Hammer Series decided on the line between Sky and Sunweb

Pre-stage favourites BMC rue late punctures

A suspenseful finale to the inaugural Hammer Series saw Team Sunweb win the 'Hammer Chase' team time trial while Team Sky won the overall title by one second.

Both teams came into the final straight of the course together in a finish more reminiscent of a sprint than a team time trial. A canny ride from Tao Geoghegan Hart saw Team Sky just edge out Sunweb who started with a 32-second deficit to the British squad. 

For Team Sunweb coach Dirk Reuling, it was a mixed result as he explained the plan was to avoid the sprint finish. Despite losing the overall, Reuling was pleased to have taken the 'chase' win.

"We did very a good TTT, doing a very smooth race where we were able to close 32 seconds on Team Sky. We overtook Sky as we knew we were better in the technical section, and we hoped to create a gap that was big enough to prevent a sprint against them," Reuling said. "Unfortunately, Sky closed the gap to us before last corner. In a crazy sprint we could not get past them anymore. So we finished second on GC, but as the fastest team of the day."

Sky's sports director Servais Knaven explained the team prepared for the possibility of Sunweb overtaking them during the stage, stressing the importance of making it through the final corner in the first position. Dutchman Danny van Poppel executed the plan for Sky who then proved to have the stronger legs in the sprint.

"At a certain moment, when you see them [Team Sunweb] coming, you know there's no chance you can stay in front of them. We already spoke about what we'd do if they passed us and how we were going to approach the final corner," Knaven said. "And everyone would have the same tactic, I would say, because being first through the last corner you have the biggest chance to win. That's what we focused on at the end.

"Danny did a great last job into the last corner, and then it was a bit of a battle that I saw with Tao … it was almost like a bunch sprint on time trial bikes."

After Movistar via Carlos Betancur and Cannondale-Drapac through Sep Vamarcke won the opening two stages, the 'Chase' stage saw a different form of racing with the teams split into two groups for the three laps of the 14.9km circuit. While the race between Sunweb and Sky came down to the close sprint, the Group 1 race was a different story with BMC Racing suffering four punctures in quick succession, opening the door for Quick-Step Floors to take advantage and steal in for the easy win. Trek-Segafredo also overtook BMC, taking advantage of the situation to finish in fourth place overall.

"We know the gap from the start was very small and BMC Racing Team had the time trial specialists," Yves Lampaert said. "We got lucky, they got some punctures and when we saw Oss punctured we pushed to the end. After their second puncture we caught them, and we went full to the finish line."

BMC's Manuel Quinziato and Stefan Kung explained that the quick succession of the punctures was a disappointing way to close out the Hammer Series.

"I think we'd be more frustrated with just one or two punctures. With four, you know it's not your day. It's a pity, because we were focused to win. It was bad luck but it can happen," said Quinziato.

"We were really motivated, we were going good, so it's frustrating. When one after the other punctures, at a certain point, you just give up. That's it," said Kung. 

 

 

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