There will be no Hammer Series in 2020 due to what Velon, the association of 11 WorldTour teams that ran the events, perceive as a "continued attack" on the format by the UCI.
Velon and the UCI are already battling a legal dispute via the European Commission, with Velon accusing the world cycling's governing body of attempting to stifle their initiatives.
The Hammer Series was created in 2017 and featured a new, team-based format in which there is a sprint day and a climbing day followed by a concluding team time trial.
The first Hammer event was held in Limburg, Netherlands in 2017, and legs in Stavanger, Norway, and Hong Kong were added in 2018. There was no Hong Kong event in 2019 due to political protests, and Limburg was squeezed from the 2020 calendar due to the Olympic Games. A new leg in Colombia was announced for 2020 but that was scrapped amid the dispute with the UCI, as were plans for a women's Hammer event in Stavanger.
On Friday, Velon released a statement announcing the suspension of the series.
"The governing body of cycling, the UCI, has persistently attacked the Hammer Series - using regulations to remove its title as a 'Series' and preventing new race formats being developed. This discrimination and anti-competitive behaviour caused Velon to file its Complaint to the EU Commission in 2019 but the UCI’s attacks on the races and the Series have not stopped," read the statement.
"Recently the UCI prevented Hammer Stavanger from adding a women’s race with full parity of prize money, broadcast and race format to the men's race (while approving and moving other women’s races to overlap on the same weekend). These actions have made it impossible for Velon and its race organiser partners to successfully develop the Hammer Series and its races. As a result of this continued attack, the Velon Board convened and took the decision not to hold the Hammer Series in 2020."
The loss of Hammer Stavanger will pave way for the return of the Tour of Norway. The organising body of both events, the Tour des Fjords AS, confirmed that the four-day race, which was originally scrapped for 2020, will now take place from May 21-24 in the slot reserved for the Hammer event.
The Hammer Youth event in Limburg will still go ahead on June 6-7, while Velon hopes to get the professional events up and running again in future seasons.
However, the dispute with the UCI could drag on for many months. While Velon accuses the UCI of using existing and new regulations to "favour the UCI's business interests to the detriment of the teams", the UCI argues that it represents the sport as a whole, rather than just 11 men's teams.
"We are in front of the European Commission with Velon. We disagree with what they said and we will demonstrate this, and have proof and evidence of behaviour that is probably in conflict with European law," David Lappartient told the press in January.
"I am not sure this is the right way to resolve problems. We will both spend a lot of money and, if I remember correctly, Velon was made to create more revenue, yet we are spending more revenue even if it could take around six or seven years to reach the end of the case."
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