This year’s Hammer Series has been suspended with the organisers blaming the sport’s governing body and not coronavirus for the decision.
Launched in Limburg in the Netherlands in 2017, the Hammer Series comprised three rounds in 2019, with races taking place in Limburg and Stavanger in Norway before a final round in Hong Kong.
The team-based format sees riders compete in three different formats – a Hammer Climb, a Hammer Sprint and a Hammer Chase – with all of the racing available free-to-watch online.
The series is run by Velon – the joint venture company part-owned by a number of the leading men’s cycling teams – which has frequently come into conflict with the UCI over the venture.
In February 2019, the UCI ruled that Hammer races could not be referred to as a “Series” under its regulations.
Velon says that no explanation was ever given for this ruling and in October it filed a complaint with the European Commission, accusing the UCI of anti-competitive practices.
Another bone of contention was the use of technology such as on-board camera footage and rider data to enhance broadcast coverage.
All other races on the UCI calendar are owned by private companies or, in the case of the World Championships, the governing body itself, and Velon complained that new technical regulations “sought to give [the UCI] and race organisers ownership and control over the teams’ business on live race data.”
Velon then appended another accusation to its complaint, arguing that the UCI had discriminated against women’s cycling by rejecting the Hammer Stavanger women’s event.
When that race was included in the draft 2020 Road Calendar submitted to the UCI management committee for approval, the committee stated that a women’s Hammer race, “was not in the best interest of women’s cycling”.
The race would have provided full parity of prize money, broadcast and race format to the men's race.
Referring to these decisions in a statement last night, a spokesperson for the Hammer Series said: “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.”
The spokesperson went on to explain that in blocking the Hammer Stavanger women’s event, the UCI had, “cost the race organiser key funding and sponsorship.”
The general manager of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Shayne Bannon, commented: "We fought hard to win the Hammer Series in 2018, and everyone in our team, riders and staff, wants it to continue.
“But the UCI has stifled every attempt to take Hammer to new locations around the world and we now want to place matters in the hands of the European Commission, where we believe our case will win and we'll be able to bring Hammer back for fans in the future."
Iwan Spekenbrink, the CEO of Team Sunweb, added: “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.”