The UCI’s Track Champions League returned on Saturday, with Brit, Mark Stewart taking the lead in the men’s endurance competition at the start of the five round series.
The 27 year-old Scotsman won the men’s Scratch Race and was third in the Elimination, earning him a five point overall lead ahead of round two in Berlin next weekend.
Katie Archibald also tasted success, winning the women’s scratch race during the event held at Mallorca’s Velòdrom Illes Balears on Saturday evening. However, the Scotswoman was the first out of the Elimination race, leaving her in sixth pace overall.
Stewart’s Scratch race win came on the back of a proactive and dominant performance. Attacking with 11 of the 20 laps race gone, he was part of a small group threatening to take a lap on the bunch. As the peloton began to edge away Spanish hero Sebastián Mora attacked, but Stewart bridged across the gap and attacked straight over the top, taking a lap and victory.
Three British riders started the Elimination race, with Ollie Wood seventh of the 18 riders to be eliminated. Will Perrett and Stewart were well placed in the latter laps, with Perrett taking fourth and Stewart third. But it was Canadian Mathias Guillemette who went long, taking a flyer one lap out to take the win.
Archibald’s Scratch race success was as consummate as Stewart’s. She had attacked early on in the 20 lap event, but was instantly closed down, forcing her to change tactics, the race becoming cagey in the middle part, and only with five laps to go did the pace rise. Archibald remained patient though, launching off the front as the final lap began, holding off Spanish former track sprinter Tania Calvo.
However, Archibald found herself out of position and boxed in on the opening lap of the Elimination and was first to be eliminated, leaving Sophie Lewis as the best placed British rider in seventh place, one ahead of Laura Kenny.
The race ended up as a battle between Olympic and world champion Omnium champion, American Jennifer Valente and Anita Stenberg. Though she appeared to struggle on the final lap, the Norwegian hung on to Valente’s wheel, coming over the top to win. Valente does hold the lead in the overall endurance classification though.
Though she was unable to win either Keirin or Sprint, the women’s Sprint classification is headed by Dutchwoman Shanne Braspennincx, who finished fourth in both events.
World Champion Mathilde Gros outclassed Dutch rider Hetty van de Wouw in the Sprint. The Frenchwoman forced her rival to the front in what was a cagey race, coming over the top round the final bend to take a superb win.
Brit Sophie Capewell finished second in her heat of the women’s Keirin, qualifying for the final were she finished fifth. The race was won by the surprise of the evening, Colombian Martha Bayona first out-sprinting a quality field to qualify, then beating Olympic sprint champion, Canadian Kelsey Mitchell in the final, with world Keirin champion Lea Friedrich third.
In the men’s race world champion and favourite, Harrie Lavreysen took a well-timed victory, edging to the front late on. The Dutchman leads the Sprints classification overall by dint his second place in the Sprint, where he also wears the rainbow bands.
Indeed, the final was a rerun of the world championships final just a few weeks ago in Paris, with Lavreysen taking on Australian Matthew Richardson. In Mallorca though the Australian proved successful in a cagey race where he stuck very close to his rival’s wheel and coming to the front with just a few metres to spare.
The Champions League is designed to produce fast and furious racing, with sudden death single rounds in the sprint events and shortened endurance events. It’s spread over five rounds, with London hosting the final round on December 2nd.
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