LONDON (Reuters) – Two-time Olympic champion Katie Archibald delighted a large crowd at London velodrome to win the endurance title as the UCI’s inaugural Track Champions League wrapped up on Saturday.
With the Israel round of the competition canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, London’s double sold-out title has brought down the curtain on what organizers, the UCI and Discover Sports Events, hope to score a new era in track cycling.
Britain’s Archibald consolidated her lead in the standings on Friday with a victory in the elimination race and second place in the 5 km scratch on Saturday behind Yumi Kajihara guaranteed her the check for 25,000 euros ($ 28,282.50).
Flying Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen, Olympic champion and world sprint champion, won the men’s sprint league after going undefeated in the four-round sprint.
American Gavin Hoover won the men’s endurance title after a turbulent London final in which overnight leader Sebastian Mora was disqualified from the scratch race after causing a crash, undermining his chances.
The women’s sprint title went to Germany’s Emma Hinze ahead of her Olympic teammate Lea Friedrich.
The Track Champions League, launched this year to boost the appeal of velodrome racing, offers a fan-friendly format designed for television and a wide range of Olympic and world champions.
Runners compete in the endurance or sprint leagues with 18 male and female runners in each, collecting points and cash prizes in Mallorca, Lithuania and London.
Endurance runners competed against each other in all rounds of the scratch race and elimination race, while sprinters competed against each other in the sprint and keirin events, with the endurance and overall sprint champions winning 25 000 euros.
For the first time, organizers said, fans in London were able to watch “live data” of their favorite runners on an app, giving insight into power, heart rate and speed.
Archibald, who won gold in the team pursuit at the Rio Olympics and Madison with Laura Kenny in Tokyo, produced a fitting final as she crowned her title by beating old rival Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands in first place in the elimination race, the last race in The Career of the Wild.
Multiple British Olympic gold medalist Ed Clancy received an enthusiastic start in his last race before his retirement. “I have never heard such a roar for my 18th place! ” he said.
“It sounds like a really big deal,” Archibald told Eurosport analyst and event ambassador Chris Hoy, the former British track big, summing up the trackside event.
The Champions League on track had some starting problems, with only four possible rounds, instead of the six planned, after the cancellation of Paris and Tel Aviv for reasons related to the pandemic.
But the overall impression was positive, with organizers pointing to the fact that 50% of the large first-round crowd in Mallorca last month were watching track cycling for the first time.
“We have only scratched the surface of what we can do,” said Francois Ribeiro, Head of Discovery Sports Events.
Retired German tall Kristina Vogel, who helped create the new format, said: “It’s great to see this project come to fruition. I’m just jealous that this trophy isn’t in my living room.
($ 1 = € 0.8839)
(Report by Martyn Herman)