Velon, a business venture comprising 10 of the 18 UCI WorldTour teams, has launched the "Hammer Series," a multi-discipline three-day, team race format, the first event set for June 1-4 in the Limburg region of the Netherlands.
The hosts and dates of the other Hammer Series races will be announced in the coming months.
The event, launched in partnership with Infront Sports and Media, will be contested in three different kinds of racing -sprinting, climbing and chasing (time trial).
"The Hammer Series will push the world’s best cycling teams to the max across the core cycling disciplines and find the ultimate winner. Its format will bring the most exciting elements of team cycling to a broadest audience," Velon and Infront said in a statement.
With Velon's main aim of grabbing a share of TV and other revenue in mind, each day features multiple laps of courses no longer than 8-10km, ensuring more intense racing and that fans can be closer to more of the action.
This will no doubt serve a broader aim of reducing costs when it comes to TV production and provide opportunities to charge for ticketing. It will also create an easier to control environment to produce and 'broadcast' live rider data and on-bike footage.
While there will be some issues and logistics to iron out - for example, the first race comes right before Tour de France hopefuls like Chris Froome hone their loins at the Criterium du Dauphine (4-11 June), and the teams of cycling's current biggest sprint stars Peter Sagan (BORA - hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) have not yet signed on - the racing might just be something fans may enjoy watching.
The Velon statement contained a plethora of quotes from associated riders and team principals. For brevity's sake, here's just a snippet:
“The sport of cycling is full of tradition, and that makes it great, but there is also innovation and change, we have to keep up with the modern world," Orica-Scott's Mathew Hayman said.
"I have seen the sport change a lot over the years that I have been a rider, and now we are seeing more change with an exciting new format and concept that I hope will carry the sport forward into the future and attract more fans.”
Multiple grand tour winner Vincenzo Nibali is also excited about the new series.
"The formula,sprint, climb and pursuit, is a winning one and certainly will appeal to a lot of cycling fans. 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," Bahrain-Merida's leader said.
BMC's Floris Gerts who hails from Limburg in the Netherlands where the first event will take place said the summer in that region is ripe for such an event. Think summer in Australia and the modified versions of cricket like BBL.
"(In that region) people are cycling-obsessed. The time of the year is perfect because a lot of tourists from all over the Netherlands can come and watch the race. The race is on a circuit so will be really intense. Everybody is sprinting for the points to win in the end which makes for very exciting racing. People will see lots of action the whole time they are there," Gerts said.
But perhaps Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) summed up the aim of the series best in his statement:
"It does exactly what all the successful sports do, a formula with teams and their riders at its heart. It’s about us riders on our bikes, racing for the fans in a series which is super exciting to race and super exciting to watch because it’s fast, full of action and full of suspense.
"It’s a series where the teams are at the centre of growing our sport; for cycling, our fans and ourselves.”
The race format
On 'Day 1', teams will contest 'The Hammer Sprint,' which is basically like track cycling's points race. Each team's five riders (chosen from a pool of 7 only) race 10 laps of approximately 10 kilometres, with points awarded for the top 10 riders at the end of each lap with double points awarded on certain laps.
'Day 2' is the 'Hammer Climb', the same as the Hammer Sprint, only it's a multi-lap hill climb. The final day is the Hammer Chase - a team time trial with a staggered start dependent on how each team performed the preceding two days. The second team out of the gate starts 30 seconds down, the third, 25 seconds, the fourth 20 seconds, with 15 seconds gaps for the remaining teams.
The teams racing in the Hammer Series will include: Aqua Blue Sport, Bahrain–Merida, BMC, Cannondale - Drapac, Quick-Step Floors, Lotto Soudal, ORICA – Scott, Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise Pro Cycling Team, Team LottoNL Jumbo, Movistar, Team NIPPO Vini Fantini, Sky, Sunweb, Trek – Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates.
For full reactions and more details of the race format, visit Velon.