Trek-Segafredo earned the biggest points haul on the second day of racing at the Hammer Series after an aggressive battle on the newly-named Tom Dumoulin Limburg Sportzone circuit. Team Sky, following up a strong showing in the Hammer Climb with another solid performance in Saturday's Sprint, will start Sunday's Chase in pole position.
Team Sunweb had initially been declared the top team in the standings for the Chase, but riders are required to finish an event for their points to count, and the German squad's Ramon Sinkeldam pulled out of the Sprint after a crash. The updated leaderboard sees Sky in the lead spot for Sunday, with Sunweb second and Nippo - Vini Fantini third.
Jasper Stuyven, Matthias Brändle, Boy Van Poppel, Greg Daniel and Giacomo Nizzolo comprised Trek's winning line-up, and each pitched in nabbing points throughout the afternoon. Brändle and Stuyven were especially active early and Nizzolo and Van Poppel added to the haul in the later laps.
Cannondale-Drapac's Sep Vanmarcke was the first rider across the finish on the last lap after he attacked with Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini) with two of the 12.5km laps left to cover. He beat the Italian on the final crossing of line and so took the 20 points on offer. Canola hung on to finish second, with Moreno Hofland (Lotto Soudal) holding off the main peloton to take third.
Trek-Segafredo topped the race points total with 70.7 points. Hofland helped propel Lotto Soudal to second in the team ranking with 61.8 points, while Vanmarcke's strong finale pushed Cannondale-Drapac to third on the day with 59.6 points. Team Sky was fourth with 50.9 points after consistently scoring points during the eight sprints.
The eight-best ranked teams will now compete in Sunday’s final Hammer Chase race over three laps of a 14.5km circuit based on the Sportzone park. While the first two days racing was based on points, the team pursuit style Chase will see teams start off at different time gaps based on the points and bonus seconds they have amassed so far.
After team ranking calculations were done, time bonuses were added and Sinkeldam's abandonment ultimately accounted for, Team Sky rose to the top of the rankings and will start first in the top-tier group on Sunday in the 43.5km Hammer Chase. Team Sunweb is off 32 seconds later, Nippo - Vini Fantini will set out after one minute and Lotto Soudal is fourth off at 1:12. Movistar, who won the opening Hammer Climb, will start fifth at 1:29. Only the top eight teams will compete for overall victory, with the lower ranked 9-16 teams riding the lesser final.
“It was full gas immediately from the start. Every lap felt like the last lap, the double points meant it was always full gas,” Van Poppel said before he and his teammates sprayed the champagne on the podium.
Brändle and Stuyven explained Trek-Segafredo’s tactics.
“We played different tactics today, we had sprinters and time trialists like me, so we went on attack and didn’t wait for sprint. I did a 500m sprint but then I was hanging on,” Brändle said.
“I think we did a really good race as always,” Stuyven added. “We always had one guy in front so it was a big advantage for us, we never had to chase.”
Fast and furious racing
As expected, the Hammer Sprint was fast and furious, with the sprint after each of the eight 12.5km offer vital points. Double points on laps two, five and eight added an extra incentive for teams to target the sprints and score as many points as possible with multiple riders.
The first rider over the line scored 10 points but much like in a points race on the track, attacks often swept up the leading points, with the peloton sweeping up the lesser but still important points for the minor placings.
Vanmarcke made his and Cannondale-Drapac’s intentions clear when he joined a small group and then won the first sprint. Then Trek-Segafredo took over with Jasper Stuyven surging clear. Team Sunweb hit back with Ramon Sinkeldam (Team Sunweb) winning the third sprint but the intense racing sparked lots of suffering and a few crashes.
Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) went down with several riders – including Sinkeldam – with 60km to go just as he started to fight for points. The Australian sprinter seemed stunned. He did not seem seriously hurt but was taken away in an ambulance, leaving his four teammates to take over for the sprints.
Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) also suffered the high pace and sat up and quit the race soon after Ewan’s crash, telling his team car that he was in pain.
Stuyven struck again on lap four, beating Canola, while Elia Viviani revived Team Sky’s hopes by winning the fifth sprint. However strength in depth was the key in the sprint for points and both Trek-Segafredo and Team Sunweb were always well-represented as Orica-Scott changed tactics and sent Roger Kluge up the road. He was soon caught and passed by a sizable group that included most teams. However it was too big a group, and Vanmarcke and Canola soon slipped off the front and opened a 20-second lead.
The two worked hard together as the main peloton eventually closed the gap on the chasers to set up a high-speed sprint for the important placings and points. Vanmarcke celebrated hitting the line first but Trek-Segafredo had the numbers in the sprint and so took the team victory.
|3||Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team||59.6|
|5||Nippo - Vini Fantini||40.4|
|8||Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team||26.5|
|11||UAE Team Emirates||19.9|
|13||BMC Racing Team||11|
|14||Team Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij||10|
|15||Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||6.6|
|16||Israel Cycling Academy||5.6|
|3||Nippo - Vini Fantini|
|6||Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team|