Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
This week’s announcement of the new Hammer Series heralds the start of a new form of stage racing and, if all goes to plan, will benefit the sport financially while helping fans to be increasingly engaged.
Beginning with an event in Limburg in early June, the series will see professional teams compete against each other over three days, and will also include a number of related activities for the general public.
However Wednesday’s announcement was devoid of any mention of women’s racing. CyclingTips spoke to the CEO of the team organisation Velon, Graham Bartlett, which has a strong involvement in the new series. Bartlett was asked if there were any plans to incorporate women’s racing.
“We’ve already done some down in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race,” he answered, speaking about Velon’s involvement with that side of the sport. “We ran some data and technology with onboard cameras and with data from the women’s race in Australia.
“This is something that we would definitely like to do more of, if we can if we can help the women side of the sport. It’s great racing and for us, great racing is great racing. So if we can help a race organizer to do more than just the men’s race in this way, then we can. We would love to do more that.
“It’s not just about the pro race. It’s about the whole festival of cycling that we want to create at Limburg. We want to create an atmosphere, a festival that is very inclusive for families, for female riding. And yeah, for sure we are happy to try to expand and extend the technology where we can.”
While Bartlett was speaking in general rather than specifically about the Hammer Series, he said that Velon was willing to help out the organisers it has a race partnership with.
“If they have a women’s race and if we can help to boost that race’s profile and the excitement and engagement of the fans in that regard, we definitely want to. From a Velon perspective, we are all in favour of that.
“If we look at the onboard camera video that we released for the Cadel Evans women’s race, it was almost as popular as the one we did for the men’s. That is fantastic, because we all want the sport to embrace as wide a demographic as it possibly can. Cycling needs to do that. And we are definitely all behind it.
“Velon is very focussed on pro men’s racing as that is our metier, but if we can help and assist and push female riding, then we do because we think it is great racing. They are fantastic athletes and are great racers. Where we can be part of that, we will.”
Asked specifically if he could see women’s racing being part of the Hammer Series down the line, Bartlett didn’t rule that out.
“Why not?” he said. “We would have to see…I am definitely not the expert on the women’s calendar. So I am not really the person to speak to. But why not? We are focusing on making a success of the men’s aspect of it but as that becomes successful, why shouldn’t there be a women’s version of this?
“We would be all in favour of it. It is a question of getting the right business model, getting the right investment behind it and so on. We are going to put all our effort into the men’s series and as that becomes successful, then why not?
“In principle I would be all in favour of it. The sport needs to be more focussed around how they can work with the women’s side of the racing in a better way than we currently do.”