Who Can Break The Hour Record?

Monday, 19 May 2014

Who can break the hour record? Tony Martin? Bradley Wiggins? Fabian Cancellara? Taylor Phinney? All four can do it but the record is now open to hundreds of riders around the world. Chile’s Carlos Oyarzún can probably do it.

How so? The UCI announced a change of the Hour Record rules last week. There are two conclusions. First a rider can use any approved UCI track bike complete with tri bars, disc wheels and clothing rather than the classic “Merckx” bike with drop bars and low profile rims. Second the hour record has been re-established at 49.700km. Roll up, roll up.

56.8km Time Trial – Florence 2013
Who can ride 49.700km in an hour? Many people can. Here’s the top-30 from the Worlds last year in Firenze with the average speed included.

Of course a comparison between a road time trial and the track involves plenty of caveats. The Firenze TT course included a a hill, it was exposed to the wind and riders were braking for corners as they rode through the city centre before the finish. The point here isn’t to make a direct comparison, it’s just an illustration.

Still, scroll through the results and, say, Carlos Oyarzún managed 49.2km/h. It’s easy to imagine a flat velodrome being worth an extra 500 metres and he could get the record.

Easy? Certainly not. A fast time trial on an ordinary day is no gentle spin but the track imposes extra constraints. The G-force of lapping the boards at speed puts extra pressure on the contact points and strains the arms and legs. It’s said the centrifugal aspect reduces blood circulation, a giant blood spinner. But everything else being equal the track is faster than the road. It’s flat, a controlled environment, low rolling resistance, no wind and if you turn up the heating and adjust the humidity, reduced air resistance.

Then and Now
The UCI has reset the Hour to 49.7km which is held by Ondřej Sosenka. Crucially he set this on a classic bike with drop bars, steel spoked wheels with low profile rims and a basic helmet. Tomorrow’s record attempt allows a rider to use any UCI approved track bike meaning a pursuit-style bike as pictured below is permissible. This brings a huge advantage as it allows a time trial position with the “tri-bar” extensions but note the other benefits include disc wheels, profiled frame tubing and the use of an aero helmet with visor. As well as improved aerodynamics the position can bring ergonomic gains because the arms and upper body have some support from the arm rests and the rider doesn’t have to hold themselves in a low position. All in all being able to use the new bike means a quick adaptation from road to track and brings a substantial performance advantage. Sosenka’s record is there for the taking.

Tournament Theory
If anything the biggest problem is tactical and commercial. There could be a scramble to break the record because the first to break it stands to win plenty of publicity. But rush the effort without too much planning and preparation and you could set the bar low meaning someone else can come along and improve it. A bike sponsor could have ads in the cycling press vaunting the wondrous aero benefits of its record breaking machine only for another cyclist on a rival bike to break the record.

This is a problem for riders, teams and manufacturers. If the Hour were to become a tournament with a series of riders lining up to have a go then all the better for cycling fans. There is the concern that if a rider we’ve never heard of pops up and breaks the record then somehow a little bit of prestige is lost, as if a champion must validate the record to perpetuate its noble status. But the unknown Graeme Obree emerged in 1993 to spark a series of record attempts.

The UCI’s rule changes are a clear invitation to riders to come and have a go. Being able to use a modern bike to beat a record set with the old position means many find the record with reach. As the results from the worlds last year illustrate -but don’t prove – many can ride at 50km/h on a flat course in the open wind. Perhaps the only question is who goes first?

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Too Fast...Not Furious enough.... May 19, 2014 at 10:54 am

……and the Ladies?…..What could they do?

Brian May 19, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Besides go slower?

Roger May 19, 2014 at 3:31 pm


Alex May 20, 2014 at 7:44 am
ave May 19, 2014 at 10:56 am

How stupid is this that they do not allow in Rominger’s record, or even Indurain’s?
Their bikes and equipment were nothing special really, much less aerodynamic than what will be used from now on.

One can argue, that they were charged up, but hey, they must prove it. What if, let’s say Wiggins do 56 km, some can say he was charged up, so what’s the difference between him and Indurain?

Sam May 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

There is another huge difference between a huge effort like this in a velodrome vs outdoor TT: the mental aspect.

Outside, a tester has the road ahead to keep him mentally stimulated – the scenery, the corners, the lumps and bumps, even the fans by the side of the road.

On the track, for an hour – very very different story.

Sam May 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

Sorry, my post above wasnt supposed to appear as a reply to ave’s post….

