The inaugural edition of the UCI Track Champions League will include six Saturday evenings of racing in November and early December as track racing is redesigned and repackaged in an attempt to attract a wider, more supportive audience. The new series is designed to build the global profile of track cycling beyond the four-year Olympic cycle.
The UCI have already outsourced the organisation of the cyclo-cross World Cup to Belgian organiser Flanders Classics and have opted for a similar strategy for the track, teaming up with Eurosport Events, who said the new-look series will bring “a fresh new approach to the track cycling format rooted in driving accessibility and excitement amongst existing and new fans alike.”
The Track Champions League will follow on from the World Championships, which have been moved to October as part of wider reforms to track racing.
The track World Cup events are now known as Track Cycling Nations Cup and will be held between March and September in 2022, offering qualification points for the World Championships. The Track Cycling World League will be held in the winter, somewhat competing with the more traditional Six-Day circuit.
As part of the changes in the track racing calendar, this year’s Track World Championships are scheduled to be held in Turkmenistan between October 13-17, despite concerns about the authoritarian rule of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
The first race in the Track Champions League will be held on the Spanish island of Mallorca on Saturday, November 6, with subsequent events in Paris on November 20, in Panevėžys, Lithuania on November 27, two events in London on December 3 and 4 and then the final event in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 11.
Eurosport Events and the UCI have agreed a new format for the racing across all six events, with gender and prize money equality. A prize pot of €500,000 will be shared equally, with the overall winner of each category receiving €25,000. The names of the four disciplines winners will be etched on the special Track Champions League trophy.
Riders score points in either a sprint or endurance category. Sprinters will race the Sprint and Keirin while endurance riders will race the Elimination and Scratch. There will be 18 riders competing in each category, totalling 72 riders in equal gender numbers.
At the end of each round, the four current leaders of each category (two male, two female) will be awarded a sky blue-coloured leader’s jersey to wear at the next event. Teams will race in new-look national colours designed and provided by sponsor Santini. Riders will also be awarded UCI ranking points.
There are no pursuit or other traditional track disciplines but organisers are promising a two-hour, fast-moving and entertaining Saturday evening of racing that will also be broadcast globally.
Rider data, on-board cameras, LED light panels and music will all be used to enhance the event. The Track Champions League is described as being a “high adrenalin, short format racing series optimised for mainstream TV viewers.”
Three men and three women, each at different stages of their professional track cycling careers, have been chosen as ‘Founding Riders’ of the Track Champions League, with Sir Chris Hoy and Kristina Vogel the race ambassadors.
Ed Clancy (UK), Emma Hinze (Germany), Harrie Lavreysen (Netherlands), Mathilde Gros (France), Sebastián Mora (Spain), Simona Krupeckaitė (Lithuania) are the Founding Riders and will be involved in the promotion and story telling of the Track Champions League.
Riders will be selected to represent the nations of the event hosts, whilst other riders will be invited based on their UCI World Ranking and performance at the UCI World Championships.
“Thanks to our strategic partnership with Discovery, a dynamic, fast-paced, television-friendly circuit will reach a new audience of track cycling fans,” David Lappartient, UCI President said after attending the presentation in Paris.
“The launch of the UCI Track Champions League marks an important milestone in the history of track cycling, one of cycling's historic disciplines and one that has been part of the Olympic Games since the first modern Games in 1896.
“The discipline now has a compact annual calendar, based on the three highlights of the UCI Nations Cup, the UCI Track World Championships and the UCI Track Champions League. I am very much looking forward to seeing this inaugural edition of the UCI Track Champions League take place in these iconic venues revealed today, and to seeing the first four men's and women's winners of the 2021 UCI Track Champions League, celebrated in December in Tel Aviv, Israel.”
François Ribeiro, the Head of Eurosport Events, is the official promoter of the Track Champions League and promised to tap into Eurosport's expertise of organising two and four-wheeled motor racing events.
“We believe the track discipline is one of the most exciting forms of cycle sport, but as the demands of audiences have evolved, there is an opportunity to present this in a new and highly compelling way,” he said.
“We’ve tapped into our unrivaled expertise in another high-adrenalin form of racing - motorsport - to refine the format and deliver an unprecedented on-event and on-screen experience to cycling fans.”
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