No World Tour points, no sponsors, no stage beyond 100 kilometres. Are we seeing the birth of the 'Big Bash' of cycling?
Dig below the superlatives and advertising material and you'll find what is essentially a five-person madison crossed with a kermesse, leading to a team time trial where the teams get advantages based on how well they have performed over the previous events.
Each team can enter seven riders for the whole event, with five riders to be chosen for each of the Hammer Climb and Hammer Sprint events on the first two days of competition. The idea being that teams can specialise somewhat in their selections and you don't have an overlarge peloton of riders who won't be competing up at the pointy end of the racing.
The pointy end is more apt an expression than normal as the key to winning the Hammer Series is to obtain points overall as a team, which then goes into factoring advantages at the start of the final day team time-trial. Teams earn points as a whole with sprints at the end of each lap of the courses with double points available on selected laps.
The team that earns the most points wins the day, the prize being bonus seconds for the final day team time trial. This final stage has the potential to be the most exciting aspect of the race, but also the messiest.
Five-man teams are to set off based on their performance on the competition so far and it appears that those gaps will be pretty small, with overtaking and drafting between teams a very real possibility. The course is a fairly easy 14.9 kilometre circuit, but it is technical in parts and with first across the line being the winner, the incentive for teams to block others as they go to pass and draft off them will be hard to police for the commissaires.
The overall idea is to bring some excitement throughout the stage, too often cycling tends to drift between high-octane moments of action and transitional 'lulls'. Whether this works to fix that, or just creates its own problems remains to be seen.
The points races have the potential to be won well ahead of the finish of the race, and the same could happen in the final day chase, with the chance that things will get messy if the teams are too close together. That possibility has already been acknowledged by organisers, who will split the field into two waves on the final day.
Day 1 - The Hammer Climb
The Hammer Climb is a points race taking place over 11 laps of a 7km course containing two climbs. The start/finish is positioned just after the top of the second climb and points will be awarded to the first 10 teams to get a rider across the line at the end of each lap. Double points are available on laps three, seven and 11. The winners of the race will be the team with the most points, and the top 10 will all receive bonus seconds – descending from 15 seconds for first place to one second for 10th. These will contribute to each team’s starting position in the Hammer Chase on Day 3.
Day 2 - The Hammer Sprint
The Hammer Sprint is another points race, this time taking place over eight laps of a flat, 12.4km circuit. Once again, points will be awarded to the first 10 teams to get a rider over the line at the end of each lap, with double points on offer on laps two, five and eight. The race winners will be the team with the most points, and the top 10 will again receive descending bonus seconds that will contribute to their starting position in the Hammer Chase on Day 3.
Day 3 - The Hammer Chase
After both point race Days comes the decider; the Hammer Chase, a 44.7 km team time trial with a twist. Teams start in the same order as the leaderboard after the first two days of racing, with the leading team going off first. After a fixed time period, they’re then chased by the second-placed team, who are in turn shortly pursued by the third placed team and so on to deliver a gripping chase to the line.
The course itself is almost identical to the sprint stage, with a three kilometre detour along flat roads to add a bit of length.
The race will be streamed live on Facebook and Youtube by the Hammer Series on June 2-4 with coverage starting at 10.45 pm (AEST) on Friday.