The second night of racing in the UCI Track Champions League was, if it’s possible, even more dramatic than the first.
Gone was the level playing field they started with in Mallorca. Before they took to Panevezys’ Cido Arena track, riders were already ranked. Margins between them may have mostly been fine, but every rider knew which side of the advantaged/disadvantaged line that they were standing on. All knew what they had to lose or gain.
And it showed.
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Some seemed to struggle with their newfound place in the pecking order, while others evidently thrived.
Harrie Lavreysen is clearly one for whom every victory serves as fuel for the next. In Mallorca, although he was the best rider, it was by a bit, not a lot. He seemed mortal. In Lithuania, however, the Dutchman destroyed the field, winning every race comfortably, even those in which he could afford to save a few percent.

‘I love that!’ – Lavreysen comes through at the last to beat Paul

In contrast, his friend and team-mate, Jeffrey Hoogland, rode so hard, went so deep, merely to finish second in the keirin, that he had nothing left for the sprint competition. Hoogland was knocked out in the opening race, crossing the line almost half a second behind the lesser ranked Denis Dmitriev of Russia and Canadian Hugo Barrette.
The women’s sprint competition also produced a couple of big upsets. The home favourite and former world champion, Simoma Krupeckaite, rode an inspired heat, going long and catching the Olympic champion, Kelsey Mitchell, on the back foot. In a closer but no less surprising result, Olena Starikova of Ukraine claimed the scalp of the rider in third place in the standings, Germany’s Lea Friedrich.
The early KO served Friedrich well, however. Fewer races meant extra recovery time, and surely contributed to her victory in the keirin at the end of the night. Emma Hinze, a comfortable winner of the sprint final, had to settle for second in that race but, having extended her lead at the top of the women’s sprint table, will surely only be happy for her friend and team-mate.

‘Elbows, shoulders – everything is involved here!’ – Friedrich leads home German one-two

The women’s endurance category is increasingly becoming a one-horse race. Katie Archibald’s fourth place in the Mallorca scratch race is the only blot on her record in this series so far. So much confidence did she possess in the Lithuania scratch that she was able to risk an audacious - doomed - early solo move off the front, return to the bunch and recover in time to win the final sprint. In the elimination race, Archibald was able to target and pick off specific rivals, removing them from contention early on, before romping home in the heads-up.
Of all four categories in this competition, the closest looks to be the men’s endurance. New Zealand’s Corbin Strong did not have a terrible night, finishing eighth in the scratch and seventh in the elimination, but nor did he come close to repeating his Mallorcan glory. Instead it was Spain’s Sebastian Mora turn to do the double. Mora started the night in sixth place, and now leads the endurance competition by two points over Strong. Gavin Hoover is far from out of it either, with two solid results leaving him a further four points back.

‘Showing his class!’ – Mora ‘lives up to billing’ to win scratch race, Britton takes second

As well as revealing how the riders coped with different kinds of pressure, there was another key difference between the first two rounds of competition as well. While in Mallorca the racing seemed to be a learning exercise for many, if not all of the riders, Lithuania was about putting into practice what they had learned. About each other, and about the competition itself. It was, all told, a fascinating insight into how the minds of elite athletes work.
What was also confirmed, lest anyone have any lingering doubts, is that none of these athletes are holding back. The racing on display in Lithuania was as physical, as aggressive, and as authentically hardcore as you’ll see at any major championships. There were more comings together, and even comings down, than in Mallorca, as well as more contentious calls and athletes with faces full of thunder. When we spoke to Archibald the other day, she promised us this weekend the riders were going to “knock each other's pans in”.
And they damn well did.
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The UCI Track Champions League returns for round three on December 3 and you can watch all of the action live on the Eurosport app, and discovery+. Find out more about the "mind-blowing" new era for track cycling.
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