Hammer Review: what happened in Hammer Stavanger as attention turns to LimburgTue 28 May 2019
Mitchelton-SCOTT began their Hammer Series title defence with a third place overall at the opening round at Hammer Stavanger.
A youthful squad rolled into Norway looking to get the series off to a strong start despite losing captain Cameron Meyer to injury in the week leading up to the race.
The team went on the offensive in the opening Hammer Climb event with Australian’s Nick Schultz and Rob Stannard racking up points in an early breakaway move. Veteran Michael Albasini and Slovenian Luka Mezgec also grabbed points in the uphill sprint during the nine lap race to leave the team in fourth place in the standings after the first event.
Without a pure sprinter in their ranks, the team knew that an aggressive and attacking approach to racing was their best chance of scoring points in the Hammer Sprint. With this in mind, neo-pro Edoardo Affini and Albasini put themselves in move after move and animated the race throughout to bag 620 points between them, moving the team into third in the overall standings and securing a place in the Finalist’s Group for the Hammer Chase.
Starting as the third team off the ramp, 58-seconds behind leaders Team Jumbo-Visma, the squad knew that a strong team time trial effort could put them in contention for the overall victory. However, their hopes were dashed in inside the opening kilometres when Alex Edmonson suffered a mechanical, resulting in the team having to wait up before they could get going again. Despite the setback the team powered their way back into podium contention and did enough to secure third overall in a thrilling finish.
Next Stop: Hammer Limburg
The focus now turns to Hammer Limburg where the team recorded victories in the Hammer Sprint and Hammer Chase events in 2018 as they moved into the overall series lead with one round remaining.
The team have showed that without a pure specialist in either of the disciplines, going on the front foot and being aggressive throughout the Hammer Climb and Hammer Sprint races is a fruitful way to rack up points.
The Hammer Chase has proved to be a strong point for the team in the past and they know that if they can score points in the first two races to keep themselves in touching distance on the scoreboard, they can be a match for anyone in a team time trial effort.
Current Hammer Series leaders Team Jumbo-Visma will be buoyed by their victory in Stavanger and the Dutch outfit will be hoping to continue that form on home soil in Limburg.
Team Sunweb sit second in the standings heading into round two and despite a slow start in Norway, the German team came on strong in the Sprint and Chase events to move up the leader board.
Mitchelton-SCOTT’s biggest threat to their third place overall in Stavanger came from Team INEOS and CCC Team, with both teams mounting a late charge in the Hammer Chase race to threaten the podium places.
“I think we can be happy with our performance in Stavanger for sure. Everybody contributed really well, which is what it's all about. The racing is so dynamic that it creates a good cohesive atmosphere amongst the team.”
“Aggression is key in these races. As soon as you are on the back foot, you'll be fighting for the rest of the day. If you can take the upper hand early, it is a better place to be for sure.”
“Of course, Team Jumbo-Visma showed their cards and proved they have a really strong team for the series. Most teams who were in the top eight could present a danger. Quick-Step, INEOS and Sunweb can never be discounted.”
Photos courtesy of Velon.