This weekend sees the return of the UCI Track Champions League for its second year. Across five ‘rounds’ some of the world’s best track cyclist will take on a condensed racing format under festive conditions, competing for individual event honours as well as overall victory in the Sprint and Endurance categories.
There were naturally some teething problems, but on the whole, last year’s inaugural series was a great success, with the participating riders in particular delighted to have another platform on which to perform, and this year promises to take another step forward.
Conceived as an extension of the end-of-season, end-of-year track hype where the good old-fashioned Six Day calendar can be found, part of the thinking behind the TCL was to draw new fans to the sport with a more bitesize format, showcasing some of the more punchy and entertaining events like the keirin and elimination races. What’s more, the fixed startlist and overall competition – based on points gathered in each event – is designed to foster an overarching narrative and follow rivalries across the whole series.
The format explained
The TCL is a points-based series in which all athletes compete to win points across five rounds in velodromes all over Europe.
There are 18 riders in each field, all of them racing every single event in their category, with points available from first through to 15th place: 20 points for the winner down to one for 15th. Like each day of a stage race, the category leader will be awarded with a special jersey after each event which they’ll wear in each race until someone overhauls them, or until they’re crowned champion in London at the start of December.
- Scratch race – 20 laps, 5 km. First rider to cross the line wins
- Elimination race – one rider eliminated every two laps until only one remains
- Keirin – the two fastest riders in the heats qualify for the six-rider final
- Sprint – three-rider heats (as opposed to the usual flying lap) build toward a head-to-head final
A total of 72 athletes from 25 different nations will compete for equal prize money across the four fields – men’s and women’s sprint and endurance – including a number of superstars who made their mark on the recent World Championships, which is a route for qualification to the event.
The series gets underway without last year’s women’s sprint champion Emma Hinze (Germany), who withdrew through fatigue and is replaced by, but Katie Archibald (Great Britain) is back to defend her endurance title, along with burly sprinter Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands) and endurance star Gavin Hoover (USA).
Exciting news for British fans is that Archibald will be joined by compatriot Laura Kenny. The highly decorated Olympian was on the Eurosport presenting team last year, but returns to the boards this time around and is sure to light up the women’s endurance field. We’ll also be keeping an eye out for France’s Marie-Divine Kouamé who took a charismatic World Championship title in the 500m time trial event in Paris last month, beating favourite Emma Hinze.
- Velòdrom Illes Balears, Mallorca – Saturday November 12
- Berlin Velodrom, Berlin – Saturday November 19
- Vélodrome National de St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Paris – Saturday November 26
- Lee Valley VeloPark, London – Friday December 2
- Lee Valley VeloPark, London – Saturday December 3