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The UCI Track Champions League made a spectacular start Saturday.
The highly anticipated new-format event made its debut at Mallorca’s Velòdrom Illes Balears and welcomed some suitably high-profile winners.
Multiple Olympic medalists and world champs Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) and Emma Hinze (Germany) took the lead in the sprint leagues after Saturday’s opening round of the five-event series. Katie Archibald (Great Britain) continued her all-conquering 2021 by topping the women’s endurance competition and Corbin Strong (New Zealand) takes the honors in the men’s.
Saturday’s racing marked the debut of the UCI’s radical new event, which has been designed to breathe life into track cycling and extend the late-season hype beyond last month’s world championships.
With superstar startlists, equal prize monies, custom skinsuits, intense lighting, and live data transmission, the event promised much. Riders said it delivered.
“The race was really intense, really fast – and the atmosphere was amazing,” Hinze said. “I feel really proud to be the one to be wearing the leaders’ jersey. The competition here is very tough, but I’m looking forward to the next events.”
The UCI had slimmed down the racing formats in order to deliver high-adrenaline action and cut unnecessary downtime.
Kiwi ace Strong topped the endurance league after winning both the scratch and elimination events. He said the shortened scratch race made for an all-new experience in the saddle.
“It was hot from the start, really not slow at all and if you weren’t warmed up properly it would have really cost you,” Strong said. “With it only being 20 laps it was extremely intense out there. It’s a pretty cool feeling to win. This event is massive for track cycling and I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
Archibald won the women’s endurance competition after bettering endurance race winner Maggie Coles Lyster (Canada) in the elimination event. The Brit motored away from Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) toward the end of a searing elimination race to take the leader’s jersey into next weekend’s league round in Panevėžys, Lithuania.
Just as the endurance events were reconfigured, so too were the sprints. Three-rider heats replaced the usual flying lap before a head-to-head final.
Hinze won the women’s sprint final over countrywoman Lea Friedrich, crossing the line at a reported 73kmh. Lavreysen topped Mikhail Yakovlev of Russia in the men’s.
“It was good – I like racing with just three riders in the heats. I was nervous because this is new for me – it’s different to riding one-vs-one and very technical,” Lavreysen said. “I hope to win some more – it’s great racing here.”
Racing continues in Lithuania next weekend, with the series continuing through London and Tel Aviv early December.
The full league is being broadcast across discovery+, Eurosport and GCN+.
“After three years in the making with the UCI, bringing such an ambitious project to life with this spectacular debut is testament to our commitment to making track cycling one of the most enthralling spectator sports in the world,” said Francois Ribeiro, head of Discovery Sports events.
“Our vision for a series rooted in high adrenaline, unpredictable racing, underpinned with a technology-driven production at a scale never seen before, has truly become a reality. There’s more to come for round two, and for sports fans all over the world, this first event sets us up for a thrilling first season.”