The UCI Track Champions League reveals dynamic new racing format
The UCI Track Champions League has unveiled its new racing format that will premiere for the inaugural series in November 2021. Consisting of six rounds across six weeks, the series will see four riders ultimately emerge as the champions: the best male and female sprint riders and the best male and female endurance riders.
Created through a partnership between the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and promoter Eurosport Events with the support of GCN, the UCI Track Champions League aims to get sports audiences invested in the discipline. It will do this not only by offering a fresh sporting format, which has chosen four of the most accessible and exciting track events, but through its iconic venues, unique audience experiences, ground-breaking technology and world-class broadcasting.
The new competition comes as part of a restructuring of the track cycling calendar by the UCI which see the UCI Track World Championships take place in October and become the qualification pathway for the UCI Track Champions League. The rules of the league created between the UCI and Eurosport Events will be placed into the official UCI track cycling regulations. All events of the UCI Track Champions League will then have an appointed panel of UCI Commissaires to officiate the racing.
Official ambassadors and track cyclists Kristina Vogel and Sir Chris Hoy MBE have also advised on the sporting format to help ensure it delivers maximum excitement for riders as well as fans.
The UCI Track Champions League is a league format where every round will feature the same race programme. Riders score points across the six rounds in either the Sprint or Endurance category. Each category has two different types of races in which competitors can accumulate points: sprinters will race in both Sprint and Keirin while endurance riders will race both Elimination and Scratch. Eighteen riders can take part in each category, totalling 72 riders — equal numbers male and female.
The sprint race will see the first rider to cross the finish line after three laps of the track win. The first round will comprise six heats of three riders going head-to-head, with the six winners progressing on to the semifinals. Two heats of three riders will then determine the final two competitors to go for the win.
The keirin race is a mass start sprint over five laps. The first two laps of the track will be behind a Derny motorcycle to set the pace, leaving riders to sprint to the finish over the remaining three. Six riders will take part in three heats, with the top two riders qualifying for the final. In the final, six riders will compete for victory.
In the elimination race the last rider across the finish line in every other lap will be eliminated from the race. The first lap will be a neutral lap and all 18 riders take part from the off.
The classic scratch race will be contested over a relatively short distance of 5km to see the high-speed action start from the gun. All 18 riders will be vying for a podium position over 20 laps of the 250m track.
Rankings within the UCI Track Champions League will be determined by points allocated to riders from their performance in each race. Points will accrue in a ranking table and the overall winner in each of the categories will be the rider with the most points at the end of the series. At the end of each UCI Track Champions League round the current leader will be awarded a distinctive jersey to wear at the next round.
Prize money will be awarded for every race and for the overall standings at the end of the series. It will be allocated equally between the genders, in line with the UCI’s equal prize money policy across all its events (World Championships and World Cups).
Twenty-four riders per gender will be automatically invited based on results from the preceding UCI Track World Championships. The top six riders in the sprint and keirin will compete for the title of Sprint Champion, and the top three medallists in the elimination race, omnium, scratch and points race for the title of Endurance Champion.
The remaining places in the UCI Track Champions League will come from performances at the Tokyo Olympics, the UCI ranking of the specialities concerned and wild cards that will be allocated before 1 September at the discretion of the UCI Track Champions League.
François Ribeiro, head of Eurosport Events said: “We have been tweaking the racing format over the last year, drawing on the expertise of the UCI and the invaluable insight of professional riders to design the very best competition. Our vision was to create an elite sporting event that portrays the spirit of track cycling in the most exciting way possible. It’s a proud moment for us to reveal this detail today after months of preparation. From the start we have also been committed to ensuring equality for men and women in the UCI Track Champions League, so it’s with great pleasure that we can now reveal equal prize money for all competitors who will join us for the debut of the series later this year.”
UCI sports director Peter Van den Abeele said: “We are very pleased today to be able to communicate the format of the UCI Track Champions League. After unveiling the name and visual identity of the series last November, as well as the period during which it will take place, this is another step closer to the first edition of the competition, which will start in November. A dynamic race format, a qualification system to select the best athletes, an attractive points system and equal prize money for men and women, in line with the UCI’s policy across all its events… The new series has all the ingredients to reinforce a solid and appealing UCI Track International Calendar alongside the discipline’s UCI World Championships and UCI Nations Cup.”