The UCI Track Champions League represents a “mind-blowing” new era for track cycling.
Featuring the world’s highest profile riders, the series includes a unique, condensed international race calendar, gender-equal participation and prize fund, and worldwide broadcast schedule.
Starting in Mallorca, the five-round (usually six rounds) UCI Track Champions League is an elite fan-focused competition designed to build the global profile of track cycling beyond the four-year Olympic cycle. It will debut on 6 November with the first of five action-packed-international events. Originally, there had been six rounds, but the French leg - set to be held in Paris - was cancelled after the guidance from the French government that the Velodrome just outside Paris would "continue to be used as an essential community vaccination centre until the end of the year." The UCI Track Champions League will return to Paris in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
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Thirty six of the top men and women riders will compete in either sprint or endurance categories, accumulating ranking points across the five rounds and battling for a gender-equal prize money pot totalling €500,000.
‘A MIND-BLOWING MIX OF ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORT’
"The name Champions League says it all," Francois Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, told Reuters ahead of Tuesday's launch. "It's an ambitious name for an ambitious project."
"It's not re-inventing the sport or the rules but it's re-inventing the way it's presented to the fans in the velodrome and the viewers on TV," Ribeiro added.
It will be a mind-blowing mix of entertainment and sport. Two and a half hours... bang, bang, bang!
“We believe the track discipline is one of the most exciting forms of cycle sport, but as the demands of audiences have evolved, there is an opportunity to present this in a new and highly compelling way. We’ve tapped into our unrivalled expertise in another high-adrenalin form of racing - motorsport - to refine the format and deliver an unprecedented on-event and on-screen experience to cycling fans.”
The new series is all part of a re-structuring of the track cycling calendar in which the World Championships have been moved back to later in the year and doubling as a qualification process for the Champions League.
"We want to create a window every year for track cycling to create a stronger narrative for the sport, to showcase the rivalries," Ribeiro added.
"We know that Spring is for the Giro, July for the Tour de France and now we want November/December to be the window for track cycling."
The sprint category will feature sprint and keirin, while elimination and scratch races form the endurance events. Four riders will emerge as champions: the best male and female sprint riders and the best male and female endurance riders.
Riders will wear custom-made speedsuits, complete with their national flag, while a special 'leaders' jersey will be worn by the leaders of the male and female sprint and endurance tables.
The UCI Track Champions League
Image credit: Eurosport
Prize money will be awarded for places 1-10 in every race throughout the series, with individual race winners receiving €1,000 and the overall winner of each category taking €25,000.
Each round of the series will last around two hours with TV viewers treated to a range of innovative features such as live rider data designed to bring them closer to the action.
'A WONDERFUL SPORT'
Mallorca will host the first round in the Palma velodrome on November 6 followed by a rounds in St Quentin en Yveli, France, Lithuania, a double-header in London's Olympic velodrome and culminating in Tel Aviv on December 11.
The continuation of Covid-19 travel restrictions means the first season of the Champions League will be Europe-based, but the plan is to take it around the world. And event ambassador Chris Hoy expects the event to engage with new audiences.
“Track cycling is such a wonderful sport,” said Hoy at a press conference to launch the event.
“It’s a great sport for kids to get into, it’s great for elite level, it has everything. It has excitement, there are personalities in the sport, so I hope this will engage with a new audience but also create personalities within the sport.”
UCI President David Lappartient said the Track Champions League marked an "important milestone" in the sport's history.
"Thanks to our strategic partnership with Discovery, a dynamic, fast-paced, television-friendly circuit will reach a new audience of track cycling fans," he said.
Britain's Ed Clancy, Germany's Emma Hinze, Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen, France's Mathilde Gros, Spain's Sebastian Mora and Lithuania's Simona Krupeckaite will receive wildcards into the inaugural Champions League as "founding riders".
GLOBAL BROADCAST DISTRIBUTION
The UCI Track Champions League will benefit from an extensive global broadcast distribution strategy with the aim of reaching and engaging as many cycling fans as possible. The race’s five rounds will be extensively broadcast across Discovery-owned channels including Eurosport, linear TV and streaming plus GCN+ and the GCN Racing digital channels.
A condensed, race schedule designed to give track cycling a clear space in the wider cycling calendar, visibility beyond the World Championships and maximum fan engagement:
Round 1 - November 6 - Palma, Mallorca
- Velòdrom Illes Balears
- The 5200-capacity multisport venue opened in 2007 and hosted the 2007 UCI Track Cycling World Championships.
Round 2 - November 20 - St Quentin en Yvelines, France - cancelled. See bottome of article for full statement
- Vélodrome National de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
- The French National Velodrome opened in 2014 and has hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2015 and UEC European Track Cycling Championships in 2016. The velodrome will host the track cycling events at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Round 3 - November 27 - Panevėžys, Lithuania
- Cido Arena
- The multisport Cido Arena opened in 2008 and is the only Olympic standard velodrome in the Baltic States. The 4230-capacity stadium hosted the 2012 UEC European Track Cycling Championships.
Round 4 & 5 - December 3-4 - London, U.K.
- Lee Valley VeloPark
- The award-winning Lee Valley VeloPark was constructed for the 2012 London Olympic Games and is renowned for its iconic curved roof design. As well as the Olympics, the venue hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in 2016 and the successful UCI Hour Record attempt by Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2015.
Round 6 - December 11 - Tel Aviv, Israel
- Sylvan Adams National Velodrome
- The brand new venue is the most advanced cycling facility in the Middle East, funded by Sylvan Adams as part of his vision to nurture homegrown cycling champions in Israel. The venue will host the 2022 UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships.
Full statement on Paris cancellation
UCI TRACK CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ANNOUNCES POSTPONEMENT OF SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES ROUND AS VELODROME EXTENDS DUTY AS COVID VACCINATION CENTRE
Formerly set to host round two of the inaugural season in November, the French venue is now to be featured from 2022 as it fulfils its essential role in the local community
24 September 2021 – Paris, France: Discovery Sports Events and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) today announce that Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines will now join the UCI Track Champions League from 2022, and no longer host the second round of the inaugural league on November 20 2021.
Following recent guidance from the French government, the velodrome just outside Paris will continue to be used as an essential community vaccination centre until the end of the year, and is therefore unable to fulfil its role as a host venue. The venue will return to the UCI Track Champions League calendar however, and is set to host the league in 2022, 2023 and 2024 as planned.
Due to the limited time remaining to deliver a premium event in an alternative location, the cancelled round will not be replaced in the 2021 race calendar. The inaugural season will therefore comprise five international rounds, taking place in Mallorca, Panevézys, London (two rounds) and Tel Aviv.
The league’s final classification prize pool for riders is unaffected, and preparations for the inaugural round in Mallorca, Spain on November 6 continue.
With additional reporting from Reuters
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