We’ve found it a monumental task to rank our top five UCI Track Champions League moments from the four previous rounds that have taken place in London.
The Lea Valley VeloPark has always served up thrilling racing and that was certainly the case when both the 2021 and 2022 seasons reached gripping finales in the English capital. Here are the five moments that live largest in our memories:
Matthew Richardson takes the fight to Harrie Lavreysen
A year after Harrie Lavreysen had dominated the 2021 Men’s Sprint competition, a new rivalry emerged between him and Matthew Richardson which was arguably the biggest story of the 2022 season.
Lavreysen had edged their battle right up until the penultimate round in London but a pivotal moment came in the Keirin that night when Richardson accelerated early to take victory with Lavreysen having to settle for fourth. That success meant the momentum swung in Richardson’s favour and saw Lavreysen forced to relinquish his grip on the blue jersey for the first time in UCI Track Champions League history.
Back in the rainbow bands of World Champion for Round 5, Lavreysen edged out Richardson in the Sprint final which meant the overall Men’s Sprint title would go right down to the wire in the Keirin.
Clearly feeling bullish, Lavreysen lead from the front in the final laps of that race but Richardson timed his effort to perfection, sheltering in the Dutchman’s wake before pipping his rival by the tightest of margins. It was an effort that yielded the highest speed of the season, averaging 73.2km/h over 200m to beat the defending champion and seal an incredible overall victory (see more stats from the 2022 season here).
Katie Archibald rounds off the 2021 season in style
British riders always enjoy extraordinary support in London and in both previous seasons, particularly enthusiastic cheers were reserved for Katie Archibald. The Scot was dominant there in all four rounds, but 2021 deserves a special mention.
Winning three out of four races before arriving in London, Archibald’s lead in the Women’s Endurance standings looked strong despite the continued pressure from the likes of Kirsten Wild and Maggie Coles-Lyster. But with the home crowd lifting her ever higher on the final night of competition, Archibald soared to victory in the Elimination Race to wrap up the blue jersey she’d held since Mallorca.
Archibald went up against Wild as the race came down to the final two riders, and she powered around the outside of her Dutch rival in the closing lap to wrap up the fifth victory of an incredible inaugural campaign.
Gavin Hoover makes a statement in 2021’s Lee Valley double-header
Gavin Hoover was one of the most consistent performers throughout the Men’s Endurance competition in 2021, but it wasn’t until the field arrived in London that the American really made his mark.
The top of the standings was pretty crowded heading into Round 4, but Sebastian Mora held the leader’s jersey and was proving difficult to shift.
Claudio Imhof made a strong case, but it was Hoover’s Elimination Race win that night that put the American into second place overall before the final round. Hoover came up against Alan Banaszek as the Elimination Race reached its crescendo, and he totally dominated his Polish rival, even having time to sit up and savour his victory before crossing the line with almost half a lap to spare.
Hoover’s consistency the following evening also proved key, and his 6th and 4th-placed finished in Round 5 meant he took the overall title with a five-point winning margin.
Mathilde Gros ends on a high to seal a stellar 2022 campaign
In the absence of 2021 Women’s Sprint champion Emma Hinze, World Champion Mathilde Gros was only too ready to assume the top spot in 2022. The French star arrived in London wearing the blue jersey after a clean sweep of Individual Sprint wins behind her, but suffered her first defeat at the hands of Olena Starikova in that event in Round 4.
That loss meant she was back with fire in her belly the following evening. The Women’s Sprint final wrapped up the entire 2022 UCI Track Champions League season and that meant all eyes were on the duel between Gros and Olympic Champion Kelsey Mitchell.
It was Mitchell who started the race stronger, with the Canadian leading from the front and forcing Gros to dig deep into her energy reserves as the action reached its conclusion. And dig deep she did, emerging from Mitchell’s slipstream in the very last corner before surging to victory by less than half a wheel length.
Claudio Imhof finally gets to celebrate in 2022
The Men’s Endurance competition was hotly contested from beginning to end in 2022 with six different winners over the season’s 10 races. Four riders also donned the blue leaders jersey, and Claudio Imhof had that privilege in Round 3 before losing it to Sebastian Mora as the action headed to London.
Despite not winning a race, Inhof was the epitome of consistency, and that solid form eventually told. With top-10 finishes in three of the four races in London, Inhof needed to go big in the final Elimination Race if he was to stand any chance of regaining top spot, and he did just that.
With Mora dropping out of contention in the final four, Inhof ceased his opportunity, and although the Swiss rider was eventually beaten to victory by the impressive Oliver Wood, his hard-fought second place meant he topped the final standings by the tightest of margins.
Stay tuned for more ‘greatest moments’ as venues are announced for the 2023 UCI Track Champions League.