LONDON (Reuters) – The UCI Track Champions League will peak this weekend in London after the scheduled final tournament in Israel was canceled on December 11 due to the novel variant of the Omnicron coronavirus.
This is the second round of the new competition to be canceled, after a Paris stage was also canceled for reasons related to COVID-19.
London will host two sold-out rounds, one later on Friday, followed by Saturday’s final.
Israel has imposed strict restrictions on movement within the country in response to fears over the new variant.
“It is with regret that we have no choice but to remove Tel Aviv from this year’s calendar,” said François Ribeiro, Head of Discovery Sport Events, UCI Champions League partner, in a press release.
“We were ready to celebrate our four series winners at the Sylvan Adams National Velodrome, but the events of the pandemic have taught us the importance of adapting when necessary.”
The Track Champions League brings together 72 of the best male and female runners competing in sprint and endurance competitions. Points and cash prizes are accrued for each race, with the overall winners from each of the four divisions earning 25,000 euros ($ 28,200).
In front of London, Olympic champion Harrie Lavreysen leads the men’s sprint standings after dominating the heats in Mallorca and Lithuania, while Germany’s Emma Hinze leads the women’s sprint standings. Two-time British Olympic champion Katie Archibald leads the women’s endurance division with Spaniard Sebastian Mora leading the men’s endurance standings.
Despite the cancellations, great British cyclist Chris Hoy said the new condensed format designed for television and suitable for fans had been a big success. “I think it started off incredibly well and will continue to gain momentum as the laps go,” said Hoy.
“The race has been fierce and the riders seem to be reveling in this new format of non-stop condensed action.”
($ 1 = 0.8862 euros)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Mark Heinrich)