After three months away, the Hammer Series returns this weekend with the final race of the 2018 series in the exotic locale of Hong Kong. The grand finale breaks new ground for European teams – it's certainly the first race set in Hong Kong to feature WorldTour squads that we know of.
The first two races of the 2018 series have hosted some of the biggest names in cycling, including Tour de France and Giro d'Italia runner-up Tom Dumoulin, classics star Greg Van Avermaet, and Tour of Flanders winner Niki Terpstra. Hammer Hong Kong will be no different, with Dumoulin, Philippe Gilbert and Richie Porte on the start list.
What's at stake
It's all to play for in terms of the overall standings (it's a battle of the best team, remember), with 100, 81 and 66 points heading to the three best teams.
After triumphing in Stavanger and finishing second in Limburg, Mitchelton-Scott lead the way before Hong Kong with 181 points. Quick-Step Floors lie second on 153 points, while BMC, LottoNL-Jumbo and Team Sunweb have 109, 101 and 100 points, respectively.
While Hammer Limburg and Stavanger were both three-day, three-race affairs, Hammer Hong Kong will see two races condensed into just a few hours on Sunday. The race that doesn't make the cut is the Hammer Climb, which is usually the first up of the weekend.
The Hammer Sprint starts at 2pm local time (8am CET). That race sees riders tackle ten laps of a 4.3km circuit set on the harbour front. It's a totally flat course, with a long straight and hairpins either side, plus a more technical section midway through the lap.
Points are doled out based on finishing positions at the end of each lap, with double points awarded at the end of laps three, six and ten. Whichever team amasses the most points wins.
The Hammer Chase will start at 3:30pm (9:30am CET). That's the 'team time trial', which sees the leading team set off first, being chased by teams further down the order decided by the Hammer Sprint. The race takes in five laps of the same circuit (21.5km), with teams setting off at 20-second intervals. Whoever crosses the line first wins Hammer Hong Kong.
Fourteen teams will take the start in Hong Kong – 11 from the WorldTour, and a further three ProContinental squads. All eyes will be on series leaders Mitchelton-Scott, who bring a strong team to the race. Luka Mezgec, Roger Kluge and Matteo Trentin will be their men for the Sprint, while Cameron Meyer will provide valuable firepower in the Chase.
Hammer Limburg winners Quick Step Floors will be looking to Fabio Jakobsen in the Sprint as they attempt to overhaul the Australian squad. Philippe Gilbert, Dries Devenyns and Bora-Hansgrohe-bound Maximilian Schachmann will be breakaway threats for the Belgian team.
Lying 71 points behind Mitchelton-Scott, BMC will have to hope for a miracle to win the series overall, one of their final races as a team. Richie Porte and time trialist Stefan Küng are their biggest names, while Jürgen Roelandts is their most-reliable man for the Sprint.
LottoNL-Jumbo bring a young squad, with 26-year-old Timo Roosen the oldest man on their roster. Double Tour de France stage winner Dylan Groenewegen will lead the way in the Sprint, while American Sepp Kuss, who impressed in the Vuelta, will also be on the start line.
Tom Dumoulin returns for Team Sunweb, alongside Simon Geschke and Søren Kragh Andersen, who recently won a revamped Paris-Tours. Young sprinter Max Walscheid is their best hope in the Sprint.
Other names to consider for the Hammer Sprint include Dan McLay (EF Education-Drapac), Owain Doull (Team Sky), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), and Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates). As for the overall, well it’s hard to look past the top five teams, but Team Sky could have an outside shot, with Pavel Sivakov and Eddie Dunbar on their young roster, while Trek-Segafredo bring Greg Rast and Ryan Mullen.