We asked the riders at the UCI Track Champions League to explain what makes the four events so special ahead of the series launch.
The first leg in Mallorca kicks off on Eurosport and discovery+ on Saturday, with 72 riders – 36 men and 36 women – split into two categories: a Sprint Championship and an Endurance Championship.
The sprinters will tackle a keirin and sprint at each of the five meetings, while the endurance riders will compete in a scratch race and elimination race.
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The overall winner of each category will take home €25,000, with prize money awarded for each place in the main standings. Race winners will also receive €1,000, with financial incentives for places 1-10 in every race.
So what makes each event unique? And how do you go about surviving? Over to the riders…

SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP

Sprint – A race of tactics?

  • The first rider to cross the finish line after three laps wins
  • The first round features six heats of three riders going head-to-head, with the six winners progressing to the semi-finals
  • Two semi-finals of three riders then determine the final competitors, who will duke it out for the win in a two-rider final
“The first rider to cross the finish line will win the race, but it’s really a race of tactics. We use cat and mouse, we look at each other,” says Tokyo 2020 keirin bronze medallist Lauriane Genest.
“You have your tactic going into the race, and you want to execute it, but other people also have a plan, so you sometimes have to change your plan within the race. You have to be reactive but when you decide to go, you have to commit.”
However, German superstar Emma Hinze says the unusual format for the sprint – featuring three riders rather than two until the final – should create a different style of race.
“I think it will be a really fast race with three on the track, because everyone wants to be in first position,” she said.
It’s like a small keirin race, I think. Not that many tactics, but really fast.

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Keirin – ‘Like rugby on bikes’

  • A mass start sprint over five laps, with the first two behind a Derny motorcycle setting the pace
  • Six riders will contest three heats, with the top two in each qualifying for the final
“We start behind a motor pacer, who brings us up to a speed of 50-55kph. After two laps the motorbike goes off the track and the big fight is on,” explains two-time track cycling world champion Stefan Boetticher.
“It’s a Japanese racing style. It’s a pretty hard fight, much more than in a sprint, because it’s six riders who all want to go to the front. Everyone is trying to block everyone.
“It’s a more high speed race, more hectic, and much more dangerous. So maybe more exciting than the sprint, for the audience.”
New Zealand sprinter Jordan Castle adds: “When the bike pulls off the track it’s just a mad headlong rush for the remaining three laps.
“Six 100kg dudes flying round the track at 70-80kph. It’s super exciting. It’s kind of like rugby on bikes.”

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ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Scratch race – ‘Who knows?!’

  • This bunch-start race will be contested over a relatively short distance of 5km (20 laps of the 250m track)
“Scratch racing is first person across the line wins,” begins American track star Kendall Ryan.
“You’ll either see the group riding around, getting faster and faster, or somebody will try to launch off the front and lap the field… Who knows? It’s the closest there is to a criterium and the simplest to understand.
“When it comes to tactics, personally I like to sit in the bunch and sprint at the end, because I’m a sprinter. But you can go off the front, try to be in the breakaway, or sit in the bunch and take advantage of all the draft that you can, to sprint at the end.”

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Elimination race – ‘On the gas, off the gas, on the gas…’

  • The last rider across the finish line every second lap will be eliminated
  • The first lap is a neutral lap with all 18 riders taking part from the off
“The elimination is so hard!” continues Ryan.
“Every other lap they ring the bell and whoever is in last position gets pulled. You’re constantly on the gas, off the gas, on the gas, off the gas…
“It’s all about positioning yourself well and trying to conserve for the end, because at the end it’s a match sprint.”

Clancy on elimination race - ‘Like a game of chess at 40mph’

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The UCI Track Champions League is coming and you can watch all of the action live on the Eurosport app, eurosport.co.uk and discovery+. Find out more about the "mind-blowing" new era for track cycling, with the first event on November 6 in Mallorca.
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