The UCI Track Champions League kicked off in Palma this evening with all the 6 Day razzmatazz we expected – and a few technological twists. OK; all the razzmatazz we expected and LED advertising hoardings. There were some novelty on-screen measures – like rider’s heartbeat – which could have added to the event, if they hadn’t been offset by incorrect captions for race winners, unreadable start and results lists, mis-spelled rider names – Simoma Krupeckaite? – and odd national flags – Sylvia Zanardi was Italian, the last time I checked, not Afghan. These teething troubles will, I’m sure, be fixed – but the fact that half the skinsuits are plain white with a predominantly red-striped sleeve and a small national flag on the shoulder which makes them almost impossible to tell apart is probably with us for the rest of the season.
But what about the racing?
Well, for the most part, it was very entertaining. The Scratch races, in particular, were great to watch – although the short distance does raise questions about the award of UCI Class 2 qualification for the double-distance – triple, in the case of the Men – World Championship event. The Elimination was what it always is, and the crowd love it. And the Keirin was fine – the shorter period behind the bike makes it all feel a little frantic and the lack of Repechages and a Second Round makes the outcome more of a lottery, but that doesn’t much affect the spectacle (but, again, raises questions over the points).
The Sprint format, though, just doesn’t work. The three-up heats and Semi-Finals are devoid of tactics and rather dull to watch and the sudden death Final removes all the drama of the second heat comeback and the decider.
The event began with the Sprint competition, which follows a unique formula. The first round consists of six, three-up, three lap sprints with one rider from each progressing to the Semi Finals, which follow the same format. The final is a more conventional, one-on-one affair but, again, it’s a one-off, winner takes all race – no best of three here.
With no 200m Time Trial to seed the event, the heats will be determined by the rider’s Sprint ranking in the competition from Round 2. For the opening round, the riders were ranked 1-18 on their performance at the Worlds first and then based on their UCI ranking. Heat 1 was the 1st ranked rider versus 12th and 18th. Heat 2 was 2nd versus 11th and 17th and so on. The Semi-Finals are the winner of Heats 1, 4 and 6 and 2, 3 and 5. The Final… well, you can work that out for yourself.
There was talk before the event that three-up sprints – something rarely seen since the demise of the minor finals of yore – would see the emergence of new forms of tactical thinking. And maybe it will. For now, for the most part, it was a three lap drag race with the winner being who ever could go flat out for the longest. There’s no question it’s an athletic contest, but it’s not sprinting and, like the automotive equivalent, it’s not particularly entertaining.
The first heat of the first round say Ryan Helal of France line up against Denis Dmitriev of Russia and Mateusz Rudyk of Poland. It’s not really possible to play mind games with two opponents, so the start-line process was more about grinning at the camera than staring out your fellow competitors.
Helal went early but Rudyk came round him to take the win and Dmitriev was stuck behind with nowhere to go.
The diminutive duo of Jair Tjon En Fa from Suriname and Jai Angsuthasawit of Thailand were dwarfed on the line by the massive Russian Mikhail Iakovlev (or Yakovlev, according to the rider profiles on the UCI Track Champions League website and Eurosport’s official but unfathomable and incomplete results website, but not the race results or – indeed, the official race report on the UCI site…).
Angsuthasawit led out another straight from the gun race, but Iakovlev powered past to take the lead, with Tjon En Fa on his wheel. The big Russian was too strong and held on to join Rudyk in the Semis.
There were was little evidence of novel tactics in the third heat, either. Kento Yamasaki of Japan, Max Levy of Germany and Nicholas Paul of Trinidad and Tobago rolled out in the order they were drawn and Paul order (considerably) faster than the other two for three laps.
Jean Spies of South Africa had barely been on a track since Tokyo – unable to secure the funding to travel to Paris for the Worlds – and, sadly, it showed as Kevin Santiago Quintero of Colombia and Germany’s Stefan Boetticher flew past him before half distance – Boetticher held on to win the resulting drag race.
Jeffrey Hoogland of the Netherlands almost lost out in the next drag race to Vailijus Lendel, who pulled out of his slipstream but didn’t quite have the gas to overhaul the German. New Zealand’s Jordan Castle has the best view of all, following behind.
