The Hammer series, which has been developed in partnership with marketing company Infront, will see teams of seven compete over the course of three days in a new competition format designed to emphasize team competition.
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The series will start with just one event this season, the Hammer Limberg on June 2-4, and will feature 12 WorldTour teams – including the ten Velon teams, Movistar and Bahrain-Merida – and four Pro Continental teams.
Velon chief executive Graham Bartlett said that he planned to have between three and four Hammer events next year, rising to between eight and 10 in following years.
Bartlett said: “We’re trying to create a connected story and you can do that by joining up what’s there but it’s difficult because one, the rights are very fragmented, from an economic point of view. And two, the races are very different the tactics of a one-day race are very different to a stage race. So how does a stage race relate to a one-day race. We are trying to create a consistent format.”
The races will be classed as UCI hors categorie (HC) races, one step down from WorldTour level.
Bartlett said that television coverage of the Limberg race was still being worked out but that there was “great interest” from broadcasters.
He added that basing the race in a single location would allow the race’s organisers to put on other entertainment such as bands and music throughout the weekend creating a “festival atmosphere”. He also said that there may be scope to include women’s races in future but that it was important to prove the format was exciting and attractive to spectators first.
When asked about competing with historic and established races, Bartlett said: “We want to complement that… We think there’s room for a different type of event. Will it go on with other races, yes, but the Tour de Suisse already overlaps with the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour of California already overlaps with the Giro d’Italia, it’s unavoidable.”
Chris Froome (Team Sky) said: “Whenever I win I always say the same thing – it wouldn’t be possible without the team. We go to the biggest races with what we think is the strongest team, and what’s great about the Hammer Series is it will really put that to the test. It’s something new and a chance for fans to see teams competing directly against each other.”
Velon was set up by ten WorldTour teams to help come up with additional ways of making money in an effort to make teams more financially sustainable.
To date it has been most well known for its cameras on bikes in races and other data that it provides from the riders.
When asked how far the new series would contribute to sustainability for team, Bartlett said: “Given the sustainability right now is virtually zero anything you advance upon from there is a plus point. Look at Tinkoff, they were a big supporter of Velon and they were big part of Velon’s creation but we hadn’t been able to develop that sustainability position enough to have that team still there. Of course we would like it to be 10 years down the road but it takes time.”
Hammer Limberg teams
Aqua Blue Sport
UAE Team Emirates
How does Hammer Series work?
Teams – Seven riders but just five in each event
Day 1 – Hammer sprint
Teams race ten laps of a city-based circuit of around 10km. Points are awarded for the first ten riders each lap. Bonus time is awarded at the end of the day.
Day 2 – Hammer climb
Teams race a hillier circuit, probably taking them out of town, with the finish line at the top of the hill. Points are awarded for the first ten riders each lap. Bonus time is awarded at the end of the day.
Day 3 – Hammer chase
Teams are seeded according to the points, and bonus time, accrued on the first two days with the top seed setting off first with a 30-second advantage over second place. The third team starts 25 seconds further back, the fourth team another 20 seconds back with 15 seconds between all the remaining teams. They complete laps of the course in team time trial mode and the first team over the line wins the whole event.