A capacity crowd delivered a supercharged atmosphere amid explosive competition at the highest level of racing. All eyes now turn to tomorrow’s finale and the crowning of the series’ four inaugural champions.
All image credits: UCI Track Champions League / SWpix.com
December 3 – London, United Kingdom: After dramatic rounds in Mallorca and Lithuania, the intensity reached new levels tonight as the UCI Track Champions League reached its penultimate round. In the race to the top, the 72 world-class riders went into battle on the iconic boards of Lee Valley VeloPark for another evening of high speed action – the first round of a double-header grand finale.
In the Men’s Sprint League, Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) now leads by 14 points ahead of second placed Stefan Bötticher (Germany) and 46 ahead of Vasilijus Lendel (Lithuania). In the Women’s Sprint League, Emma Hinze (Germany) leads by just two points ahead of compatriot Lea Friedrich (Germany), with Kelsey Mitchell (Canada) in third – 27 points adrift. The Men’s Endurance League is led by Sebastian Mora (Spain) on 89 points, ahead of Gavin Hoover (USA) and Corbin Strong (New Zealand), second and third respectively on 84 points and 68 points. Local superstar Katie Archibald (Great Britain) extends her lead in the Women’s Endurance standings with 108 points, ahead of Annette Edmondson (Australia) and Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) on 73 and 72 points respectively.
Each of the four heading up the standings will wear the coveted UCI Track Champions League Leader’s Jersey in the grand finale tomorrow.
Over 5,000 fans packed the velodrome to welcome six local riders including track legends Ed Clancy and Katie Archibald alongside Sophie Capewell and Rhys Britton. Will Tidball and Josh Charlton, riding in the Men’s Endurance League, also joined in place of Tuur Dens and Jules Hester. Fans were treated to a technology-driven spectacle breaking new ground in cycling, as TV viewers around the world tuned in via discovery+, Eurosport, GCN+ and a wealth of international broadcast partners.
THE STORY OF ROUND THREE
Women’s Sprint League – Women’s Keirin Final
League leader Emma Hinze (Germany) missed out on a place in the final after she collided with close contender Lauriane Genest (Canada) in a high speed crash during the first heat. Whilst both riders were visibly shaken, they were able to compete in their next races. League rival Kelsey Mitchell (Canada) was also unable to qualify, having finished third in her heat. Germany’s Lea Friedrich capitalised on their absence, taking first place in the final ahead of Martha Bayona Pineda (Colombia) and Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) respectively in a fast sprint. Friedrich’s win saw her undo Hinze’s eighteen point advantage heading into the round in one fell swoop.
Lea Friedrich (Germany), winner of the Women’s Keirin Final, said: “There were two laps to go, I controlled the race and with one lap to go, I went really fast. It was an unbelievable feeling, it was really painful and a really hard race. I’m happy to have the points and now to the sprint race. It’s really close [the gap to Emma Hinze]. We go to the sprint race, then I will see the results.”
Women’s Sprint League – Women’s Sprint Final
The final saw German riders Emma Hinze and Lea Friedrich, first and second place in the Women’s Sprint league standings, go head-to-head. Having crashed out of the Women’s Keirin earlier in the night, Hinze needed to beat Friedrich to retain her leader’s jersey. The race began with a classic cat and mouse affair and progressed quickly to a fast-paced sprint. With a lap and a half to go, Hinze surged and held off Friedrich to take an impressive victory.
Emma Hinze, winner of the Women’s Sprint Final said: “I am really proud because after crashing in the keirin and managing to win. My body hurts a little bit but my head was still there and I wanted to win. I had some splinters in my ass that they took out after the race.”
Men’s Sprint League – Men’s Sprint Final
Stefan Bötticher (Germany) lined up alongside league leader Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) for the final after dominant performances in both the heats and semi finals. Bötticher led out from the front in a cagey build up, while Lavreysen kept his distance. The German launched with a lap to go but was unable to prevent Lavreysen latching onto his rear wheel as they hit the back straight. Lavreysen came round the outside to take the win in an exhilarating photo finish to the delight of the packed crowd.
Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), winner of the Men’s Sprint Final, said: “It was a hard race. I expected Stefan [Bötticher] to be really quick. There was nothing easy about it, he did a really technical race. I did a really good build up and it was really hard to make a difference. I was lucky to have a slipstream in the last lap so I could get a little higher top speed. It feels good – it was only 3 points extra but every little counts.”
Men’s Sprint League – Men’s Keirin Final
Nicholas Paul (Trinidad & Tobago) led from the front, sitting right behind the derny as the race got underway. Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) occupied the last spot in the line, closely following his closest league rival Stefan Bötticher (Germany). As the derny departed, Botticher’s compatriot Maximilian Levy surged to the front, followed by Vasilijus Lendel (Lithuania). Lavreysen found himself too far back to truly contest the sprint that developed, while his rival Bötticher passed Lendel on the line for a valuable win.