Harrie Lavreysen of the Netherlands was the favourite for both Sprint competitions and was involved in the move of the round in his heat against Tom Derache of France and Hugo Barrette of Canada.
Derache – who didn’t make the French squad for the Worlds in Roubaix, but did take Silver in the European Keirin Championships and a win in the Keirin at the – admittedly sparsely attended St Petersburg Track Nations Cup went to the front, with Barrette behind. Lavreysen went high and followed, but then dived down the track, went under Barrette and over Derache and rode away from both.
If that move from Lavreysen was the highlight of the opening round, then you’d have to say that the almost carbon copy in the first of the Semi Finals was even better – given the higher quality of the opponents. Rudyk was done for but Paul did at least get on his wheel, but there was no changing the fact that Lavreysen was through to the Final.
The question was whether his compatriot would be joining him. Hoogland definitely had the tougher heat – up against a rejuvenated Boetticher and the impressive Iakovlev. It was another drag race, but at least the result was somewhat unexpected – Boetticher led it out but Iakovlev powered past and, although he gave it everything,– Hoogland couldn’t get over him on the home straing – but it was very, very close.
At last, we had an actual sprint. Not a proper, best of three, match sprint – but at least a one-on-one contest. Iakovlev was drawn at the bottom of the track, but disappointingly, rode it like a three-up. He wound it up slowly – knowing how quickly the World Champion could react – but Lavreysen controlled the race from behind and utterly destroyed the Russian with half a lap to go. So far, so predictable.
1 Harrie LAVREYSEN NETHERLANDS 10.288 Speed: 69.984km/h
2 Mikhail IAKOVLEV RUSSIA +1.622
The Keirin competition is much more conventional than the Sprint – but still differs in a couple of important respects. First, it’s a 5 laps race, with the derny – electric pseudo-trials-bike, in this case – pulling off after two laps. So the riders still sprint for three laps, but with less time behind the bike and a faster ramp. Three heats of six riders are drawn up using a similar seeding system to the Sprint competition with – Heat 1 pitching the top-ranked rider against the riders in 6th, 7th, 12th, 13th and 18th, Heat 2 2nd versus 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th and 17th and the rest in Heat 3. The heats see the first two going through to a straight final. No repechages; no Second Round – aka Semi Finals.
The first heat saw Sophie Capewell of Great Britain lining up directly behind the pacer with Lea Sophie Friedrich of Germany, Martha Bayona of Colombia, Lauriane Genest of Canada, Olga Starikova of Ukraine and Shanne Braspennincx of the Netherlands behind. Based on recent results, it should have been between Friedrich, Braspennincx and Genest
Friedrich booked her place in the Final comfortably with second going to a photo between Genest and Bayona. Genest was ahead, but she was also on the Cote d’Azure and relegated. Braspennincx did challenge, but she left it too late.
Simona Krupeckaite of Lithuania – who’d eligible for the UCI Masters Track Championships, were she not still competitive at the Elite level – lined up alongside Mina Sato of Japan, Yulia Verdugo of Mexico, Daria Shmeleva of Russia and Mathilde Gros of France and Miriam Vece. This was probably the hardest one to call on form and it was Gros and Vece who made the running early on – and who held on to take the qualifying spots.
Kelsey Mitchell of Canada and Emma Hinze of Germany were the favourites in Heat 3 – although Anastasiia Voinova and Yana Tyshchenko of Russia, Laurine Van Riessen of the Netherlands were also contnders with Riyu Ohta of Japan the longshot.
Mitchell had the derny and led from the front. Although she was challenged by Tyschenko, she held on and ultimately Tyschenko was rolled by Hinze on the line to see the favourites go through.
Mitchell and Hinze were the obvious favourites for the final, too – with Friedrich a close third. Despite their performance in the heats, it looked like Gros, Vece and Bayona would just be making up the numbers.
Gros lead out but she was quickly passed by Friedrich, Hinze and Mitchell – in that order, initially. Mitchell was on fine form, though and swept past the Germans with a late charge from Bayona seeing the Colombian snatch third from Friedrich.
