photo credits @ UCI
The UCI Track Champions League returned with a vengeance on Saturday evening, as the world’s best track cyclists battled for glory in Round 1 at the Velodrom Illes Balears in Mallorca.
Harrie Lavreysen (NED), Shanne Braspennincx (NED), Mark Stewart (GBR) and Jennifer Valente (USA) are the first to wear the coveted UCI Track Champions League’s leader’s jerseys in 2022 after sweeping to victory to top the overall standings.
Round 1 pushed riders to their limits as highlighted by Pauline Grabosch’s (GER) numbers in the Keirin, while four-time UCI World Champion hit a heart rate of 200 beats per minute in the Keirin as well, with her maximum of the night hitting 198bpm.
Endurance events also took a toll on Gavin Hoover (USA), crowned in the maiden edition of the UCI Track Champions League last year. After a disappointing result in the Scratch (15th), the American star bounced back in the Elimination (2nd) but he couldn’t dig any deeper, with a heart rate of 188bpm when Mathias Guillemette (CAN) dropped him for the win.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ROUND 1
Women’s Sprint League – Keirin
With just 750m after the derny to make or break the race, it was Lea Friedrich (GER) who went long and took the lead ahead of Martha Bayona (COL) with Olympic Champion Kelsey Mitchell (CAN) in third. With half a lap to go it was Bayona who made the crucial move, slipstreaming Friedrich and overtaking her at 62.5 km/h to take an ecstatic win.
Martha Bayona said: “I felt very good today and now I am super happy. I followed the advice of my coach, who, although he is not here with us, told me how to do things and they turned out very well. I did not expect. I am very happy and I know that I can do very well in the following rounds. I have my sights set on London.
Women’s Sprint League – Sprint
With heat wins from Shanne Braspennincx (NED), Olena Starikova (UKR), Hetty van de Wouw (NED) Luz Gaxiola Gonzalez (MEX) and Mathilde Gros (FRA) it was van de Wouw and Gros that lined up for the Sprint final showdown after taking victories in the semi-finals.
A tactical first lap at crawling pace saw van de Wouw make the first move, putting a gap between herself and Gros. With half a lap to go French UCI World Champion Gros suddenly dug deep and put the power down, blasting past van de Wouw at over 62 km/h and crossing the line to take a convincing victory and early lead in the 2022 UCI Track Champions League.
Mathilde Gros said: “It was a really nice race, I was in the final against Hetty van de Wouw, she is really fast so it was a really good race together. I took the position two so I needed to push her and wait for the last moment to go in front.
“I am so happy to have won this race, really happy, I took a one week holiday after the Tissot UCI Track World Championships and I wanted to be at my best today. I am really happy to win the first race of this tournament and this edition. Now I can focus on the Keirin.”
Men’s Sprint League – Keirin
The men’s Keirin saw an all-star line-up, with Matthew Richardson (AUS), Harrie Lavreysen (NED) and Stefan Botticher (GER) taking a heat win apiece – and it was these three that would deliver all the action in a gripping final.
Richardson took the immediate lead with the rest of the pack in hot pursuit. Over the line for the last lap and it was Lavreysen who upped the ante, powering from fourth place to accelerate past the Australian. Richardson responded immediately with a counter attack, pushing the Dutch UCI World Champion all the way with Bottiger close behind, but it wasn’t enough to stop Lavreysen, who once again proved his raw talent to take a blistering victory, with Richardson and Bottiger milliseconds behind.
Harrie Lavreysen said: “I tried to carry on where I left off. I felt pretty good. The Keirin was really nice, I was really happy with the win but it was really hard racing. The first two Keirins were really quick off each other and then the first sprint really killed me!”
Men’s Sprint League – Sprint
A cagey start saw Matthew Richardson (AUS) trail Harrie Lavereysen (NED), waiting for his moment to strike. As Lavreysen put the hammer down, so did Richardson, and with less than a lap to go the Australian put in a maximum effort – his heart rate reaching 189 bpm – to overtake Lavreysen at 70km/h, just pipping the seemingly unbeatable world champion at the line to take an emphatic victory.
Matthew Richardson said: “That was a nice way to round off the night. Harrie and I have raced each other all season and he’s beaten me every time so it was nice to get over on him. It’s been a long day of racing so I was pretty tired heading into the final, and I didn’t want to wind it up too much. I thought ‘if I go too early, I’m going to explode’ so I thought I’d leave it late and then see what happened, and it worked out great.”
Women’s Endurance League – Scratch
After a steady start for the first four laps with riders taking turns on the front, it was reigning endurance champion Katie Archibald who made the first attack, but it was quickly closed down by the pack. As the race settled down again it became game with every rider waiting to see who would make the first move. With nine laps to go, Michaela Drummand (NZL) moved into the lead but was unable to break away. Suddenly, with five laps to go it was again Archibald that put the power down, followed closely by fellow Brit Dame Laura Kenny trying a move around the outside. Into the last lap, with heart rates hitting 182bpm and it was Spaniard Tania Calvo (SPA) who attacked Archibald but was unable to take the lead, with Archibald taking the victory.
Katie Archibald said: “I wanted to create a break that could go and then I didn’t want to be part of it so I made that attack and I see Laura and I see Anita and I thought that this isn’t good. That gallop isn’t my strong point so I just put my best foot forward and stay at the front and fight and when Maggie came over we all knew that the winner is going to come at that wheel and I got it.
