Cycling: UCI announces 2021 Track Champions League

FILE PHOTO: Cycling – 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships – Men’s Keirin Semifinals – Berlin, Germany – February 27, 2020. Malaysia’s Mohd Azizulhasni Awang, Japan’s Yudai Nitta, France’s Rayan Helal, Great Britain’s Jack Carlin, Matthijs Buchli of the Netherlands and Germany’s Stefan Botticher in action. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

November 5, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – Six iconic velodromes will host the inaugural UCI Track Champions League next year as part of cycling’s governing body the UCI’s revamp of the season.

First announced in March as a World League taking place in 2021 and 2022, the new format will instead be staged over six successive weekends at the end of next year.

The UCI, in partnership with broadcaster Eurosport, hope the Champions League featuring the world’s best sprint and endurance riders will help expand track cycling’s global TV fanbase outside of its traditional following.

“From November to December 2021, the UCI Track Champions League will bring together the world’s best sprinters and endurance specialists over six closely spaced weekends in short formats,” UCI President David Lappartient said in a statement.

“The new track competition promises to bring a breath of fresh air to a historic discipline of our sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Each of the six events at as yet unspecified venues will last around two hours and feature four disciplines for men and women — individual sprint, keirin, elimination race and scratch race.

The nine best-placed riders in individual sprint and keirin, as well as all medallists of bunch races at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Turkmenistan in October will gain selection for the UCI Champions League.

Athletes will be kitted out in jerseys inspired by their national flags, while the reigning world champions for the events will wear rainbow jerseys.

British sprint king Chris Hoy and German track great Kristina Vogel will act as ambassadors for the new event.

“The vision is an exciting one: to create a race that is not only going to be an amazing sporting spectacle, but that will draw track cyclists from across over the world to take on the ultimate high stakes challenge,” two-time Olympic champion Vogel said.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

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Coronavirus: It would be a miracle if Tour de France finishes, UCI president admits | World News

It would be a “miracle” if this year’s Tour de France finishes, the head of the world governing body for competitive cycling has warned, after a surge in coronavirus cases prompted a rule change.

There was an unusually subdued atmosphere as the race began in Nice on Saturday amid fears the 176 riders may not make it to the finishing line in Paris.

Union Cycliste Internationale president David Lappartient said it was “a first miracle that we are able to start this race”.

The annual race was delayed for two months due to COVID-19

“But we want a second miracle to happen, which is the Tour de France to arrive in Paris,” he added.

French sports minister Jean-Michel Blanquer struck a more upbeat tone, saying that while “everything is possible” the chances of the Tour being cancelled before reaching Paris were “very slim”.

France faces an infection rate which is steadily rising, with a post-lockdown high of 7,379 new cases recorded on Friday.

In light of the resurgence, health authorities imposed stricter restriction rules on the race hours before it began.

The new rules state an entire team – which consists of eight riders and 22 staff members – will be expelled from the race if two or more members test positive for COVID-19 within a week.

Cycling - La Course by Tour de France - Nice, France - August 29, 2020. Fans wearing protective face masks take pictures at the start. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
It is a miracle the Tour has now started, says the UCI president

This rule previously applied only to riders.

Given four members of the Lotto Soudal team were sent home on Thursday after a mechanic and a caretaker tested positive, the change will reduce the chances of the peloton reaching the Champs-Elysees in three weeks’ time.

The Lotto Soudal team remained in the race because the changes were not enacted until Saturday.

Since its inception in 1903, the race has only been cancelled during the two world wars. But organisers admitted there is a risk it won’t reach Paris as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

President Emmanuel Macron says he wants to avoid another lockdown

France’s health ministry said the country was seeing an “exponential” spread of cases, though there had not been a similar surge in hospitalisations and deaths.

President Emmanuel Macron has raised the possibility of another nationwide lockdown – days before 12 million children are due to return to school.

Like other hard-hit western European countries, France imposed a sudden and strict lockdown in March.

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These were gradually lifted from May 11 after infections sharply dropped, and Mr Macron said he is “doing everything to avoid another lockdown”.

On Friday, the outdoor wearing of masks was made compulsory in Paris.

Some 267,000 coronavirus cases and 30,596 deaths linked to the illness have been recorded across the country.

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