Season two of the UCI Track Champions League saw four new champions, with two debutants, claim the coveted blue jersey. With dominant performances across each league and newcomers challenging former champions, the intense four weeks of racing provided a thrilling series for track cycling fans across the world.
The 2022 UCI Track Champions League season culminated in a stunning style last weekend, bringing the curtain down on five incredible rounds of racing. Matthew Richardson (Australia – Men’s Sprint), Mathilde Gros (France – Women’s Sprint), Claudio Imhof (Switzerland – Men’s Endurance) and Jennifer Valente (United States – Women’s Endurance) emerged as champions, and as well as taking home the coveted blue jerseys, the quartet was also awarded a UCI Track Champions League trophy and €25,000 each in prize money.
After its hugely successful launch last year, the 2022 campaign saw the UCI Track Champions League go from strength-to-strength, with captivating racing and enthusiastic crowds combining to produce eclectic atmospheres in Palma, Berlin, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines and London.
The series once again succeeded in its goal of reaching new audiences via discovery+, Eurosport, GCN+ and 14 additional international broadcast partners, elevating track cycling to a whole new level and providing a more immersive experience than ever before.
As the lights were being de-rigged, the projectors packed up and the bikes prepared for their long trips home, some of the key protagonists from the series gave their thoughts on the 2022 campaign:
Women’s Endurance Champion Jennifer Valente (United States) said: “The UCI Track Champions League is a really big production and I think that’s such a good thing for the sport. The series is continuing to grow, that’s for sure, and it’s a really exciting format to watch because there’s always something happening and it’s very dynamic and intense. Selecting the Individual Sprint and Kerin events in the Sprint leagues, and the Scratch and Elimination races in the Endurance leagues, has proved to be a really good choice as all those races are really engaging, and everyone can understand them, no matter if you’re new to the sport or old.”
Men’s Endurance Champion Claudio Imhof said: “I’ve won many medals at European and World Championships in the past, but this is the biggest result of my career. Winning the series in front of such a massive crowd, with such an incredible atmosphere, is something I’ve never experienced before, and something I’ll never forget.
“I really enjoyed the series as a whole. The competition was a lot tougher because the riders understood the short and intense racing format and back-to-back competition more. The fact that five riders could have won the Endurance series heading into the last race shows how close it was between us and I’m thrilled to have come out on top.
“The UCI Track Champions League is bringing on a whole new era for track cycling. Every race counts and the fans are really engaging with that, and the future definitely looks bright for the sport with competitions like this in place.”
“It’s been an amazing series and I’m really happy with my result. The competition has definitely been harder than last year but I’ve taken a lot of pleasure in racing with the other riders in the UCI Track Champions League. I’m really happy with my performance, and the final result.”
Women’s Sprint Champion Mathilde Gros said: “I have such amazing feelings about the UCI Track Champions League. The series really helped me get over my disappointment in the Olympic Games last year, when I was wondering if I even wanted to continue in the sport, and this year again, I’ve taken a lot of pleasure from it. The riders were so strong and the racing was so close.
“I’ve worked with my coach a lot during the series and learned a lot from a tactical perspective, both in the Sprint, and in the Keirin. I’m going to analyse every round again to make further improvements and that’s going to be helpful as I aim to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
“The format is great, not just for the riders, but the supporters as well. With each round only being three hours long, there’s lots of exciting racing and it is delivered by the very best riders in the world. The production is fantastic as well; the lights and sounds make for a brilliant atmosphere, as that means the riders always give 100% as well. I hope to be back in 2023.”
Men’s Sprint Champion Matthew Richardson said: “To finish at the top of the UCI Track Champions League in London, and in front of friends and family, is so special. Last year I was getting out of bed at 3am just to watch the UCI Track Champions League, so to be in a position to have won it this year, it’s just surreal. It’s been one hell of a season, and for me it couldn’t have been better.”
