The UCI's latest bid to fill the gap in the road racing off-season and increase the number of eyeballs focused on winter track action began as the Track Champions League kicked off in Mallorca, Spain.
36 riders each racing in the sprint and endurance leagues will compete over various rounds in locations around the world, riders earning points towards the overall series prize and leaders wearing specific jerseys to highlight their position atop the table.
Brit Katie Archibald emerged as the leader of the women's Endurance League, New Zealand's Corbin Strong the best of the men. Meanwhile, Olympic medalists and track world champions Harrie Lavreysen and Emma Hinze are the two riders who lead the Sprint League.
The Sprint League consists of two races, the Keirin and Sprint. Three heats delivered the fastest riders into a Keirin final, where Kelsey Mitchell (Canada), Emma Hinze (Germany), Lea Friedrich (Germany), Martha Bayona Pineda (Colombia), Miriam Vece (Italy), and Mathilde Gros (France) faced off for the first Champions League victory. After Friedrich made her bid for glory in the last lap, Mitchell and Hinze came through, the Canadian just taking it with her bike throw.
Hinze would get her revenge in the Sprint, however, getting through her heat and semi-final to set up an all-German final, coming around the outside of Friedrich to take the win.
“The race was really intense, really fast - and the atmosphere was amazing. I feel really proud to be the one to be wearing the leaders’ jersey. The competition here is very tough, but I’m looking forward to the next events," Hinze said after the finish.
In the men's Lavreysen beat Russia's Mikhail Iakovlev, launching a surprise attack after forcing the Russian up the track.
Lavreysen's Dutch compatriot Hoogland then took the initiative in the Keirin final on the last lap, but was brought back by Stefan Botticher (Germany) who crossed the line first, Lavreysen in second and accumulating enough points to take the lead in the mens' Sprint League.
In the Endurance League, consisting of Scratch and Elimination races, Canada's Maggie Coles Lyster found herself in a three-woman breakaway group that managed to last until the line, the Canadian beating her collaborators in the final sprint.
In the Elimination race, Katie Archibald was well-positioned at the front, driving into the final two laps and then accelerating to distance Kirsten Wild in the final lap to take the win with relative ease.
“There were some parts of the race that caught me out. I’m happier going hard, which we did at the start, but it eased up halfway and I was worried the riders behind would come round me," Archibald explained.
"Towards the end, I tried to burn people off the back so I didn’t get boxed in or out of position, and really wanted it to come down to legs more than anything. The level of competition is tough, but I’ve got one of the fastest bikes here and I came ready for this. It feels great to lead. There’s a tiny part that feels daunting, but it feels really good.”
Despite attacking with 500m to go and reeled in with half a lap until the finish line, New Zealand's Corbin Strong found enough to go again and win the bunch sprint in the Scratch race, the New Zealander then also victorious in the Elimination race to round out the first night of racing.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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