1 Kelsey MITCHELL CANADA Time: 11.436 Speed: 62.959km/h
2 Emma HINZE GERMANY +0.066
3 Martha BAYONA PINEDA COLOMBIA +0.122
4 Lea FRIEDRICH GERMANY +0.15
5 Mathilde GROS FRANCE +0.453
6 Miriam VECE ITALY +0.518
As expected, the shorter distance in the Women’s Scratch meant that it was run at a slightly higher pace than the equivalent race at the Worlds – but it certainly wasn’t flat out from the gun. The Women are too smart for that.
A pace change with 14 laps to go split the field fairly evenly in two, but it was quickly back together, albeit only for a couple of laps. Maggie Coles-Lyster of Canada went with 12 to go – joined immediately by Hanna Tserakh of Belarus – and shortly afterwards by Olivija Baleisyte of Lithuania.
The break worked well together, but didn’t get much more than a quarter of a lap on the field – until the bunch sat up with 5 to go and they doubled their lead. Regrouped and reorganised, the chase finally began with three to go – Wild and Archibald at the head of affairs – but Coles-Lyster won from Balyseite and Tserakh, with Archibald first of the chasers ahead of Kajihara.
It’s worth noting that there were only 17 starters in the Women’s Endurance event – Gulnaz Khatuntseva of Russia didn’t travel to Mallorca on medical advice, still recovering from a crash in Roubaix. Riders are allowed to miss one round for medical reasons.
1 Maggie COLES-LYSTER CANADA
2 Olivija BALEISYTE LITHUANIA
3 Hanna TSERAKH BELARUS
4 Katie ARCHIBALD GREAT BRITAIN
5 Yumi KAJIHARA JAPAN
6 Annette EDMONDSON AUSTRALIA
7 Emily KAY IRELAND
8 Kirsten WILD NETHERLANDS
9 Anita Yvonne STENBERG NORWAY
10 Kendall RYAN USA
11 Maria MARTINS PORTUGAL
12 Tania CALVO SPAIN
13 Karolina KARASIEWICZ POLAND
14 Silvia ZANARDI ITALY
15 Eukene LARRARTE SPAIN
16 Michelle ANDRES SWITZERLAND
17 Alzbeta BAČÍKOVÁ SLOVAKIA
Gulnaz KHATUNTSEVA RUS RUSSIA DNS
The Men’s Scratch wasn’t hugely different, tactically, from a typical 60 lap World Championship version – it was flat out from the start. It looked, initially, as though it might be a 20 lap, 18-up sprint – and we were wishing Greek sprinter turned endurance rider Cristos Volikakis had qualified, as it would have suited him down to the ground.
Claudio Imhof of Switzerland had a couple of digs but the move that finally seemed to have stuck was down to Sebastian Mora who caught and passed the Swiss rider in collaboration with Kelland O’Brien of Australia. Kazushige Kobuki of Japan joined the break, but it wasn’t enough and they wree – caught with four to go – Rhys Britton of Great Britain leading the chase. As the pack was reforming, Iuri Leitao of Portugal and Corbin Strong of New Zealand slipped away just before the bell and, although the small gap they’d open was closed in the run-in in, Strong held on to take the win from Britton on the line, with Leitao third.
1 Corbin STRONG NEW ZEALAND
2 Rhys BRITTON GREAT BRITAIN
3 Iuri LEITAO PORTUGAL
4 Roy EEFTING NETHERLANDS
5 Erik MARTORELL SPAIN
6 Gavin HOOVER USA
7 Aaron GATE NEW ZEALAND
8 Jules HESTER BELGIUM
9 Kazushige KUBOKI JAPAN
10 Alan BANASZEK POLAND
11 Kelland O’BRIEN AUSTRALIA
12 Sebastian MORA SPAIN
13 Tuur DENS BELGIUM
14 Ed CLANCY GREAT BRITAIN
15 Claudio IMHOF SWITZERLAND
16 Rotem TENE ISRAEL
17 Michele SCARTEZZINI ITALY
18 Yacine CHALEL ALGERIA -1
The Women’s Sprint followed the pattern of the Men’s, with drag racing holding sway over more tactical options. In Heat one Hinze lead Van Riessen and Shmeleva from the off and took an easy win.
