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Velon suspends Hammer Series in simmering war with UCI

The WorldTour teams consortium had previously presented a challenge to the European Commission, alleging that the UCI was trying to torpedo a parallel race series.

Organizers abruptly pulled the plug Friday on the 2020 Hammer Series, citing a long-running feud with the UCI over the teams-backed racing format.

Velon is a consortium of 11 WorldTour teams that debuted the series in 2017. The consortium decided to suspend scheduled events for 2020 in light of its ongoing legal tussle with cycling’s governing body.

In the fall of 2019, Velon presented a challenge to the European Commission, alleging that the UCI was trying to torpedo a parallel race series that the Velon teams collectively own and manage.

“Having this dream killed by the institutional body with constant limitations to the teams is not understandable,” said Trek-Segafredo manager Luca Guercilena in a press release.

Tensions have been simmering below the surface for months between the UCI and Velon and its Hammer Series.

Velon, organizers of the Hammer Series, filed an anti-trust complaint against the UCI earlier this month. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Velon insists that UCI president David Lappartient has been trying to sabotage efforts to develop the Hammer Series platform. In September 2019, Velon filed a complaint to the European Commission after the UCI tried to block Velon from using the term “Series” in its marketing materials as well as blocking it from introducing a women’s event in Norway.

“These actions have made it impossible for Velon and its race organizer partners to successfully develop the Hammer Series and its races,” a press release stated.

Speaking to journalists in January 2020, from Australia, Lappartient denied Velon’s allegations, and chastised the group for taking up a costly challenge to the European Commission.

“We are in front of the European Commission with Velon. We disagree with what they said and we will demonstrate this,” Lappartient said. “I am not sure this is the right way to resolve problems. We will both spend a lot of money and, if I remember correctly, Velon was made to create more revenue, yet we are spending more revenue even if it could take around six or seven years to reach the end of the case.”

On Saturday, the UCI offered the following statement: “The UCI takes note of the cancellation of the two Hammer races registered on the UCI International Calendar. The grievances against the UCI reiterated by Velon are the subject of their complaint to the European Commission. The UCI has provided its observations on these matters – which it considers are all based on legitimate objectives and in the interests of all stakeholders – to the Commission. Our federation is looking forward to its determination and turning its attention to the development of the sport, in collaboration with all stakeholders.”

Owned and operated by Velon members, the idea behind the Hammer Series was for teams to create a new racing platform, consisting of a weekend event across a mix of racing disciplines, and then share the financial payout between themselves. Plans initially included up to 10 rounds, but last year, only two events were held, with one in the Netherlands and another in Norway. A third event in Hong Kong was canceled due to street protests last fall.

It is not clear how many events were on the books for 2020 before Velon decided to suspend the series. Officials said Hammer Youth Limburg, a parallel youth road bike event in the Netherlands, will take place as scheduled in early June.

“The UCI has stifled every attempt to take Hammer to new locations around the world,” said Mitchelton-Scott’s Shane Bannon. “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.”