News

Hammer Series 2020 Suspended

Hammer Series

The governing body of cycling, the UCI, has persistently attacked the Hammer Series – using regulations to remove its title as a Series and preventing new race formats being developed. This discrimination and anti-competitive behaviour caused Velon to file its Complaint to the EU Commission in 2019 but the UCI’s attacks on the races and the Series have not stopped.

Recently the UCI prevented Hammer Stavanger from adding a women’s race with full parity of prize money, broadcast and race format to the men’s race (while approving and moving other women’s races to overlap on the same weekend). These actions have made it impossible for Velon and its race organiser partners to successfully develop the Hammer Series and its races. As a result of this continued attack, the Velon Board convened and took the decision not to hold the Hammer Series in 2020.

Velon, the owner of the Hammer Series, is working closely with the race organisers of the existing Hammer races regarding the operation of their events planned for 2020 in light of the actions of the UCI. The race organiser of Hammer Stavanger, Tour des Fjords AS, and Velon have together decided to suspend Hammer Stavanger for 2020. The race had planned to expand to a women’s event, with full parity of prize money, broadcast and race format for the women’s teams, but the UCI blocked the race and in doing so cost the race organiser key funding and sponsorship.

Velon and its teams will continue with the anti-competition complaint against the UCI that it submitted to the European Commission last September. This Complaint was expanded on the grounds of gender discrimination in November 2019. The Complaint requested the European Commission to investigate the anti-competitive actions of the UCI relating to the Hammer Series, its digital platform VelonLive as well as other areas of the teams’ business and Velon continues to work with the European Commission with the aim of stopping the UCI from using its regulatory power in an anti-competitive way.

The Hammer Series and its races have gathered widespread support from participating teams, riders and millions of fans who watched the fast-paced “Climb, Sprint and Chase” format of racing in Norway, the Netherlands and Hong Kong. The purpose of the Hammer Series is for it to grow into a 10 race series across key European and international markets that would offer fans the season-long narrative the sport so badly needs, linking together exciting short-form, high impact races, and helping to bring new (younger) fans into the sport. Women cyclists feel particularly let down by the UCI’s decision, as they were looking forward to their first opportunity to compete in a women’s Hammer Series this summer in Norway.

Hammer Youth Limburg, which today is the biggest youth road cycling event in the Netherlands, will take place as planned on 6-7 June 2020. The Hammer Series is delighted to continue this legacy event, which was founded in 2017 as part of Hammer Limburg, in partnership with the Limburg cycling club, the Bergklimmers, with the ongoing support of the Limburg Province and host partner Sittard-Geleen. The 2020 edition is being organised in close cooperation with local event organisers and will feature an exciting combination event with the Omloop van de Maasvallei.

Velon is owned by 11 WorldTour teams, all of whom have expressed their deep disappointment at the suspension of the Hammer Series and Hammer Stavanger and the UCI’s use of its regulatory power to block the partnership between teams and race organisers on which the Hammer Series is built.

Iwan Spekenbrink, CEO, Team Sunweb, said: “The Hammer Series was created to make cycling more exciting and to bring the sport closer to the fans. In the inaugural race our team finished in second place by less than a second on the final day in a truly thrilling finale.

“We would very much have liked to build on that as a truly international competition and most certainly to expand it to women’s cycling. The current regime unfortunately does not allow for that to happen, so we had to pause this project and – once the climate is favourable again for global innovations with the teams and their riders at the heart of our sport – to re-launch it on a major global scale, for both men and women.”

Velon launched the Hammer Series in Limburg, Netherlands, in June, 2017, and made the races available free-to-watch online for fans around the world. In 2018, the Series was expanded to three races, including Hammer Stavanger, Hammer Limburg and Hammer Hong Kong.

Riders described the Hammer Series as being the hardest races of the year because of the non-stop efforts needed on the circuit-based courses which also allowed fans at the roadside to see them many times instead of just once as they pass by in traditional point-to-point races.

Live rider data, live on-bike cameras and cameras in team cars (all technology pioneered and delivered by Velon in some of the world’s biggest professional cycling races, as well as the Hammer Series) have helped to drive online viewing figures to nearly 30 million over three years. In 2019 the Hammer Series was broadcast in more than 140 countries. At the same time the Hammer Series reached a much younger audience than traditional cycling with 79% of the viewers being under the age of 45.

Velon’s shareholding teams are: BORA-hansgrohe, CCC Team, Deceuninck – Quick-Step, EF Education First, Lotto Soudal, Mitchelton-SCOTT, Team INEOS, Team Jumbo-Visma, Team Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo and UAE Team Emirates.