Stavanger: Reigning Hammer Series champions feeling the pressure in Norway
Last year’s Tour des Fjords winner Michael Albasini admits Mitchelton-Scott has a target on its back as the start of the 2019 Hammer Series gets underway in Stavanger …
“The goal is still the same, we want to win the Hammer Series again,” last year’s Tour des Fjords winner told Eurosport. “It’s an important race for us. Different course this year, so the team that adapts the quickest will have the best chance for success.
“We have a strong team here — all the guys see that,” he continued when asked about any added pressure felt from the rival WorldTour squads. “For sure they will keep and eye on us. Sometimes you’re the chaser, sometimes you’re chased. On the other side, it’s a new year with a blank sheet.
"Who knows what will happen?”
Albasini’s Australian team-mate Robert Stannard was one of two Mitchelton riders to help accumulate points during the first half of the 10-lap, 8.9-kilometre course.
“It was really good having two of us in the break,” he continued. “We could cover the moves. I was trying to get as many points as possible going over the climb. The sixth lap I absolutely blew. After that it becomes a bit of a grind.”
There three-day event also includes the Hammer Sprint on Saturday before concluding with the team time trial Hammer Chase on Sunday. Jumbo-Visma sits atop the series leader board with 1,065 points with Lotto Soudal (928) and Bora-Hansgrohe (869) in tow.
“It wasn't such a long race today,” Stannard told Eurosport. “It takes it out of you during the race but your legs aren’t ripped or anything like that, so should be able to have a crack over the next two days.”
Hammer Stavanger opens an entire week of racing in the country, which includes a bolstered Tour of Norway (UCI 2.HC), which merged with Tour des Fjords (2.HC) following the conclusion of both races last year.