“It is fantastic to have won. I came in with a very different mentality last year, I was nervous but confident. But this time as I’m less confident I’m learning to be aggressive with it.”
Women’s Endurance League – Elimination
An intense 36-lap endurance test saw a shock early departure from hot favourite Katie Archibald, ejected from the race with no points that will nothing for her championship hopes. The relentless pace also saw fellow Brit Dame Laura Kenny (GBR) unable to hold on past half distance and being eliminated with with seven to go.
As the laps counted down, a quartet of quality remaining saw an American one-two of Jennifer Valente (USA) and Lily Williams (USA) leading Maggie Coles-Lyster (CAN) and Anita Stenberg (NOR). Of the four, Coles-Lyster and Williams were the first to go, meaning fans were treated to an intense final showdown between Stenberg and Valente.
Into the last last lap, and Valente looked strong, but a huge push from Stenberg saw her power past the UCI World Champion at the very moment to take an impressive win.
Anita Stenberg said: “To be honest, my only goal was to have fun, enjoy myself and feel like I had a slight bit of control. To win, I am just so happy to have done it, it has always been my dream to win something so big – this race is a big race, so I feel like I am in heaven. To do well in this season’s UCI Track Champions League is a big goal of mine because this season is really, really hard with all the stars. To be able to be at the top and be one of those stars is just like a gift.”
Men’s Endurance League – Scratch
The fast paced 20-lap Scratch Race saw an early breakaway of a handful of riders elbow-to-elbow in the battle for the lead. With four laps to go it was local superstar Sebastian Mora (SPA) who attacked – to the delight of the home crowd – with Mark Stewart (GBR) in hot pursuit and Michele Scartezzini (ITA) behind.
As the two leaders edged away from the pack, Stewart attacked with one and a half laps left, going next and neck with the popular Spaniard before moving ahead on the last lap. With his heart racing at 188bpm, Stewart just managed to hold on to the lead to take a triumphant first win in the UCI Track Champions League.
Mark Stewart (GBR) said: “Last year Corbin Strong said to me that it’s savage, it’s just full gas from the start and it was. I could sense towards the end that everyone was on their knees. I don’t know why but I actually felt alright so I had a lot of fun out there.
“That was fantastic, I nearly didn’t get so much of a cheer from the crowd because the crowd were cheering for the local rider Sebastian Mora, but I will happily be the villain. I am tired, that was so hard that I am nervous about having to do it again in the Elimination.”
Men’s Endurance League – Elimination
In a gruelling 36-lap Elimination Race, a surprise early exit from Dutch star Roy Eefting underlined the blistering pace first from the start. With Sebastian Mora (SPA), Scratch winner Mark Stewart (GBR) Mathias Guillemette (CAN) and 2021 Endurance Champion Gavin Hoover (USA) sitting in, the race was wide open at half distance, with local hero Mora taking the lead with eight riders left.
After holding the lead for two laps, the Spaniard then went from hero to zero on the sprint lap, dropping to the back and being eliminated to come fifth. In the final stages and with heart rates reaching 190pm, it was the final three of Hoover, Guillemette and Stewart remaining. With Stewart the first to be spat out the back, it left Hoover and Guillemette to go head-to-head for a thrilling final lap. Despite Hoover’s best efforts, the American didn’t have the legs to keep hold of the delighted Guillemette who took a convincing win – his first in the series.
Mathias Guillemette said: “It was a very good race for me. My tactic was actually to stay top two, top three and almost tag Sebastian Mora, chip at him a little bit because he’s the one to beat. He’s the big name, the big racer, so the tactics were just perfect. I stayed top two, I was shuffling right away. not being too lazy because it is a very short race – 18 people, going fast, you don’t have time to think, it’s super fast out of the gate. It worked perfectly, the focus was there.
“[At the finish] I saw Gavin go, the battle for third, I saw his face and I knew I won. Right away when I kicked I saw the head shaking and I knew.”
Francois Ribeiro, Head of Discovery Sports Events, said: “What an incredible start to the 2022 series that was in Mallorca. The atmosphere inside the velodrome was eclectic and that was a result of the breathtaking action they were witnessing on the track. The results tonight have shown us who the riders to beat will be in Berlin and we’re already looking forward to the next Saturday now to see how the next chapter will play out in front of an equally passionate crowd.”
WHERE TO WATCH
Every round of the UCI Track Champions league is broadcast live on discovery+, GCN+ (globally), the Eurosport App, as well as on Eurosport 1. Saturday’s coverage starts from 18:30 CET with a 30-minute preview show. Live coverage is then broadcast between 19:00-22:00 CET and is followed by a 30-minute post-race show featuring highlights and expert analysis.
The action will also be broadcast across the globe on the following 14 channels:
CBC Sports (Canada), Claro (LATAM), ERT (Greece), Speed Channel (Japan), RAI (Italy), RTBF (Belgium), RTL7 (Netherlands), RTVE / Teledeporte (Spain), SBS (Australia), SRG (Switzerland), SuperSport (Africa Sub-Sahara), Zhibo.tv (China), Match TV (Russia), Señal Colombia (Colombia).
Highlights will also be broadcast on Quest (UK), Kanal 9 (Sweden), 6’eren (Denmark), Max (Norway) and Kutonen (Finland).
REMAINING RACE CALENDAR:
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