Sato was initially at the front in Heat 2, with Friedrich tucked in behind and Voinova taking up the rear. The Russian swept underneath both to initiate the drag race early on, but Friedrich eased past at the bell and won by a sprinter’s mile.
Capewell was never really in contention after Tyschenko took the initiative early on. She held position in second until the bell but Mitchell was always hovering and came from third to roll past Tsychenko for the win on the run-in.
In Heat 4, it was Ohta took the early lead before Genest led out the gallop and managed to hold off a challenge from Krupeckaite to progress to the Final.
In the closest we’ve seen to a tactical race, Bayona went high on the track and have Gros and Starikova space. Starikova took the initiative and led out, but Bayona used the height of the track to catapult herself after he. Starikova held on for the win, with Gros by now a distant third
In the final heat, Verdugo took the front from the off, but Braspennincx pulled Vece through to contest the final Semi-Final spot. It was close, but the Dutch rider held on to take the win.
On paper, the first Semi-Final was probably the closest; on the track Braspennincx led out, but Hinze, as expected, took the win with Genest – despite another off-track excursion on the run-in – in second.
The second Semi looked like a head to head between Mitchell and Friedrich – although Starikova is tactically astute and capable of an upset in normal match sprinting. This, though, was another drag race and, although Friedrich and Mitchell were shoulder-to-shoulder early on, Friedrich pulled away to take a comfortable win and set up an all-German Final.
Again, the only opportunity we had for a tactical, two-up race was squandered as Friedrich led out from distance, with Hinze pulling alongside her at the ball and easing through to take the win.
1 Emma HINZE GERMANY 11.290 Speed: 63.773 km/h
2 Lea FRIEDRICH GERMANY +0.081
Women’s Sprint Standings
That win for Hinze – and Mitchell’s Semi Final defeat – means that the German will wear the UCI Track Champions League leader’s jersey in Lithuania in three weeks’ time, just two points ahead of Mitchell, with Friedrich five points further back.
1 Emma HINZE GERMANY 37
2 Kelsey MITCHELL CANADA 35
3 Lea FRIEDRICH GERMANY 30
4 Martha BAYONA PINEDA COLOMBIA 22
5 Miriam VECE ITALY 19
6 Shanne BRASPENNINCX NETHERLANDS 18
7 Mathilde GROS FRANCE 16
8 Yana TYSHCHENKO RUSSIA 15
9 Lauriane GENEST CANADA 13
10 Olena STARIKOVA UKRAINE 11
11 Simoma KRUPECKAITE LITHUANIA 9
12 Riyu OHTA JAPAN 7
13 Anastasiia VOINOVA RUSSIA 7
14 Yuli VERDUGO OSUNA Paola MEXICO 6
15 Mina SATO JAPAN 6
16 Laurine VAN RIESSEN NETHERLANDS 5
17 Daria SHMELEVA RUSSIA 5
18 Sophie CAPEWELL GREAT BRITAIN 1
Kendall Ryan of the USA has the dubious honour of being the first rider ever to be eliminated from a UCI Track Champions League Elimination Race but she was in good company, with Ireland’s Emily Kay out next. Karolina Karasiewicz wasn’t a big shock as the next to depart, but Yumi Kajihara of Japan went earlier than many people would have expected. Eukene Larrarte of Spain followed, to the audible disappointment of the crowd – then Alžbeta ‘Betty’ Bačíková of Slovakia and former sprinter Tania Calvo of Spain – to more groans from the spectators. We were down to the final ten.
Michelle Andres of Switzerland, Hanna Tserakh of Belarus, Maria Martins of Portugal and Silvia Zanardi of Afghanistan – that’s the flag on her profile on the UCI Champions League website; who am I to argue? – got us down to the final six.
