The International Cycling Union (UCI) has selected venues in Spain, France, Lithuania, the UK and Israel to debut a new competition which aims to build the profile of track cycling beyond the four-year cycle for the Olympic Games.
First unveiled in March 2020, the Track Champions League will debut on November 6 as part of an eight-year partnership between the UCI and US media giant Discovery, alongside its dedicated event promotion business Eurosport Events. It has the objective to develop a year-round narrative for track cycling and further grow engagement around the sport.
A condensed, six-round race schedule has been outlined for the inaugural 2021 season which is designed to give track cycling a clear space in the wider cycling calendar, visibility beyond the World Championships and maximum fan engagement.
Developed for London’s staging of the 2012 Olympics, Lee Valley VeloPark will stage back-to-back rounds on December 3-4, with the Champions League set to commence at Velòdrom Illes Balears in Palma, Mallorca on November 6.
Round two will head to Vélodrome National de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in France on November 20, which is set to host track cycling events at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The League will then travel to Cido Arena in Panevėžys, Lithuania, on November 27, the only Olympic standard velodrome in the Baltic states.
With London staging rounds four and five, the inaugural Champions League season is due to conclude at Sylvan Adams National Velodrome in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 11. This is a new venue that has been designed to be the most advanced cycling facility in the Middle East.
David Lappartient, UCI president, said: “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. Thanks to our strategic partnership with Discovery, a dynamic, fast-paced, television-friendly circuit will reach a new audience of track cycling fans.
“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. Track Cycling, which has been a resounding success at the Olympic Games, is thus equipped to shine annually during each Olympiad.”
The UCI Track Champions League will operate in 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. Eighteen riders will compete in each category, totalling 72 riders, with equal numbers male and female.
Rankings within the Champions League will be determined by points allocated to riders from their performance in each race. Points will accrue in a league table and the overall winner in each of the categories will be the rider with the most points at the end of the series. The 36 male and 36 female riders competing for victory in the two categories will ride for a prize pot totalling more than €500,000 (£431,000/$610,000).
François Ribeiro, head of Eurosport Events, promoter of the UCI Track Champions League, said: “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. We’ve tapped into our unrivalled 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.”
Lappartient stated the formation of the Champions League will grant velodromes across the world, starting in Europe, extra events in which to utilise their facilities. He added: “Before building maybe new velodromes, we just want to use the ones we have. We have a lot of velodromes worldwide, also in Europe, and one part of the goal of this UCI Track Champions League is also to bring activities into the velodrome.
“Maybe it is important to have some velodromes, some new velodromes like the one we have in Tel Aviv, of course, and in San-Quentin and in many countries. However, we have a lot of them and the goal of the UCI is really to have some activities with the UCI Track Champions League, with continental championships, national and international races and so on.”