Today marks a new way teams race and fans spectate — the launch of the Hammer Series.
The series is a unique set of races starting this season, featuring three days of racing across three different disciplines: a sprint stage, a climbing stage, and, lastly, a team pursuit. Individual riders will score points in the first two days, and the point spread from the first two days sets up starting orders and times for the team pursuit final on the third day.
The series is a joint effort between Infront Sports & Media and Velon, a collection of pro cycling teams working toward a more engaging, economically sustainable sport. The first race in the series runs from June 1-4 in the Limburg region of The Netherlands. More dates will be announced soon.
“We couldn’t not be involved in this project. I’ve been harping on cycling’s flawed business model for years, and this project was a chance to put more skin in the game,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “Cycling will always have those top-level events, like the Tour and Classics. But we need to do more to develop sustainable races for teams and for organizers in addition to these heritage races. These new Velon races are team, organizer, and fan friendly. We’re keeping the race in one spot to centralize the fan experience, and it helps keep the costs down. Perhaps most importantly, we’re incorporating mass-participation rides as a way to involve residents of host cities and traveling fans alike. At its core, cycling is an inclusive sport. These new events embody that spirit.”
The multi-event, three-day racing format incorporates different types of athlete and skills, and as a result, teams will need to apply a new approach be successful in the Hammer Series. (Each race in the series will consist of three racing days in a format that will test teams using different types of riding.) Each team consists of seven riders, and five riders from each team (of seven are selected to tackle) participate in each day’s discipline with the goal to cross the finish line first after three days of racing. Each day will feature multiple laps of 8-10km promising that wherever fans are on the course they will get the plenty of views of the action.
On day one, it’s the exciting Hammer Sprint. Day two, the riders face the Hammer Climb. The final day is the decider, the Hammer Chase. The leading team after the first two days starts first, the other teams are chasing and the winning team is the first over the line. Time gaps between teams will be based on time gaps per position and bonus time gained during days one and two.
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. The winner at the end of the series earns the bragging rights as the best in the world.
The Hammer Series has been designed with excitement for fans and viewers as a 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.
Infront and Velon have worked together on this innovative race format concept for more than a year, in consultation with teams and riders with development support from the UCI to create a more exciting fan based, team focused race. The Hammer Series race schedule will be developed to fit carefully within the UCI race calendar.
Graham Bartlett, CEO of Velon said, “There are many great races in cycling. 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 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 at www.hammerseries.com.
“I think it’s going to be exciting for the teams and the fans to be in some storied cycling areas, like The Netherlands, but also take the races into newer areas for the sport. I’m looking forward to seeing how the team element plays out,” Vaughters said. “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. It should be fun.”
HOW IT WORKS
The 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 ultimate Hammer Chase challenge. For each day’s discipline, five riders from the team of seven are selected.
Day 1 – Hammer Sprint
- Two hours of racing.
- 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.
- Double points may be awarded on certain laps.
- Bonus time gaps are awarded per position after day one, which count toward the starting time gaps for the Hammer Chase.
Day 2 – 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 hilltop finish. Total elevation, average and maximum gradients and climb lengths will vary from race to race – but all will test the world’s strongest climbers.
- Points are awarded for the top 10 riders to cross the line at the end of each lap – with 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 two, which count toward the starting time gaps on day three.
The leaderboards 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.
Day 3 – Hammer Chase
- Hammer Chase is a fox-and-hounds 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 staggered starts. 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 sweats it out for another 25 seconds – then they go. Fourth team waits 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.