Team Sky win Hammer Series thriller

04 Jun 2017

Team Sky win Hammer Series thriller

Team Sky dug deep to pull off a thrilling victory as the inaugural Hammer Series event went down to the wire in Limburg.

The overall victory was decided in the very final metres, with Team Sky repassing Team Sunweb ahead of the final corner and coming out on top of an eight-man toe-to-toe sprint.
 
The quintet of Jon Dibben, Owain Doull, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Danny van Poppel and Elia Viviani headed into the final team time trial first with an advantage of 32 seconds over Team Sunweb.
 
Settling into a rhythm, that margin was gradually eaten into across the 44.7-kilometre course, with the Dutch outfit making the catch with 3.5km to go.
 
Undeterred, and under the guidance of Sport Director Servais Knaven, Sky looked to recover ahead of a final burst of energy. Van Poppel hit the front and ensured the team regained control heading into the final corner. With Viviani and Doull assured sprinters, the pressure was heaped onto Geoghegan Hart as the vital fourth man needed over the line. Despite three Sunweb riders on his tail, the young Brit held firm to prevail in a grandstand finish.
 
Reflecting on the intense sprint he’d just pulled out of the bag, Geoghegan Hart, the hero in Friday’s Hammer Climb, explained after the race: “For sure the lead-outs that I’ve been a part of this year with Elia helped a lot. I’m lost for words at the last kilometre that Van Poppel pulled out. It was unbelievable how fast we overtook them. I was really sprinting from about 600 metres to go and I think everyone was on the limit in the final metres. Thankfully I had a bit more left than those Sunweb guys. It was a good job by the whole team.”
A true team victory. Proud winners of the first ever Hammer Series

A true team victory. Proud winners of the first ever Hammer Series

Tao Geoghegan Hart

Tao Geoghegan Hart

I was really sprinting from about 600 metres to go and I think everyone was on the limit in the final metres.
For Viviani, who was also instrumental in scoring points during Saturday’s Hammer Sprint, added: “Initially we started out wanting to do our own team time trial, go full gas and try to win the stage. We knew BMC were the strongest team but they had bad luck today. But after we lost Dibben we understood we were only four riders and we had one more lap. We tried to manage and go steady, and we heard on the radio Sunweb were starting to come up. They played a bit of a game and rested a bit. Then we said okay, let’s give them the space and we’ll see for the sprint. We knew we had the three fastest sprinters, and Tao did a good job to get fourth!”
 
With the new Hammer Series format proving popular with fans and riders alike, Doull admitted the time gaps heading into the final stage had worked out perfectly.
 
He said: “With those time gaps and the length of that circuit it was always going to be close. I think 32 seconds turned out to be the perfect amount for this distance! It was always going to be a danger going off first. You have nothing to chase so you’re on your own a bit. We heard they were coming at us so we thought we’d back off, recover and come again for the last kilometre.”

The foundations for victory were laid by an impressive and consistent performance across the opening two days of racing. Third in the Hammer Climb, backed up with fourth in the Hammer Sprint, saw Team Sky take the best points tally into the final day, and a springboard to victory.
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“It was a bit more exciting than I ideally wanted,” laughed Sport Director Servais Knaven after the race. “I knew it would be stressful but it was a really thrilling finish. It was a really nice day and we’re super happy to have won this first Hammer Series.
 
“Obviously you still have to take back the 32 seconds, but there is an advantage to have someone in front of you, especially if you take some time back pretty early. The other team are always in sight which is helpful. Sunweb did a great ride and they had the fastest time on the day. We were the second quickest so we both did a good TT.
 
“The guys did a great job and they had the legs to finish it off. They went full gas into the final corner so we could overtake Sunweb. That was the key thing and it helped us to win today.”

Knaven also reserved praise for the new racing format, adding: “I’ve really enjoyed it. I have a bit of a unique view from the team car, but from everything I’ve seen it’s been really exciting. It’s full-on racing from the gun and anything can happen – it’s unpredictable – and for sure the next event will be different again. 
 
“The format is really nice and there is room too to play with it. If you wanted to change the points, make some circuits shorter or make a hilly stage longer then you can. It will only improve and I think it was a really successful first edition. From the look of the people at the start/finish area they were all really excited. I think especially for young spectators they will love this racing which is really important.”

Hammer Sportzone Limburg final standings:

1. Team Sky 51:59
2. Team Sunweb +1"
3. Orica-Scott +36"
4. Lotto Soudal s.t.
5. Movistar +37"

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