to get a medal, but we’ll give it our best and fight for the highest possible finish.”
The Czech duo, who hail from the town of Svitavka, are preparing meticulously for the Worlds, and have been spending a few days training in Brünn. “We’re taking part in a warm-up tournament against the best four Czech teams in the Extraliga at the weekend,” said Jiří Jr.
The older Hrdlička celebrates his 44th birthday on 26 November, the final day of the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships. Time will tell if he can mark the occasion with a very special present.