Velon’s ‘Hammer Series’ launches in Limburg – and nails it!

Velon’s ‘Hammer Series’ launches in Limburg – and nails it!

06/06/2017 at 02:52Updated 06/06/2017 at 04:04

Eurosport’s weekly roundup takes a look at the inaugural Hammer Series, Greg van Avermaet’s Luxembourg victory, Le Tour contenders in Dauphiné and more…

Has the sport of professional cycling finally joined the 21st century? Well, the launch of the all-new Hammer Series certainly seems as though the sport took a major step in the right direction toward modern mainstream relevance in Limburg in the Netherlands this past weekend.

In fact, the cycling world is still buzzing over the thrilling team time trial finish in the third and final stage of the inaugural Hammer Sportzone Limburg — the year-long creation of cycling consortium Velon and international sports marketing company, Infront Sports & Media.

Team Sky took a 32-second advantage over Team Sunweb into the Hammer Chase finale and escaped with a one-second overall victory after four of its five riders crossed the finish one tick of the clock in front of Sunweb’s final four. Although Sunweb would ultimately claim the stage with an overall faster time, the culmination of time accrued by its rival British WorldTour team over the Hammer Climb and Sprint events and was just enough to take the series win.

While there was — and perhaps still is — some confusion as to the actual premise of the team-vs-team format, there was little doubt as to the amount of excitement attached to the fast-paced, dynamic, viewer-friendly presentation delivered in a tight, timely package over the three-day event. To date, the event has attracted more than 2 million online views and counting.

Prior to its debut, Hammer Series did release via Twitter a video tutorial walking viewers — and perhaps even a few of the participants — through the concept. It’s a thorough video, but may take more than one or two views to actually ‘get it.’

Teams field a squad of seven, with five competing each day. Hammer Series hosts up to 18 teams per event, including 12 WorldTour teams. WorldTour teams include Bahrain Merida, BMC Racing, Cannondale-Drapac, Lotto Soudal, Movistar Team, Orica-Scott, Quick-Step Floors, LottoNL-Jumbo, Team Sky, Team Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates.

Streamed live around the world via YouTube and Facebook, the series is ideally designed for a digital-savvy market that craves data, and for the most part — albeit for a few minor lapses — Hammer Series nailed it. Real-time riders readouts, including speed, heart rate and power (watts) were on display for the whole world to see. On-board cameras provided a better-than-bird eye view of the action to full immerse the audience in the overall racing experience.

The digital technology used is reminiscent of the recent videos released by Eurosport that intelligently explain the science behind the formation of echelons and the advantages of drafting during a sprint finish.

Aside from any confusion that remains for those mathematically challenged in trying to decode the points system, ranking and overall winner, the three races comprising the series were fun for both the spectators and seemingly the riders alike.

With members of the media and many of the pros immediately taking to social media to voice their positive take on the matter.

Even recently crowned Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin, who came in second to the Carlos Betancur-led Movistar team on the opening Hammer Climb, shared his thoughts.

In the end it was a fun event to watch, and gauging from some of the pro’s responses during and after the race, it was also an exciting time for them as well.

Where will the Hammer Series go from here? How long will it last? Who knows … for now it is just too early to tell. But from the look of things, it is sure to be a fun ride.

In the meantime, bring on the next one!

Van Avermaet continues hot hand in 2017

Nearly two months after recording the fastest ever Paris-Roubaix victory, Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) is back to his winning ways with two stage wins and an overall victory at Tour de Luxembourg.

The Olympic road race champion has already notched several season-defining wins during the Spring Classics, with victories over reigning back-to-back world champion Peter Sagan at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, H3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Roubaix, but also two runner-ups at Strade Bianche and Tour of Flanders.

The 32-year-old Belgian came first on two stages and second on two to win by 29 seconds from Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and 36 seconds on third placed Anthony Perez (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits).

“When I came into this race, I was just thinking about improving my form and being a little bit better every day so, I was surprised when I was second in the prologue,” said Van Avermaet. “From there, the expectation to do well came from me. Every day was a parcours suited to me, so it became easier and easier to take a victory and I am really happy to win.

“This might not be a UCI WorldTour race but every victory counts, and it is always good to get into this mindset,” continued van Avermaet, who won stages at Le Tour is 2015 and 2016. “But now, the main goal for me is winning a stage in the Tour de France, and that is the most important thing.”

Contador hoping Dauphiné the answer to Tour drought

In recent years the Critérium du Dauphiné has served as the perfect primer for Tour de France contenders to sharpen their skills in the lead-up to the grandest tour of them all.

In 2012, Sir Bradley Wiggins went on from a Criterium win to capturing the sole maillot jaune jersey of his career. A year later, compatriot and then-Sky teammate Chris Froome did the same, as well as again in both 2015 and 2016.

One rider, who has yet to win the Dauphiné — or any race in 2017 for that matter — is two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who had his last yellow jersey stripped from him in 2010 due to a doping positive.

However, the multiple-time Grand Tour triple crown winner, who last won the Giro d’Italia in 2015 and the Vuelta a España in 2014, is hoping Dauphiné can springboard him into one more successful run at the Tour de France crown.

“I want to come out of here with good form,” said Contador in a pre-race press conference. “I will use [the Dauphiné] as preparation, and make a series of maximum efforts, but I will take the race with tranquility.

“Some people might want to win for a psychological boost, but that’s not the case for me,” continued Contador, who has finished on the Dauphiné podium three times since 2009. “Everyone wants to win, but the Dauphiné is the Dauphiné, and the Tour is the Tour. I’ve always prepared for the Dauphiné and the Tour in totally different ways.”

As VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood reported, the 34-year-old “Pistolero” is only interested in one thing — Le Tour — and is ready to take on Froome despite being winless this season.

“If I was younger, that would change things,” said Contador, who has recorded 10 top-3 finishes this year. “Also taking into consideration that now we have all the data that we can analyse, it’s different … I’ve finished each race content with how I felt physically and how I have recovered from the efforts. Even though I didn’t manage to pull off a win, I am perhaps even more confident.”

MotoGP pays tribute to fallen hero

Words from the late Nicky Hayden served as a backdrop in a pre-race tribute at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello for the fallen MotoGP hero, who succumbed to head injuries suffered during a bicycle training ride last month.

“Racing motorcycles is just a way of life for me,” the quote read. “It’s what I know. it’s what I’ve always done, my family does it, my friends do it, and it really is more than just a job. It’s a passion.”

Friends, fans and rivals alike honoured the 2006 world champion with 69 seconds of silence — matching his longtime racing number.

The Honda on which Hayden won his world title was on display, along with a factory Ducati, an Aspar Honda from his final two MotoGP seasons and his 2017 Honda World Superbike.

According to Cycle World, Hayden will be honoured at Laguna Seca during the eighth round of World Superbike by a rider making a reverse lap of the track while carrying his number and a checkered flag.