Coles-Lyster – winner of the Scratch race – was the first of the big guns to go, followed by Baleisyte. Annette Edmondson of Australia -sixth in the Scratch – went two better, leaving Anita Yvonne Stenberg of Norway, Wild and Archibald. Wild versus Archibald was the concluding sprint everyone outside Norway wanted to see – and that’s what we got, although, in the end, Archibald got the jump on the Dutch legend who sat up and rolled home.
1 Katie ARCHIBALD GREAT BRITAIN
2 Kirsten WILD NETHERLANDS
3 Anita Yvonne STENBERG NORWAY
4 Annette EDMONDSON AUSTRALIA
5 Olivija BALEISYTE LITHUANIA
6 Maggie COLES-LYSTER CANADA
7 Silvia ZANARDI ITALY
8 Maria MARTINS PORTUGAL
9 Hanna TSERAKH BELARUS
10 Michelle ANDRES SWITZERLAND
11 Tania CALVO SPAIN
12 Alzbeta BACIKOVA SLOVAKIA
13 Eukene LARRARTE SPAIN
14 Yumi KAJIHARA JAPAN
15 Karolina KARASIEWICZ POLAND
16 Emily KAY IRELAND
17 Kendall RYAN USA
Gulnaz KHATUNTSEVA RUSSIA DNS
We expected it to be close at the top of the Women’s Endurance standings going into Round 2 – and it is. What we didn’t expect was for Archibald to be leading Coles-Lyster by just three points, with Baleisyte two points further back and Wild fourth, eight points off the lead.
Women’s Endurance Standings
1 Katie ARCHIBALD GREAT BRITAIN 33
2 Maggie COLES-LYSTER CANADA 30
3 Olivija BALEISYTE LITHUANIA 28
4 Kirsten WILD NETHERLANDS 25
5 Annette EDMONDSON AUSTRALIA 23
6 Hanna TSERAKH BELARUS 22
7 Anita Yvonne STENBERG NORWAY 22
8 Yumi KAJIHARA JAPAN 13
9 Maria MARTINS PORTUGAL 13
10 Silvia ZANARDI ITALY 11
11 Emily KAY IRELAND 9
12 Tania CALVO SPAIN 9
13 Kendall RYAN USA 6
14 Michelle ANDRES SWITZERLAND 6
15 Karolina KARASIEWICZ POLAND 4
16 Eukene LARRARTE SPAIN 4
17 SLOVAKIA BACIKOVA Alzbeta 4
18 Gulnaz KHATUNTSEVA RUSSIA 0
The first of the Men’s Keirin heats saw Rudyk, Lendel, Lavreysen, Helal, Dmitriev and Boetticher line up behind the mobility scooter – sorry ‘derny’ – and saw a brilliant ride from the back from Boetticher to take the win. Lendel almost took the second spot in the final, but was pipped on the line by Lavreysen. Dmitriev, having gone out in the opening round of the Sprint, is one of a select band of riders looking at a Winter travelling round Europe for eight laps of racing per event…
Yamasaki’s heat didn’t start well, as he was dropped unceremoniously on the line, leaving Agsuthasawit, Castle, Quintero, Levy and Hoogland waiting while he remounted and came back to the start.
It didn’t seem to do him much harm. Agsuthasawit led out but Yamasaki stormed through to take the win from Hoogland. Maybe being dropped is good luck…
Spies, Darache and Tjon En Fa joined Dmitriev in the 8 lap club, after Paul powered through to the front, taking with win from Barrette with Iakovlev missing out.
Boetticher – Lavreysen – Hoogland – Paul – Barrette – Yamasaki
Barrette was on the pacer’s wheel in the final but Yamasaki went past almost as soon as it left the track. Hoogland pulled Boetticher through – and the German repaid the favour by coming past the Dutchman to take the win, with Lavreysen taking second as Hoogland faded and Paul the best of the rest.
1 Stefan BOTTICHER GERMANY Time: 10.320 Speed: 69.765 km/h
2 Harrie LAVREYSEN NETHERLANDS 0.046
3 Jeffrey HOOGLAND NETHERLANDS 0.125
4 Nicholas PAUL TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 0.278
5 Hugo BARRETTE CANADA 0.528
6 Kento YAMASAKI JAPAN 0.557
Boetticher’s win put him second in the overall standings, with Lavreysen ahead by four points and Hoogland third, three behind the German.
