Mitchelton-Scott positioned themselves as favourites for the second-ever Hammer Series race, with Tour des Fjords winner Michael Albasini playing the main role as they took victory in the Hammer Climb. The Swiss rider made it into a large group that stole away on lap three, later attacking along with LottoNL-Jumbo's Antwan Tolhoek to dominate the mid-race laps.
The 80.6km first stage of Hammer Stavanger took place over 9.5 laps of an 8.4km circuit featuring two climbs. The first ran to 800 metres at 6.8 per cent with the latter 1km at 5.8 per cent serving as the finish line and sprint point.
A first lap attack from Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) drew out a strong front group which included Dylan Teuns (BMC) and Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) among others. It was soon brought back, but young climber Tolhoek countered on lap two, bringing another group with him.
The group of around 15 riders lasted a further two laps before disintegrating as Albasini launched. By the race's midpoint, Mitchelton-Scott had 657 points, double that of any other team, thanks largely to the Swiss puncheur and teammate Daryl Impey.
With the duo enjoying a minute lead at one point, Tolhoek's consistent placings saw LottoNL-Jumbo consolidate second. Further back, Teuns and Tom Bohli (BMC), Moscon and Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) featured as the peloton scrapped over the remaining points.
Lap nine saw the duo up front finally absorbed as a group attacked from the peloton. Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) attacked out of the new lead group to take maximum points on the penultimate lap as the indefatigable Albasini scooped up more points for second.
As the peloton hung 30 seconds down the road, a final lap regrouping among the leaders came ahead of the all-important finish, with double points on offer once again. 4km from the finish Kragh Andersen was off again, chased solo by Lucas Hamilton (Mitchelton-Scott).
Kragh Andersen ultimately held on to take the finish first, leapfrogging his team up the standings to second overall on 645 points ahead of LottoNL-Jumbo's 624. Hamilton took second, completing Mitchelton-Scott's domination of the opening day, with the Australian squad ending up with a massive 1498 points.
Saturday's second stage is the Hammer Sprint, which should see Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emir-ates), Kristoffer Halvorsen (Team Sky), Fabio Jakobsen (Quick Step Floors) and Moreno Hofland (Lot-to-Soudal) likely to heavily feature.
Star of the day Albasini told of how he was able to give maximum effort on day one, as an interesting wrinkle in the race's rules means that only five riders from each squad's seven have to race each day.
"I'm going home [now] - that's why I left it all out there today," he said. "I was getting as many points as possible because after this is coming the sprint and TTT. I'll leave it for the quick guys and have a rest.
"It worked out well," he added. "All the time it close to threshold, full gas."
"It was pretty intense right from the word go," said Albasini's teammate Daryl Impey after the race. "It was exciting. It was quite different racing but we were all over it today, so quite good for us. It felt like a schoolboy racing again - you're just out there giving it your all."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mitchelton - Scott||1498||pts|
|3||Team Lotto NL - Jumbo||624|
|5||Quick - Step Floors||441|
|6||BMC Racing Team||421|
|8||Nippo - Vini Fantini - Europa Ovini||363|
|9||Trek - Segafredo||325|
|10||UAE Team Emirates||258|
|11||Caja Rural - Seguros RGA||188|
|12||Israel Cycling Academy||175|
|13||Aqua Blue Sport||53|
|14||EF Education First - Drapac P/B Cannondale||28|