Wed, Apr 04, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Hammer Series looks to big finale in Hong Kong

Reuters, LONDON

Cycling’s Hammer Series is to roll into Hong Kong in October with one of the men behind the novel all-action format predicting it could become the two-wheeled version of Twenty20 cricket.

The three-day, multidiscipline team event was successfully tested in the Netherlands last year, where Team Sky claimed a thrilling one-second victory and three million people watched the competition in Limburg online.

Limburg is to host another Hammer event in June as part of a series that will start in Stavanger, Norway, next month and culminate around the streets of Hong Kong.

The Hammer Series, contested by five-rider teams, is broken down into a climbing day, a sprint day and concludes in a pursuit, in which the leading team from the first two days sets off first.

Last year, Team Sky held off Sunweb in a thrilling chase.

While it might concern traditionalists brought up on Grand Tours and one-day classics, Graham Bartlett, CEO of Hammers cofounders Velon, believes the Hammer format offers a bit of everything and can engage a new breed of cycle fans.

“There is plenty of space for all different flavors,” Bartlett said at his London office. “We want to be very clear ... we are not trying to replace anybody’s position here, we are trying to add something new to the mix.”

“Hammer was designed specifically to do something different, but also to respect the three key skill sets in the sport: sprinting, climbing and time-trialling.”

“We wanted to emphasize the team element, because cycling is a team event at heart, and we want to celebrate that,” he added.

Marketing and media company Velon works closely with UCI World Tour teams, race organizers and broadcasters, and is best-known for providing live rider data and onboard video.

The series is another way of making cycling more digestible to a wider audience, Bartlett said.

Last year’s Limburg event attracted a cumulative 3.2 million viewers on social media sites Facebook and YouTube.

“The key thing was to make it an authentic event with impactful racing that really matters,” Bartlett said. “We were blown away by how seriously the teams took it last year. It was full gas every day for three days.”

“Think of the passion of Twenty20 cricket, IPL [Indian Premier League cricket] and Ryder Cup, and the engagement the fans have with those events. The important thing was that teams and riders liked it,” he added.

Team Sky is to be joined in this year’s series by world champion Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team, while Team Sunweb, second last year, are fully committed to the races.

The exact nature of the Hong Kong finale is yet to be revealed, but Bartlett promised a “big finish” to the season.

UAE Team Emirates team manager Carlo Sarroni said the Hammer race could help establish Hong Kong on the UCI cycling map.

“Hong Kong has everything to become an important appointment in the world cycling calendar and the Hammer Series leg will be the best way to make a huge step towards this goal,” Sarroni said.

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