Women’s contenders – Stellar sprint cast, GB’s Archibald in endurance frame

The UCI Track Champions League gets underway on Saturday – and an all-star cast will be in action in Mallorca. All five events are live on Eurosport all the way to the conclusion in Tel Aviv on December 11.

Thirty-six women are doing battle: 18 in the sprint category and 18 in the endurance events.

Here, we break down the star names to look out for on the track.

Sprint: Mitchell v Friedrich v Hinze?

The Sprint Championship is stripped down to cycling’s two most exciting sprint formats: the keirin and the sprint.

Kelsey Mitchell (Canada, 27)

She stood out in Tokyo and is the reigning Olympic champion in the individual sprint. With her pedigree, the Canadian is among the favourites for the UCI Track Champions League. A word of warning: she could only take individual sprint bronze in Roubaix at the World Championships.

Lea Friedrich (Germany, 21)

Only 21, yet she claimed three rainbow jerseys in Roubaix: the team sprint, 500m and keirin. Add to that a silver medal in the individual sprint and you’ve got a mix that puts her at the top of the list of contenders.

Emma Hinze (Germany, 24)

Hinze is world champion in the individual sprint and should be considered alongside Friedrich and Mitchell. Hinze is not a flash in the pan, as she was the queen of the 2020 worlds with three titles.

Shanne Braspennincx (Netherlands, 30)

Braspennincx is in the same bracket as the trio above, as she proved in Tokyo by winning the keirin. Braspennincx is also doing well in individual sprints, having won the European title earlier this year. In the final, it was the young Friedrich who fell into her trap – leading to the last corner before being overwhelmed.

Mathilde Gros (France, 22)

Faced with such stellar competition, Gros seems to rank among the outsiders. But an argument can be made for her: her talent, her thunderous start to her career (world medallist at 19) and her recent results – a bronze in the individual sprint at the European Championships. After a disappointing Olympics, marked by some tactical mistakes and a photo-finish elimination in the repechage, Gros is enthusiastic about the idea of battling with the best.

To these five names in the world of sprinting, we must add Olena Starikova (Ukraine) – a silver medallist in the sprint this summer – and Lauriane Genest (Canada), who was third in the keirin at the Olympics.

Endurance: Wild facing young guns

Again, the Endurance Championship is boiled down to the two races that promise the most drama. A shorter, faster scratch race and an elimination race.

Kirsten Wild (Netherlands, 39).

Aged 39, 109 victories on the road and almost as much success on the track. Wild is a legend of cycling taking part in the UCI Track Champions League. The Dutch rider, who retired from the road in 2021, continues to shine in the velodrome. The proof came this summer with an Olympic bronze in the omnium. She followed that up in Roubaix, combining with Amy Pieters to win the madison. Wild no longer has total dominance, but is still performing to a high level.

Katie Archibald (Great Britain, 27)

She has two Olympic titles – the team pursuit in 2016 and the madison in 2020. Archibald is a credible candidate for victory in the endurance category. Her previous success has been in combined events, but she showed at the worlds this year that she can ride solo by taking omnium glory.

Yumi Kajihara (Japan, 24)

Her favourite race is not on the calendar, but Yumi Kajihara, the 2020 omnium champion and Tokyo silver medallist, has the legs to challenge. We will need to keep an eye on her, as we will with multiple world champion Annette Edmondson (Australia) and Gulnaz Khatuntseva (Russia) – the winner of the points race at the Euros this year.

Photo Credit: SWpix.com

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