MORE REACTION FROM THE SEASON
Mark Stewart (Great Britain), who finished third in the Men’s Endurance, won Scratch races in both Palma (Round 1) and London (Round 5), and held the leader’s jersey at the end of Round 1, said: “The UCI Track Champions League is unlike anything I’ve done before. The atmosphere inside the velodromes has been absolutely electric and the series has exceeded all my expectations – not just with the racing, but with all the little things such as the communication and how professional everything is – Discovery Sports Events and the UCI are really good at what they do and it’s been lovely.
“On the track, the competition was harder than I expected. I haven’t ridden much track over the last two or three seasons because my main job has been on the road, and the Canadians in particular really impressed me. I’ve got to give them some credit and track cycling has definitely moved up to a whole new level, thanks to competitions like this.”
Katie Archibald (Great Britain), who finished second in the Women’s Endurance league, winning five of the eight races, said: “This season went fantastically on the whole. There were plenty of ups and downs along the way for me, which sums up life in a nutshell. The results reflect how happy you feel, and coming into the series, I wasn’t expecting anything, so I’m pleased to have performed how I did.
“I learnt plenty of lessons throughout the season, more so than in any other event, as the races come back-to-back and almost emulate training in a way, with the efforts coming quick and fast. That’s something that will have definitely benefited all the riders who took part in the series, and we’ll have been the envy of the rest of the track cycling world who weren’t able to compete.
“The UCI Track Champions League is perfect for new audiences. I’m a fan of the sport so I want everyone else to be as well, and to see people of all ages cheering us on in the different velodromes across Europe over the last four weeks has been amazing.”
Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), who finished second in the Men’s Sprint standings, winning five of the eight races, said: “Overall I had a really enjoyable season and I like the quickfire race format with the rounds coming week-after-week. I felt really good in almost every race but I made one mistake too many, and that’s what cost me the jersey in the end. I really enjoyed the rivalry with Matthew Richardson and we had some really fun battles. I’ll be back next season, for sure.
“I have to say, I liked the improved data this season as well. Seeing it on the screens inside the velodromes was really cool to see, and the app proved very useful as well.”
Sebastián Mora (Spain), who finished second in the Men’s Endurance standings, winning the Scratch in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (Round 3), said: “What an amazing advert for track cycling the 2022 UCI Track Champions League was! The action and emotions went right down to the wire and the fans definitely enjoyed that. Speaking about the Men’s Endurance specifically, it was nice that there were no big crashes or serious incidents, and that meant it really was a titanic battle between us over the five rounds.
The second season of the UCI Track Champions League has been a step forward, and is already making its name in track cycling. This year the average speeds have gone up, the riders are better, and even from the very first moment it was clear who was playing for the general classification points. We know this sport from the Olympic Games, from the UCI Track World Championships, and now from the UCI Track Champions League.”
Martha Bayona (Colombia), who finished fourth in the Women’s Sprint standings, won Keirin races in both Palma (Round 1) and London (Round 4), and held the leader’s jersey at the end of Round 2, said: “The 2022 UCI Track Champions League season was very good for me, and it was a really nice competition to round off the year. It’s a very different event to the UCI Track World Championships and UCI Track Nations Cup events we had earlier in the season, with a much shorter, but more intense, race format.
“I definitely learnt a lot from competing. I know I have to silence my doubts and trust a bit more in my abilities if I’m going to be able to make it onto the top step of the podium. I gave it my all over the five rounds but Mathilde Gros just proved too strong in the end, so huge congratulations to her. I’m already looking forward to next year now so I can fight for my top honours once again.”
Dame Laura Kenny (Great Britain) a UCI Track Champions League newcomer, and five-time Olympic Champion said: “The UCI Track Champions League has been completely athlete-focused. As a track cyclist, we have to travel from one venue to the next, and the biggest nightmare for any of us is travelling with a bike. The organisers have been amazing, and they’ve sorted everything. We have a daily schedule, we don’t have to think about anything, we just turn up and then we leave. I’ve never been to an event where it’s so athlete-focused.
