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Hammer Series puts new spin on racing with team-centric format

Velon and Infront Media partner to produce a new three-day race that offers a different format from most pro road races.

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Road cycling is a sport with individual winners, but that’s set to change at a new race called the Hammer Series. Velon, Infront media, and a group of teams have announced a new three-day race, scheduled for June 1-4, that combines aspects of a points race, team pursuit, and team time trial to crown a winning team, rather than winning individual.

Teams stand to win more than once, in fact. The series is the latest move by Velon, Infront, and some teams to produce a more sustainable model for cycling. The race is owned by Infront, which has a partnership with Velon. Ten teams all own a stake in Velon, meaning that if the race makes a profit, they’ll get a share.

“The idea is to explore ideas that haven’t been pushed forward yet, to try to some new formats,” Cannondale-Drapac CEO Jonathan Vaughters told VeloNews. “Since it’s owned by the teams and the athletes you have the capacity to directly listen to fans and tweak stuff around a bit.”

The three-day event is indeed a new format for pro cycling, though it borrows ideas from popular track events. It will include two days of circuit racing followed by a pursuit-style team time trial that will see teams set off in a staggered start, with gaps determined by performance over the first two days, and chase each other. The first team across the line on day three will be the overall winner.

“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,” said Team Sky’s Chris Froome in a press release. “It’s something new and a chance for fans to see teams competing directly against each other.”

Profits for the teams are not guaranteed, of course.

“If it’s profitable, just like anything else, then the teams will profit,” Vaughters said. “It’s like anything. You can open up a convenience store and it can pay out or you have to pay in.”

The potential to directly profit from the event provides an incentive for teams to bring star-studded squads to the new event, which overlaps with the Criterium du Dauphine. Infront, organizer of the Hammer Series, has a partnership with Dauphine rival Tour de Suisse.

Thus far, the ten Velon teams plus two additional WorldTour squads and three Pro Continental squads are signed on.

Attending teams include:
Aqua Blue Sport (Irl)
Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team (Bah)
BMC Racing Team (US)
Cannondale – Drapac (US)
Quick-Step Floors (B)
Lotto-Soudal (B)
Movistar Team (Sp)
Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise Pro Cycling Team (B)
Team Lotto NL Jumbo (Nl)
Team NIPPO Vini Fantini (I)
Team Sky (GB)
Team Sunweb (G)
Trek – Segafredo (US)
UAE Team Emirates (UAE)

The races

The rough concept is to include one climbing day, one sprint day, and one time trial day in each Hammer series. The stages for the first event, which will take place in the Netherlands, include a climbing circuit, a flat circuit, and a 50km pursuit-style time trial.

Each team will bring five riders to the event.

Day one will be centered on the Vaalserberg climb in Vaals and will finishing at the Drielandenpunt. Points will be awarded 10 deep on each lap, with the possibility for double points on some laps.

Day two will take place in Sittard-Geleen and will be approximately 100km long, split into 10-kilometer laps. Like the climbing day, each lap will award points at the finish line, which will once again go 10 deep.

Day three is a team time trial, but with a major change. Points will be tallied following the first two stages and the teams will start the time trial according to their rank. The first place team will go off first, with a 30-second gap to the second team. The gap then shrinks down to 20 seconds to the third team, and 15 seconds between the rest. The first team across the line 50km later wins.