Stefan Bötticher, winner of the Men’s Keirin Final, said: “It was a bit different. Harrie was at the back and the race went pretty fast early. He just moved and I could feel that he was maybe not that strong as in the sprint and I could hold him. If you go for more than a lap in third or fourth, you lose a lot of power. I also had the edge when it came to the finish line and I was fast enough to catch the win. I am the keirin king at the moment. I just hope that I have some good racing tomorrow again. I’m pretty happy to win here, it’s always special. I had a big victory here [in the UK] in the World Cup in 2013. It’s a big feeling to win here and hopefully I will have another chance tomorrow.”
Women’s Endurance League – Women’s Scratch
A cautious start to the Women’s Scratch saw the riders settle into a compressed peloton for the first half of the race. After ten laps of racing, the pace remained conservative, with race favorite Katie Archibald (Great Britain) sitting in towards the back of the bunch, in a race that was set to explode. The fuse was lit by veteran rider Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) who moved to the front with one lap to go, followed closely by Archibald – to the roar of the home crowd. Archibald took to the outside to pass Portugal’s Maria Martins and Kirsten Wild, but was unsuccessful in her attempt. Wild took the win, from Martins and Archibald – second and third respectively.
Kirsten Wild (Netherlands), winner of the Women’s Scratch, said: “I always think I remember everything and then actually it was like this: I always make the same mistake, starting too early in the front, but in the end it worked. I could accelerate to the final, normally I am too early but now I could still accelerate. I try not to think about [winning overall] – it’s quite an emotional feeling. I still see it day by day and I am still racing, I try not to think too much about it. There are still three races to go and it is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. One way, I’m happy that I am retiring as it’s my own choice – my body, my back injuries…. But then also it’s hard because cycling is a big part of my life, my everyday life, my social life, my whole life. So it’s also a bit of a strange feeling and a bit sad. I will miss this family and this feeling.”
Women’s Endurance League – Women’s Elimination
Anita Yvonne Stenberg (Norway), one of Katie Archibald’s main rivals, was eliminated early on in the race. Archibald, meanwhile, bided her time, staying close to the back and taking several risks across successive elimination laps – as the crowd cheered on. Maggie Coles-Lyster (Canada) was the next big name to exit early, as the British rider continued to risk it. With each lap, and each close call, the home crowd grew louder. With three riders left, Archibald rolled around the outside of Australia’s Annette Edmondson, leaving her to face off against the Women’s Scratch winner Kirsten Wild (Netherlands). Catching Wild out, Archibald attacked immediately, building a strong advantage. The crowd roared as Wild surrendered in the chase, leaving Archibald to take a comfortable win. A standing ovation followed from the capacity audience.
Katie Archibald, winner of the Women’s Elimination, said: “I really knew before we got on the start line, if I was going to do anything I would have to go as soon as possible, make it as long as possible. Speed endurance rather than speed. It was super special [winning in front of a home crowd]. It’s good but I felt a lot of pressure coming home. I’ve had a lot of really important experiences here, both early on in my career and some big successes. It means a lot to be here and I’m glad to deliver.”
Men’s Endurance League – Men’s Scratch
Early attacks led to an action-filled first ten laps in the Men’s Scratch. However with seven laps to go the pace steadied. The lull allowed Swiss rider Claudio Imhof to quietly go clear from the main bunch with an attack just six laps from the finish. Imhof’s lead then quickly grew to half a lap. With the crowd roaring in support, he maintained his advantage ahead of an uncooperative group and secured the win with three laps remaining. Trailing over a quarter of a lap behind, Kazushige Kuboki (Japan) and Sebastian Mora (Spain) came home in second and third respectively, long after Imhof crossed the line in celebration.
Claudio Imhof (Switzerland), winner of the Men’s Scratch, said: “It didn’t feel so good at the start but then I tried to really hang on the first five to ten laps. I knew I’d never win the scratch like this in the sprint, so I really made it a good moment to attack and really gave it a go all in. With the crowd here in London, it really reminded me of the Worlds at 2016 and to feel the atmosphere when you’re in front solo, it really gives you wings and it’s great. I had some real downs. I got eliminated first in Mallorca and I said I really have to take these chances – all the races that are still to go. I said to myself I want to win one and to do it here in London is really great.”
Men’s Endurance League – Men’s Elimination
The Men’s Elimination began with great anticipation from the crowd, as several British riders competed. Home favorite Ed Clancy (Great Britain) was the third to be eliminated, to the disappointment of the audience. New Zealand rider Corbin Strong, who was second place in the standings overall heading into round three, was the first big name to be eliminated – last across the line at the halfway point. With seven riders left the pace began to quicken as last of the Brits Rhys Britton exited the race. Leader’s jersey wearer Sebastian Mora (Spain) moved to the front with four riders left, but when numbers were reduced to the final three, it was Sebastian Mora who succumbed to the blistering pace and was eliminated. In the final lap, league rival Gavin Hoover launched a vicious attack against Alan Banaszek (Poland), who gave up from sheer fatigue. Hoover celebrated as he crossed the line in first place.
Gavin Hoover (USA), winner of the Men’s Elimination, said: “I knew I’ve been riding the eliminations well and my thought process was make every sprint and see what happens at the end. It’s amazing. I’ve been really consistent. I’m really happy with where that’s put me in the overall, but I also just really wanted to win. So to get one in the elimination where you’re the only one on the track is amazing.”