Interesting news coming out of the pro cycling world today with the launch of a new Velon-led race series starting in 2017. The Hammer Series will feature a team-vs-team racing format across multiple events throughout the season. Each race will consist of three racing days. Five riders from each team of seven are selected to tackle each day’s discipline with the ultimate goal to cross the finish line first on day three. Each day will feature multiple laps of 8-10km ensuring wherever fans are on the course they will get a good view of the action.
On Day 1 it’s the Hammer Sprint. Day 2 the riders face the Hammer Climb. The final day is the race decider – the Hammer Chase – where the leading team after the first two days starts first, the other teams are chasing. The winner of the race is determined by the first team over the line. Time gaps between teams will be based on fixed time gaps per position and bonus time gained during Days 1 and 2. In true team pursuit style, the team whose fourth rider’s front wheel crosses the line first in the Hammer Chase is the race winner, earning points towards the overall Hammer Series.
Top teams that have already signed on for the new series include Bahrain–Merida, BMC, Cannondale – Drapac, Quick-Step Floors, Lotto Soudal, Movistar, ORICA – SCOTT, Team Sky, and Trek – Segafredo. Additional teams to take part and battle for the crown of the best team in the world will be announced in the coming weeks.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the team element plays out,” said Jonathan Vaughters, Cannondale – Drapac team manager. “Obviously cycling is a team sport, we all can see that, but rarely is the best team rewarded as a whole for working together. It’s usually one guy with his hand up in the air at the finish. This is a good chance to look at the sport a little differently. It gives fans a chance to cheer for a team outright, and it gives the guys riding a chance to approach racing differently.”
“A series that will decide who is the strongest team in the world is a really fascinating idea,” added multi-time grand tour winner Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida). “Cycling needs to find new frontiers that can combine sport and entertainment. This series will give a new energy to the world of professional cycling, and this for the teams will be very important. The teams will have new visibility and the opportunity to grow their image.”
Velon is a collective of pro cycling teams that’s working towards engaging more fans into the sport of cycling by developing partnerships to make the riders and races both accessible and more exciting. They have already created a number of platforms, including a host of inside-the-peloton videos, to bring fans to the heart of the action and, with the help of the teams, have opened a door into the their world – be it behind the scenes or in the middle of a sprint finish – so that fans have never been closer. Here’s one of last year’s best examples.
The Hammer Series has been designed with excitement for fans and viewers as a paramount priority. Its format makes the riding challenge comprehensive – to deliver a definitive verdict on which team is best – while ensuring that the action is fast, exciting, accessible and easy to follow for both die-hard road cycling fans, and sports enthusiasts who may be less familiar with road racing. The structure of each challenge and the Hammer Series’ points system ensures that it’s the team’s performance that is tested and rewarded, not just the individual.
Infront, a sports marketing company, and Velon have worked together on this race format concept for more than a year, with support and consultation from teams and riders to create a more exciting fan based, team focused race. There has been significant input from important parties within cycle sport – including riders, sporting directors, team managers, broadcasters and race organizers – along with insight and innovation from major sports events organizers outside cycling.
The Hammer Series race schedule will be developed to fit carefully within the UCI race calendar and starts with the showcase race in early June in the Netherlands, the Hammer Sportzone Limburg. The next Hammer Series races – and their associated franchised partners – are to be announced over the coming months.
In an effort to further grow the fan base of cycling and bring fans closer to the action, Velon Interactive live rider data will be available to fans through the Velon website, app and social channels, along with updates on race points and positions in a live league table. The data includes power, cadence, heart rate and speed so viewers can see how hard the riders are working on each of the Hammer Series race challenges. On-bike GoPro cameras will feature throughout the series delivering action footage for fans to get into the heart of the races, and GoPro cameras provide unique behind-the-scenes access to the series and the teams.
“There are many great races in cycling,” said Graham Bartlett, CEO of Velon. “The teams felt there was room for a new emphasis, something that distilled the core disciplines of the sport and spoke to its powerful team ethic. One of the riders who worked on the concept called it ‘impact racing’, I think that sums it up.”
Each race in the Hammer Series will also feature a festival of cycling, including family mass participation activities, men’s and women’s pro-am challenges, a fan village, cycling expo and entertainment.
Fans and riders who want to learn more or register to ride in the Hammer Sportzone Limburg mass participation race should visit the Hammer Series website.
How the new format works
The Hammer Series format is designed to give the best teams in the world a unique platform to prove who is the best – giving equal credit to all riders involved because they all contribute to the team’s points tally and the performance in the Hammer Chase challenge.
For each day’s discipline, five riders from the team of seven are selected. On Day 1 it’s the Hammer Sprint. Each team’s chosen five riders take on ten laps of approximately 10km each. Points are awarded for the top 10 riders to cross the line at the end of each lap, and double points may be awarded on certain laps. Bonus time gaps are awarded per position after Day 1, which count toward the starting time gaps for the Hammer Chase.
Day 2 is the Hammer Climb, a two-hour pain-fest. Each team’s chosen five riders take on a multi-lap challenge of a course specially designed with a punishing hilltop finish line. Total elevation, average and maximum gradients and climb lengths will vary from race to race – but all will test the world’s strongest climbing teams. Points are awarded for the top 10 riders to cross the line at the end of each lap using the same points structure as the Hammer Sprint. Again, double points may be awarded on some laps.
Bonus time gaps are awarded per position after Day 2, which count toward the starting time gaps on Day 3. The leader boards for the Hammer Sprint and Hammer Climb are then aggregated to determine the starting position for the Hammer Chase. Fixed time gaps between positions are adjusted based on time bonuses gained during the first two days.
Finally on Day 3 is the Hammer Chase, which is a fox-and-hound team pursuit on Time Trial bikes. Each team chooses five riders for the 50km circuit TTT with their fourth-placed finisher’s front wheel the piece of carbon fiber to keep your eyes on. Teams set off with a staggered start. The leading team after the first two days goes off first, the second-placed team sit for 30 seconds and watch them disappear into the distance… and then their gun goes off. The third placed team waits another 25 seconds, then they go. The fourth team sits for 20 more seconds before they’re released. Then it’s 15-second gaps between all the remaining teams. Fixed time gaps to be adjusted based on time bonuses gained during the first two days. All teams must stay in their own formation – no drafting other teams. And now there’s nowhere to hide… it’s a race to the finish line.
The Hammer Series’ premiere race will take place June 2-4, in Limburg, the Netherlands. It’s a region that’s steeped in cycling tradition, having hosted the most famous Classics, Grand Tour stages, World and European Championships, and will start the Hammer Series in style.
Teams will start the race weekend on a punishing climbing circuit on the Vaalserberg in Vaals, finishing at the Drielandenpunt, the highest point in the Netherlands. The racing then returns to host city Sittard-Geleen, in the all new cycling circuit in Sportzone Limburg, where teams will go head-to-head on the flat and fast courses of the Hammer Sprint and Chase.
“The introduction of the new series signals a new stage in cycling,” said Jim Ochowicz, manager of BMC. “The objective of Velon is to bring the rider experience closer to fans and the introduction of the three-day Hammer Series races is doing just that. The emphasis on teamwork that is most important and that’s why we are happy to be involved in the series.”
“Whenever I win I always say the same thing – it wouldn’t be possible without the team,” said reigning Tour de France champ Chris Froome (Team Sky). “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.”
For more information visit www.hammerseries.com.