From a spectators point of view, the format of the UCI Track Champions League is brilliant too. There’s no point in trying to teach the younger generation about track cycling by prolonging it, so it’s important to keep it short and sharp. It makes it exciting. The races are finished in six minutes and that’s only the way you’re going to keep them engaged.
Despite not performing as well as I had hoped during the season, it’s been a long time since I’ve turned up to a race and really enjoyed riding my bike.”
UCI Track Champions League ambassador and 17-time UCI World Champion Kristina Vogel said: “When I see the riders racing I always remember why I love track cycling. This year’s Sprint final between Harrie Lavreysen and Matthew Richardson was thrilling, and that level of excitement has been huge throughout the series. There’s definitely been progress in bringing new audiences to the sport through the UCI Track Champions League and I’ve really loved watching it. I’ve never seen anything like this in track cycling and it’s been amazing.
For the riders, this year has been a lot tougher than last, especially with the four back-to-back weekends of racing. The regular coverage has allowed fans the chance to get to know the riders better and we’ve also got to know them better too. Working every week together it feels like we’re now a small family that is growing. That’s exactly what this League is for. This year everything has been so unexpected. Seeing the leader’s jersey across each discipline change hands several times was fantastic, and it just shows how anything can happen in the UCI Track Champions League.”
UCI Track Champions League ambassador and six-time Olympic Champion Sir Chris Hoy said: “The UCI Track Champions League had a great debut season in 2021, but this year everything was ramped up and the series took a massive step forward. The standard of competition went up another level, and the closeness between the riders also made it even more exciting for the fans. We saw great champions producing incredible performances and they had to give everything to take the blue jerseys.
“Seeing the rivalry develop between Matthew Richardson and Harrie Lavreysen was a stand-out for me, but there were plenty of other battles played out as well, like with Jennifer Valente and Katie Archibald, and Claudio Imhof and Sebastián Mora. Harrie Lavreysen is one of the all-time greats and his performances definitely didn’t dip, instead, we saw Matthew Richardson step up and really lay down the gauntlet to him. Although Richardson took the jersey, they’re both winners for me as you have to remember Lavreysen triumphed in five of the eight races. They showed great rivalry but also great sportsmanship as well, and that really engaged the fans.
“The improved data has also added another layer of interest and you can really analyse riders’ performances, pinpointing exactly why they’re performing so well. The athletes themselves are also looking at the data, checking out their rivals as well, and it’s definitely helping to progress the sport. Having so much data at our fingertips also means you can go back through it in as much detail as you want, and that really prolongs fan engagement as well. I love all that.”
UCI Track Champions League Race Director James Pope said: “What a fitting finale that was in London. The season went right down to the wire in all four competitions and seeing Matthew Richardson beat Harrie Lavreysen in the closing race of the series was the icing on the cake. Their rivalry over the 2022 season was absolutely enthralling, and Richardson has been a phenomenon.
“The Men’s Endurance too, that couldn’t have been any closer with Cladio Imhof and Sebastián Mora tied on points at the finish, with Claudio taking the jersey after finishing higher than Sebastián in the very last race of that series. And of course, Jennifer Valente and Mathilde Gros deserve massive praise as well.
“The standard of racing has definitely gone up across the board. The riders are buzzing, the event staff are buzzing, so I couldn’t be happier.
“Off the track, the way the UCI Track Champions League’s been engaging with fans has gone up and up as well, and we’ve seen a lot more interest as a result of the technological improvements. On the app for instance, it’s been great to see thousands and thousands of supporters using its functionality to cheer the riders on remotely, and I know they’ve been massively grateful for that support.”
With the level of racing and fan engagement increasing since its outset, all the key players can testify to how Season 2 of the UCI Track Champions League has scaled up from 2021, with many riders already looking forward to Season 3.