A packed velodrome and a worldwide TV audience watched the world’s best riders deliver spectacular racing in track cycling’s breakthrough series
November 6 – Mallorca, Spain: The world of sport witnessed a historic moment tonight as the UCI Track Champions League made a stunning international debut. The biggest development in track cycling for generations, 72 of the world’s best riders delivered an enthralling first round of wheel-to-wheel racing at the Velòdrom Illes Balears in Mallorca, Spain.
After round one, multiple Olympic medalists and UCI Track Cycling World Champions Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) and Emma Hinze (Germany) lead the men’s and women’s Sprint League respectively. Alongside them, fellow decorated superstars Corbin Strong (New Zealand) and Katie Archibald (Great Britain), hold first place in the men’s and women’s Endurance League. The four leaders took to the podium to receive the coveted UCI Track Champions League Leader’s Jersey, to wear at round two in Panevėžys Lithuania on November 27.
The Velòdrom Illes Balears welcomed a packed crowd, half of whom were witnessing track cycling for the first time. The experience treated them to a technology-driven spectacle not seen before in cycling. TV viewers around the world tuned in via discovery+, Eurosport, GCN+ and a wealth of international broadcast partners for the action-packed first round.
THE STORY OF ROUND 1
Women’s Sprint League – Keirin
Three fast-paced heats delivered a Keirin final comprising Olympic stars Kelsey Mitchell (Canada), Emma Hinze (Germany) and Lea Friedrich (Germany) alongside Martha Bayona Pineda (Colombia), Miriam Vece (Italy), and Mathilde Gros (France). With one lap to go, lead rider from the derny Lea Friedrich powered ahead from the front. She was soon caught however, and overtaken by Mitchell and Hinze in a two-way battle for victory. Crossing the line first, Mitchell threw her bike forward, hitting a max heart rate of 182bpm.
Kelsey Mitchell (Canada) said: “I pulled fourth place so I was in the middle of the pack. I normally prefer to take the front early but this time I decided to hang back and save energy before hitting it hard on the last lap, so I was happy to get round everyone. It feels incredible to win and I just want to keep this momentum going.”
Women’s Sprint League – Sprint
Six dynamic heats of three riders each, followed by two semi-finals generated a tactical, all-German, one-on-one women’s sprint final. After a cagey start, Emma Hinze took the win around the outside of Lea Friedrich, and crossed the line at 73kph.
Emma Hinze (Germany) said: “The race was really intense, really fast – and the atmosphere was amazing. 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.”
Men’s Sprint League – Sprint
After six heats, and a pair of semi-finals, the men’s Sprint final saw Netherlands’ Harrie Lavreysen go head to head with Mikhail Iakovlev of Russia. The race began as a game of cat and mouse, before the riders accelerated with one lap to go. Lavreysen forced Iakovlev to pass him from above, only to launch a surprise attack the Russian could not match. Lavreysen crossed the line in celebration to a cheering crowd.
Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) said: “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. It was great to go into the final against Iakovlev. I held a lot of speed from the top and he didn’t see me, so when I rode past him he didn’t expect it. I hope to win some more – it’s great racing here.”
Men’s Sprint League – Keirin
Jeffrey Hoogland (Netherlands), Stefan Botticher (Germany), Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), Kazuto Yamasaki (Japan), Nicholas Paul (Trinidad & Tobago) and Barrette (Canada) lined up for the hotly anticipated men’s Keirin final – each the winner of six frenetic heats. Barrette lead from the derny and was quickly passed in the closing sprint. Hoogland then took to the front with a lap to go, only to be reeled in by Botticher and Lavreysen who took a close first and second place respectively.
Women’s Endurance League – Scratch
The race began with an early breakaway from three riders. Maggie Coles Lyster (Canada), Olivija Baleisyte (Lithuania) and Hanna Tserakh (Belarus) quickly created a half lap lead from the main bunch. With two laps to go, this lead reduced, leading to a nail-bitingly close finish. Fending off the chasing group, Maggie Coles Lyster led the breakaway trio and was first over the line.
Maggie Coles Lyster (Canada) said: “The first four laps went steady and I thought of attacking as there were lots of gaps, but then I found myself in front when Kirsten pulled off. With three laps to go I saw them charging from behind and wasn’t sure I could hold it as my gear already felt big, suddenly it was 50 metres to go and I knew I had it. It feels incredible to be one of the first race winners of the UCI Track Champions League – I believed in myself and knew I had it in me, but to actually do it is a whole other thing.”
Women’s Endurance League – Elimination
The women’s Elimination began very fast. Heart rates sat above 180bpm as one by one riders were eliminated every two laps. Katie Archibald maintained a strong pace at the front throughout as Spanish riders Eukene Larrarte and Tania Calvo were eliminated to the applause of the local crowd. Race rival Maggie Coles Lyster faced elimination with fewer than five riders remaining. With two laps to go, Archibald continued to drive at the front, now with just Kirsten Wild sat behind her. The final lap saw Archibald accelerate, leaving Wild behind, allowing Archibald a ‘victory lap’ before she crossed the line.
Katie Archibald (Great Britain) said: “There were some parts of the race that caught me out. I’m happier going hard, which we did at the start, but it eased up halfway and I was worried the riders behind would come round me. Towards the end I tried to burn people off the back so I didn’t get boxed in or out of position, and really wanted it to come down to legs more than anything. The level of competition is tough, but I’ve got one of the fastest bikes here and I came ready for this. It feels great to lead. There’s a tiny part that feels daunting, but it feels really good.”
Men’s Endurance League – Scratch
The men’s Scratch witnessed a breakaway from lap 12, led by Spanish Olympian Sebastian Mora to the delight of the local crowd. He was quickly joined by other riders before the chasing group caught the break with just a handful of laps to go. Corbin Strong (New Zealand) then attacked from the bunch 500m from the finish. Although he was reeled in with half a lap to go, he found a second wind to take the race win in a bunch sprint.
Corbin Strong (New Zealand) said: “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. With it only being 20 laps it was extremely intense out there. It’s a pretty cool feeling to win. This event is a massive for track cycling and I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
Men’s Endurance League – Elimination
Just like the women’s race, the men’s Elimination was fast from the gun. Spanish riders Sebastian Mora and Erik Martorell Haga took to the front as a pair to maintain a high speed throughout, to great success. Scartezzini and Eefting were among the riders to exit the race as the bunch thinned down until three riders remained – winner of the Scratch Corbin Strong, alongside both Sebastian Mora and Gavin Hoover. Strong proved too fast for both, and took the win with an impressive ride.
Corbin Strong (New Zealand) said: “It was hot from the start as eliminations always are, and I started at the back so I had a lot of work to do. I got myself into a good position and got lucky a couple of times, but when it came down to the final five, tactically I felt comfortable. I think my fitness has gone down the last couple of weeks but obviously the power is still there. I’m well suited to the shorter format racing and it’s worked out well today. It feels pretty cool to be leading overall – not something I was expecting coming into this week. I’ve got a target on my back for the next race, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Francois Ribeiro, Head of Discovery Sports Events said: “Tonight marks a major step not just for Discovery Group but for the world of cycling and professional sport as a whole. 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. Our vision for a series rooted in high adrenalin, 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.”
Photo credit: SWpix.com