By The Loop HK
The city’s most anticipated street cycling festival, the Sun Hung Kai Properties Hong Kong Cyclothon, will hit the streets once again this year — and with it, the world-renowned Hammer Series that will take place on the same day. Known for its challenging races, the Hammer Series brings the best teams in the world to Hong Kong, making this a rare chance to catch the top riders in action as they go all-out in their fight to be crowned Hammer Hong Kong champions.
Whether you’re planning to cheer on the world-class teams or compete in the thrilling races, we’ve gathered some invaluable insider tips from Hammer Series riders Cameron Meyer, Erik Baska and Owain Doull to get you ready for the exciting day ahead.
Unlike the traditional races, the Hammer Series is all about the collective performances as a team. There are no individual rankings. “It’s completely different. The format is revolutionary in a way. Every race is so intense and you really need to race as a team,” says Owain Doull of Team INEOS.
Erik Baska of team BORA-hansgrohe agrees. “The whole points system in Hammer and the fact that we are riding as a team is a big difference,” he says.
There are three kinds of races in the Hammer Series: the Hammer Climb, Sprint, and Chase. In the Hammer Climb and Sprint, the riders score points for their teams every time they cross the finishing line. At the end of the day, the team with the most accumulated points wins the race. The Hammer Chase is a team time trial pursuit, where the team to finish first will be crowned winner.
For Hammer Hong Kong, however, there is only a Hammer Sprint and Chase. The Hong Kong leg is also different from the rest of the Hammer Series as it is all in one day, meaning the riders will have less time to rest between races. “As it’s only one day, there isn’t much time between the Sprint and the Chase, which gives a different dynamic to the whole race,” says Doull.
“The Hammer Series races are different from any other type of race we do during the season because of the point-scoring system. They are also much shorter and dynamic than the traditional stage races, and a lot more explosive and fast-paced, probably more similar to a track race,” Cameron Meyers explains.
Because the Hammer Series is so different from the traditional races, “You really have to be mentally ready to go all-out the entire time,” Baska advises. “A race like Hammer Hong Kong is very specific. It is short and intense,” adds Cameron Meyer from team Mitchelton-SCOTT, the previous year’s champion.
If you’re planning on flying in for the race, jet lag could be your biggest enemy. “The biggest difference is the time difference. The jet lag can really hit you hard in the first days,” says Baska. So it would be best to schedule in a few recovery days prior to race day, as it also gives you a chance to take in the city’s atmosphere and try out the circuit a few times too.
“The Hammer Hong Kong is fairly different to the other Hammer cities because of the short, tight-natured course. It is very technical with many turns. It requires good bike handling and strong sprinting power,” says Meyer. “Doing some short interval sessions is important in the lead up, and some time on the Time Trial bike also will help in the preparation to be ready for the Hammer Chase event.”
If you’re visiting Hong Kong for the Hammer Series, all three pro riders agree that you should definitely spend a few days exploring the city. "Hong Kong is fantastic, with lots to see and do. This year I’m looking forward to more fantastic Hong Kong cuisine and seeing more that the city has to offer,” says Meyer.
“We had some days before and after Hammer Hong Kong to explore the city. It was a really nice experience!” adds Baska. “Just racing through the city centre in Hong Kong is such a cool thing to do, with the whole city closing down for a day for us to ride our bikes,” says Doull. “It’s really an amazing city.”
As a spectator in Hong Kong, you’ll be much closer to the action than at traditional races because of the closed-circuit nature of the Hammer Series. For the best vantage points, “See if you can find a spot near the finish line so you can watch the riders sprint for points every lap. It’s quite a view,” Doull says. “Or maybe on the bridge going over the course. From there, you can see the race from all kinds of angles.”
Cameron Meyer, Mitchelton-SCOTT:
Cameron Meyer is a talented all-rounder and has been part of many team time trial victories, along with claiming general classification wins himself. However, his strengths aren’t only on the road. As a multiple world champion on the track, he is a truly diverse rider. Last year, Meyer was part of the Mitchelton-SCOTT team who won the Hammer Series overall. He’s also the team’s dedicated Hammer Captain this year.
Erik Baska, BORA-hansgrohe:
Erik Baska is a strong all-round rider who packs a fast finish as well. He’s well-suited for the Classics and other hard and flat races where he can bank on his raw power and good sprint. Baska was part of the BORA-hansgrohe team who finished third in Hammer Hong Kong last year. His most recent Hammer performance this year was in Hammer Limburg where Baska helped his team take third place overall.
Owain Doull, Team INEOS:
Owain Doull turned professional on the road after claiming an Olympic gold medal on the track in 2016 as part of the British team pursuit squad. The Welshman has quickly developed into a strong all-round talent, adept in the tough terrain of the Classics but also a capable stage racer, as witnessed by his third place overall finish at the Tour of Britain. Doull is Team INEOS’ appointed Hammer Captain this year.
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