Mitchelton-Scott will begin their defence of their 2018 Hammer Series title in Stavanger, Norway, on Friday, hoping to repeat the victory they also took in the opening round of the unique racing format last year.
Introduced in 2017, the Hammer Series sees WorldTour teams compete in each round across three very different styles of racing over three days, with the best team – rather than an individual rider – crowned the winner.
In the Hammer Sprint, points are scored by riders for their teams on specific laps of a circuit, and again at the finish, with the same system used on a hillier circuit for the following day's Hammer Climb. A final team time trial called the Hammer Chase on the third day – pursuit-style, with teams trying to catch the higher-placed teams, who set off before them – decides the winners.
Riders can also be 'substituted' between races, so that a sprinter doesn't have to ride the Hammer Climb, for example. Five-rider squads are selected for each of the three days of racing from a team of seven riders.
At last year's inaugural Hammer Stavanger, Mitchelton-Scott triumphed over Team Sunweb and BMC Racing, but then just lost out to Quick-Step Floors at Hammer Limburg, in the Netherlands, in the second round, although Mitchelton did maintain their overall lead with their second place.
Mitchelton then sewed up the 2018 title with victory at the Hammer Hong Kong in October, and are ready to take up where they left off this Friday when the 2019 series kicks off in Stavanger once again.
"The style of the Hammer Series is very different to what we normally race," Cameron Meyer, who will lead the Mitchelton-Scott squad, said on the team's website. "It's more similar to that of track racing due to the scoring of points to win the events. I really enjoy this style of racing as it's fast and dynamic, and I think I'm more familiar with it because of my track background.
"We really want to try to defend our Hammer Series title that we won last year," the Australian continued. "This style of racing suits our team, and so we bring lots of motivation to this event and we hope to perform well again.
"My role as captain will be important to help the young riders who are competing in their first Hammer event. With the different format, it requires different strategies to the normal road races, and so I hope I can give some good guidance and advice to the younger guys. We have a great team with youth and experience, so I think this will make us competitive across the three days of racing," Meyer said.
Mitchelton's seven-man squad is made up of the experienced Michael Albasini, who was an integral part of last year's winning team, Luka Mezgec and rising star Nick Schultz – both of whom were also part of the Hammer squad last year. Neo-pros Rob Stannard, Callum Scotson and Edoardo Affini complete the team, along with Meyer.
"In a stage race, if you do something wrong you have the next day to try to make up for it, but with the Hammer Series, if you lose the points, you lose the points," pointed out sports director Laurenzo Lapage. "It's so important that in the first two days we're in the best possible position to start the team time trial race on the final day.
"We have a different team to last year," he continued. "We have some younger guys this year, but I think for them it's a chance to stand up and to show that the team can win again. We have Cam Meyer who has a lot of experience with this type of racing, plus Luka and Alba who have won these races in the past.
"It's always important to have experienced guys in the team, as I think the younger guys can learn a lot from them – not only by asking them but also by watching them and seeing how they do things," said Lapage.
The Hammer Climb starts on Friday, May 24, with the Hammer sprint on Saturday and the Hammer Chase deciding things on Sunday.
Mitchelton-Scott for the 2019 Hammer Stavanger: Edoardo Affini, Michael Albasini, Cameron Meyer, Luka Mezgec, Nick Schultz, Callum Scotson, Rob Stannard