UCI Track Champions League: Heroes, crashes and bloopers – Relive an exhilarating debut series
And breathe! The UCI Champions League reached a dramatic conclusion in a packed Lee Valley Velodrome as Katie Archibald, Gavin Hoover, Emma Hinze and Harrie Lavreysen secured the overall titles in the sprint and endurance leagues. The series, which has been praised for offering equal exposure and prize money for men and women, will return to discovery+ in 2022…
Archibald, Lavreysen, Hinze, Hooper celebrate with jazzy trophies
The inaugural UCI Track Champions League reached its climax under the London lights on Saturday night, bringing the curtain down on an electric month of racing across three countries.
Katie Archibald (Great Britain, women’s endurance), Gavin Hoover (USA, men’s endurance), Emma Hinze (Germany, women’s sprint) and Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands, men’s sprint) wrote their names into the history books as the Class of ’21 champions, each securing a tidy €25,000 for their efforts.
We could pick any one of Archibald’s elimination sweep but it was her ruthless head-to-head with retiring legend Kirsten Wild (Netherlands) in Round 4 that will live longest in the memory.
The Scot forced her rival up towards the hoardings before winning an all-in sprint on the final lap.
Archibald makes it four from four in elimination race
Wild did have something to celebrate in her swansong event. The 39-year-old rolled back the years with an outstanding win in the scratch race in Round 3, moving to the front with three laps remaining and refusing to budge.
'Phenomenal' - Wild holds off entire field to win scratch race
Remember folks: it’s about where you finish, not where you start. Or at least that was the motto of Kelsey Mitchell (Canada) in Mallorca, who started the final lap of the keirin in last place before roaring through the field for victory.
‘She was on Mars!’ – Mitchell roars from last to first in keirin
Ed Clancy (Great Britain) enjoyed a last hurrah at the scene of his greatest triumph: an Olympic title on home soil. He bows out as the most successful team pursuit cyclist in history, even if his farewell lap in the UCI Track Champions League was a little underwhelming.
“I’ve had my fill,” said a grinning Clancy after the series finale. “I’ve given my best and it’s been an amazing way to check out.”
“Never before have I had such a cheer for getting 18th place in a bike race.”
'I've had my fill' - Clancy and Wild bid goodbye to cycling after TCL finale
Wild’s bulging palmarès includes nine world titles on the track, another on the road, and an Olympic bronze medal. She finished second in the endurance standings behind Archibald and bows out as one of the biggest names in the sport’s history.
“I feel like it’s enough, and I’m happy that it’s over,” she said.
“Even though it’s a super nice sport and I still feel passionate for track cycling, it’s something really nice to do. This league is really nice for people to watch track cycling, and I hope people get as enthusiastic about cycling as I am, but for me it’s enough.”
Triple world champion Annette Edmondson (Australia) is also expected to retire and pursue a career in medicine.
But the biggest legend of them all continues to thrive. We got up close and personal with everyone’s favourite anti-hero in London: the derny rider.
Sprint champion Hinze arguably possesses the most iconic glare in sport. Her steely gaze before competition, either down the track or into her rival’s soul, would ruffle the composure of a heavyweight boxer.
Others have tried to imitate it but, deep down, they all know Hinze’s intimidation tactics are unrivalled in the velodrome.
‘It is like a boxing match!’ – Riders detail pre-race intimidation tactics
“When I go on the track, when it’s competition time. I switch like that. I’m not the Emma that I am off it. I think I’m really different. I take it really seriously, and I want to win,” she said.
Part of what makes track cycling so exciting are the wheel-to-wheel battles – but they do come with risk.
Just ask Hinze, who in a bid to work an opening on the final lap of her keirin heat in Round 3, ended up bumping shoulders with Lauriane Genest (Canada), sending the pair hurtling to the boards.
‘Contact!’ – Hinze and Genest collide and crash in keirin
Fortunately, they both walked away from the crash, with Hinze bouncing back to win the sprint final just hours later.
And then there was poor Sebastian Mora (Spain).
Well 50 per cent poor, 50 per cent reckless. Leading the men’s endurance standings heading into the final round, the Spaniard was so fixed on rival Hoover’s back wheel that he caused a concertina crash that saw him disqualified and left Kazushige Kuboki (Japan) and Alan Banaszek (Poland) badly bruised.
‘Ouch!’ – Big crash in men’s scratch race
One of the quirks of track cycling is that officials are sometimes required to hold the riders in place on the steep bank before the start. But just because that’s in the job description, doesn’t mean they are actually any good at it.
Case in point: Round 1 in Mallorca. Kento Yamasaki (Japan) was dreaming of victory in his keirin heat when he suddenly found himself falling towards the floor in slow motion. It was unavoidably amusing.
‘Ooo, hello!’ – Awkward fall before keirin start
Then in the final round in London, one long-haired official forgot he had to hold Tom Derache (France) in place, causing him to awkwardly roll down the track.
The same gentleman was at fault again later in the evening as he struggled to keep another rider upright. In the interests of preserving his self-esteem, we won’t include that video too.
'Hello and goodbye!' - Derache has awkward moment at start
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Up for it all again next year? Good, good. The UCI Track Champions League will return in 2022 on discovery+