Men’s Sprint Standings
1 Harrie LAVREYSEN NETHERLANDS 37
2 Stefan BOTTICHER GERMANY 33
3 Jeffrey HOOGLAND NETHERLANDS 30
4 Nicholas PAUL TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 24
5 Mikhail IAKOVLEV RUSSIA 18
6 Kevin Santiago QUINTERO CHAVARRO COLOMBIA 16
7 Rayan HELAL FRANCE 14
8 Vasilijus LENDEL LITHUANIA 13
9 Tom DERACHE FRANCE 12
10 Hugo BARRETTE CANADA 11
11 Kento YAMASAKI JAPAN 11
12 Mateusz RUDYK POLAND 10
13 Jair TJON EN FA SURINAME 9
14 Jean SPIES SOUTH AFRICA 6
15 Maximilian LEVY GERMANY 6
16 Denis DMITRIEV RUSSIA 6
17 Jordan CASTLE NEW ZEALAND 4
18 Jai ANGSUTHASAWIT THAILAND 2
The surprises in the Men’s Elimination started with 6 Day legend Imhof out first, followed by another 6 Day regular Jules Hesters of Belgium. The two Brits were next – Clancy first having only just hung on in the first two eliminations – and then Britton, who undid all the good work he’d done in the Scratch Race.
Erik Martorell of Spain, Tuur Dens of Belgium and Michele Scartezzini – who’d all looked on form at the Worlds in Roubaix – were the next three to go, followed by Rotem Tene of Israel and Yacine Chalel of Algeria – who performed well above their billing.
Almost everyone left now was among the favourites, so it probably wasn’t a shock to see O’Brien, Kuboki or Roy Eefting of the Netherlands go, but few would have predicted Alan Banaszek of Poland taking sixth.
Aaron Gate of New Zealand was fifth, followed into the track centre by Leitao and Mora – leaving Gavin Hoover of the USA and Strong to sprint it out. Hoover rode aggressively in Roubaix, without much to show for it, so it was good to see him win it, but it was Strong who became the only rider across all four events to take a double win.
1 Corbin STRONG NEW ZEALAND
2 Gavin HOOVER USA
3 Sebastian MORA SPAIN
4 Iuri LEITAO PORTUGAL
5 Aaron GATE NEW ZEALAND
6 Alan BANASZEK POLAND
7 Roy EEFTING NETHERLANDS
8 Kazushige KUBOKI JAPAN
9 Kelland O’BRIEN AUSTRALIA
10 Yacine CHALEL ALGERIA
11 Rotem TENE ISRAEL
12 Michele SCARTEZZINI ITALY
13 Tuur DENS BELGIUM
14 Erik MARTORELL HAGA SPAIN
15 Rhys BRITTON GREAT BRITAIN
16 Ed CLANCY GREAT BRITAIN
17 Jules HESTERS BELGIUM
18 Claudio IMHOF SWITZERLAND
That double for Strong leaves him with a clear 10 point lead over Leitao, with Hoover third, three points behind and Gate and Eefting next up, 20 points off the lead.
Men’s Endurance Standings
1 Corbin STRONG NEW ZEALAND 40
2 Iuri LEITAO PORTUGAL 30
3 Gavin HOOVER USA 27
4 Aaron GATE NEW ZEALAND 20
5 Roy EEFTING NETHERLANDS 20
6 Sebastian MORA SPAIN 19
7 Alan BANASZEK POLAND 16
8 Kazushige KUBOKI JAPAN 16
9 Rhys BRITTON GREAT BRITAIN 16
10 Erik MARTORELL HAGA SPAIN 15
11 Kelland O’BRIEN AUSTRALIA 12
12 Michele SCARTEZZINI ITALY 7
13 Jules HESTERS BELGIUM 7
14 Yacine CHALEL ALGERIA 6
15 Rotem TENE ISRAEL 5
16 Tuur DENS BELGIUM 5
17 Ed CLANCY GREAT BRITAIN 1
18 Claudio IMHOF SWITZERLAND 0