The second round of the UCI Track Champions League takes place in Berlin this week, and the competition in the velodrome is sure to be as fierce as the opening week in Mallorca.
Kristina Vogel will be a keen spectator in Berlin, and the former Olympic champion sat down with Eurosport to preview the event.
It was a great start in Mallorca – how did you experience the start of the new season, who/what impressed you the most?
Vogel: “I was very impressed by the support for the Spanish riders. The others had a very hard time. It felt like half of the audience was there just because of Sebastian Mora. But everyone who was there felt this great intensity.”
The field is even more high-class than last year, as the first races have shown: Stars have shone, but also failed. Who do you see as favourites after the first performances?
Vogel: “In the men’s sprint, Harrie Lavreysen and Matthew Richardson are my favourites. Whereby I would bet a bit more on Harrie, even if Matthew will challenge him until the end. In the women’s sprint it is very difficult to pick a real favourite. In advance I would have said Lea Sophie Friedrich. In the meantime, Lea has been joined by Mathilde Gros. It remains to be seen who will come through the rounds better.”
How does it look in the endurance field?
Vogel: “In my opinion, there is hardly any way around Katie Archibald in the women’s competition. It’s more difficult with the men. I actually had Sebastian Mora at the top of my list there, but it seems to be a very close call. Let’s see.”
What are the chances of German victories in Berlin?
Vogel: “The chances of German victories are not that bad. Lea Sophie Friedrich is always a candidate for victory in sprint or keirin. And Stefan Botticher also showed last year at the Track Champions League that he can win races. Moritz Malcharek rode a really strong scratch race in Mallorca and finished fourth – with a bit more luck, that could be good enough for the very front. In any case, you should never say never.”
How much are you looking forward to finally having a top track cycling event in Berlin again?
Vogel: “I’m really looking forward to it. Even though travelling is fun, it’s nice to have an event like this on your doorstep. Berlin has a great track cycling history. There was an incredible atmosphere in the Velodrome at the 2017 European Championships and the 2020 World Championships. Now I’m hoping that the people of Berlin will also give this event a chance, even if it’s not for medals and it’s not a six-days event.”
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What can the fans particularly look forward to?
Vogel: “The spectators can expect world-class sport. You won’t find a better line-up at any other competition on track. There are so many world champions and Olympic champions that it is worth buying a ticket to see them live. With the light show, which I haven’t seen anywhere else, and the music, you have a bit of a six-days atmosphere with a mini-Olympics as a competition. I love the format – it’s mega fun!”
What makes the format work at the Track Champions League?
Vogel: “It’s punchy, short, totally dynamic and above all always surprising. At many big events you already know who can win. The Champions League is more unpredictable because it’s all happening at once and it can depend on who has had the better regeneration in a short period of time. That has already been shown in Palma. There will always be these surprising effects.”
What personal memories do you have of the Velodrome in Berlin?
Vogel: “I have a little piece of the Velodrome at home. It’s always fun to go there because it’s simply the centre of Berlin track cycling. And then I became European champion there twice in 2017 on the track and won silver with Miriam (Welte) – so the memories are great.”
Every velodrome has its own special features. What makes the track in Berlin special?
Vogel: “The track has a very nice wood and is very fast. That’s what the geometry does with the steepness and the tight curves. It’s not so easy to ride in combination. If you want to be fast on this track, you have to be able to ride a bike a bit. Add to that the imposing roof construction of the arena, which makes you feel a bit awestruck when you enter it.”
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How much more of a performance can it make when you know the fans are behind you?
Vogel: “Sure, it doesn’t make up 20 per cent, but it can tickle out the last few points. In track cycling, it’s all about thousandths, centimetres decide about victory and defeat. When you have a fanbase behind you cheering for you, it not only gives you goosebumps, but can also make that decisive tenth.”
Alongside the five Germans: Who has what it takes to be the crowd favourite in Berlin?
Vogel: “Phew, that’s not so easy. At the World Championships, Taky Marie-Divine Kouame created such a great atmosphere – we can already look forward to the round in Paris. It would actually be cool if the spectators could vote for their favourite female and male rider via the app. Maybe I should suggest that for next year (laughs).”
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