Cycling-Archibald, Lavreysen, Hinze dominate inaugural Track Champions League
LONDON (Reuters) - Double Olympic champion Katie Archibald delighted a packed London velodrome crowd to take the endurance title as the inaugural UCI Track Champions League reached a frantic conclusion on Saturday.
With the Israel round of the competition cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions, London's sell-out double header brought the curtain down on what organisers the UCI and Discover Sports Events hope will mark a new era in track cycling.
British rider Archibald had consolidated her lead in the standings on Friday with victory in the elimination race and second place in Saturday's 5km scratch race behind Yumi Kajihara guaranteed her the 25,000 euros ($28,282.50) winner's cheque.
Flying Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen, the Olympic and world sprint champion, won the men's sprint league after going unbeaten in the sprint across the four rounds.
American Gavin Hoover claimed the men's endurance title after an eventful final round in London in which overnight leader Sebastian Mora was disqualified from the scratch race after causing a crash, scuppering his chances.
The women's sprint title went to Germany's Emma Hinze ahead of her Olympic team mate Lea Friedrich.
The Track Champions League, launched this year to boost the appeal of velodrome racing, features a fan-friendly, made-for-TV format and a vast array of Olympic and world champions.
Riders compete in either the endurance or sprint leagues with 18 male and female riders in each, collecting points and prize money in Mallorca, Lithuania and the London rounds.
Endurance riders competed across the rounds in the scratch race and elimination race, while the sprinters battled in the sprint and keirin events with overall endurance and sprint champions taking home 25,000 euros.
For the first time, according to the organaisers, fans in London could watch 'live data' from their favourite riders on an app, giving insights into power, heart rate and speed.
Archibald, who won team pursuit gold at the Rio Olympics and the Madison with Laura Kenny in Tokyo, produced a fitting finale as she crowned her title by beating old rival Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands to first place in the elimination race, the last ride of Wild's career.
British multiple Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy was given a rousing send-off in his last race before retirement. "I've never heard such a roar for coming 18th!" he said.
"This feels like a really big deal," Archibald told Eurosport analyst and event ambassador Chris Hoy, the former British track great, summing up the event at trackside.
The Track Champions League has suffered a few teething problems, with only four rounds possible, rather than the scheduled six, after Paris and Tel Aviv cancelled for pandemic-related reasons.
But the overall impression has been positive with organisers pointing to the fact that 50% of the large first-round crowd in Mallorca last month were watching track cycling for the first time.
"We have only scratched the surface of what we can do," Francois Ribeiro, Head of Discovery Sports Events, said.
Retired German great Kristina Vogel, who helped bring the new format together, said: "It's great to see this project come true. I'm just jealous that this trophy won't be in my living room."
($1 = 0.8839 euros)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman)
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