By Jonny Long
The Hammer Series has been called off for 2020, with race organisers pointing the finger at the UCI saying the governing body "has persistently attacked the Hammer Series - using regulations to remove its title as a Series and preventing new race formats being developed".
Velon, who organise the race alongside Tour des Fjords AS, have said this "discrimination and anti-competitive behaviour" had already forced them to file a complaint to the EU Commission in 2019 but add this hasn't stopped the UCI taking steps to stifle their race.
In a statement, they claim the UCI prevented them from adding a women’s race with full parity of prize money, broadcast and race format to the men's race and led them to take the decision not to hold their race this year.
Both Hammer Stavanger (in May) and Hammer Hong Kong (in October), which was cancelled last year due to riots, will not be held. Meanwhile, plans for a fourth edition of Hammer Limburg and a Colombian edition had already been postponed until 2021. The Hammer Youth Limburg, however, will still take place on June 6-7.
Velon is a joint venture between 11 WorldTour teams, and riders and team managers have been outspoken in their criticism for the UCI, who are yet to make a statement regarding the situation.
Deceuninck - Quick-Step's Stijn Steels claims the UCI has "bullied" the race away, while Lotto Soudal have said the race provided "more exciting cycling" as well as "younger and bigger TV viewing figures".
Luca Guercilena, general manager of Trek-Segafredo, said: "Having this dream killed by the institutional body with constant limitations to the teams is not understandable.
"We are certain that Hammer Series was the right concept to make cycling more interesting for the general public and we are sure the Hammer Series format will come back stronger than before."
Shayne Bannon, general manager of Mitchelton-Scott, added to the sentiment, saying: "The UCI has stifled every attempt to take Hammer to new locations around the world and we now want to place matters in the hands of the European Commission, where we believe our case will win and we'll be able to bring Hammer back for fans in the future."
With Hammer Stavanger not going ahead, Tour des Fjords AS will now put on the 2020 Tour of Norway in late May after the stage race had previously been cancelled for this year.
"We are very happy that we can hold the competition in 2020," Tour of Norway race director Roy Hegreberg said. "We know it means a lot to a lot of people that we can re-organise the event."
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