Cycling will undergo a mini-revolution in June, when the inaugural edition of the Hammer Series is held in Limburg, in the Netherlands.
The event will be made up of three races in three days: the Hammer Climb, the Hammer Sprint and the Hammer Chase.
Here, we analyse the course for each of the races.
The Hammer Climb: Friday, June 2
The opening race will be held in Vaals, in the south of the Netherlands, close to the border with Belgium and Germany.
It will take place over 11 laps of 7km circuit containing two climbs, with the start/finish line positioned just after the summit of the second climb.
The first climb is 900m long, has an average gradient of 4.2 per cent and a maximum of 8.1 per cent. The second climb is 2km long, has an average gradient of 5.3 per cent and a maximum of 8.5 per cent.
Points will be awarded to the first 10 teams who get a rider over the line at the end of each lap. Double points are available on laps three, seven and 11.
Here is the circuit map and profile:
In total, 34.1km (44 per cent) of the 77km race distance is uphill and riders will crest 22 summits at an average of one every 3.5km.
They will have to climb an average of 23 vertical metres per kilometre for the duration of the race, which is the same metres-per-kilometre ratio as the mercilessly hilly 16th stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia. However, a better way of looking at the Hammer Climb is as a miniature and more intense Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Teams will be able to field five of the seven riders they take to the Hammer Series. Those with two or more strong climbers have the option to interchange which rider challenges for points at the end of each lap, but those with only one climber may be forced to save that rider’s energy for the double-points laps.
Although the race heavily favours climbers, the two ascents have only moderate maximum gradients, which may be shallow enough to allow all-rounders and even punchy sprinters to challenge for points on certain laps.
The Hammer Sprint: Saturday, June 3
The second day of racing takes place over eight laps of a flat, 12.4km circuit starting and finishing at Sportzone Limburg.
Once again, points will be awarded at the end of each lap, with double points on offer on laps two, five and eight.
There are no hills for the teams to worry about, but the circuit is technical and the teams will have to work hard to stay together.
Here is the map and profile:
The circuit ends with a hairpin right-hand turn and then a straight dash to the finish line. The fight for position going into this corner will be fierce and there is lots of potential for lead-out trains to crumble if they don’t take it smoothly, so teams will have to be well-drilled.
Being at the head of the race on the final corner will be of paramount importance, because if you’re adrift coming out of it, catching back up in time for the sprint for the line will be tough.
The Hammer Chase: Sunday, June 4
The Hammer Series ends with a team time trial in which all of the 16 participating teams race each other in two groups of eight over three laps of a 14.9km course, making the race 44.7km in total.
The first team to cross the finish line will be crowned Hammer Series champions.
Here is the map and profile:
The technical nature of the course will make for captivating and at times nerve-racking racing.
The long straights provide plenty of opportunity for teams to overtake each other, but should they be side by side going into a corner, the margins between gaining a place and crashing could be fine.
While cumulative team power will be a key factor, so too will be which team is the best at keeping their riders together in an efficient line.