Jerome May 19, 2014 at 11:04 am

Can someone explain why boardman’s 56 isn’t included in the new rules? I wish guys were motivated by the two records, would be great to have a multi era (that doesnt cost millions just to be competitive) comparison as well as a ‘latest technology’ record for current day standards.

& don’t forget that a recumbent is faster than any track position so we still don’t have a ‘worlds fastest time’

Spofferoonie May 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm

He used the superman position if memory serves and that’s still outlawed by the UCI on ‘safety’ grounds. Ditto with Obree’s tuck position

noel May 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm

this may be a dumb question, but why is/was the Superman position more dangerous than conventional tribars?

Tom May 19, 2014 at 4:32 pm


UHJ May 19, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Not only that but the bike he used, Lotus manufacture designed by this greek guy in London- I forgot his name – is not UCI legal under the current regulations. Hence the record is also not “legal” and cannot be included in the list.

Mick May 20, 2014 at 4:55 am

Mike Burrows designed the Lotus bike…You’re thinking of Dimitris Katsanis, who designed the bikes British Cycling have been using of recent…(He also is now working with Boardman bikes)

Tovarishch May 20, 2014 at 7:55 am

He is now technical consultant to the UCI – blame him for the new rules.

UHJ May 20, 2014 at 9:02 am

Check, Mick – I was thinking of Dimitris. Thanks.

Tom J May 19, 2014 at 11:10 am

Interesting analysis about the risks of going too early.

In the past, it was often felt the risks of attempting but failing to break the record sometimes outweighed the prestige of breaking it – which help explains why often there was a flurry of record breaking until a record was set that was felt to be “unbreakable”; then often it would require a new generation of riders to come along to feel it was within reach again. Compare, for example, Oscar Egg breaking the record for a third time in 1914: it wasn’t broken again until 1933; Coppi who broke the record in 1942: it didn’t go again until 1956, but then was broken fairly regularly; or Merckx in 1972 putting it on the shelf until 1984.

In each case, a great champion setting the record was sufficient to deter others from even attempting it. The list of riders with good time trial pedigree who never attempted a record is almost as illustrious as those who have achieved it: Maertens, Hinault, Lemond, Kelly …

Which suggests the question of which combination of rider and record would be sufficient to deter future attempts? Rominger rode 55.2km almost twenty years ago on a basically conventional pursuit bike of the era, so I’d suspect it is probably going to need someone of the calibre of Wiggins / Cancellara / Martin to ride that sort of level before we get another long hiatus. Until then, hopefully we’ll see a flurry of attempts!


Col de Catford May 19, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Are we really bemoaning the lack of inclusion of mid-90s efforts in this new mark? It’s common knowledge Rominger’s hour was one of Ferrari’s first great transfusion triumphs. Even in Edward Pickering’s (very well written & otherwise very positive) book on Boardman are aspersions cast about that particular mark.

To me, any excuse not to include those marks in any new record should & has been taken. It’d be like holding a one-off competition to try & break the record up the great Cols & using Pantani’s mark as the record – it’s useless as a barometer of sporting prowess.

Bundle May 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm

It makes no sense to allow tri-bars and the rest, and not reinstate Boardman’s superman record, or any other of the records that were ruled out when the Best Human Effort was created. Cancellara’s and Wiggins’ reactions clearly demonstrate that these regulatory changes are not neutral. The UCI shouldn’t play with the rules, because a record is ingrained in a process, in a history, it needs continuity. If I was Cancellara, I would still try the record on a road bike. Whatever he achieves will still always be there for those of us who will care about it. In the end, it’s up to the fans to value this or that performance. And to supersede the UCI’s suspicious stupidity. And yes, Mr. Koox has now lost all credit for impartiality.
As I said before, both concepts, the record on a road bike, and the record on the fastest possible track bike should continue to exist. Is there any good reason to eliminate one of them????

Tovarishch May 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

The problem is surely the cost of trying to replicate Merckx’s bike. Trek are reported to have had a special team working on replicating his bike for Cancellara’s attempt and at what cost, I hate to imagine. As least by opening it up to standard pursuit bikes they give all those who are capable a chance to have a go for the record.

Quentin May 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Replicating a 1972 track bike doesn’t seem like it should be very hard or expensive. If they were devoting significant resources to building the best possible steel frame track bike, then surely they were hoping to improve on it a bit, which makes the alleged “direct comparison to Merckx” not entirely accurate.

kimbo305 May 21, 2014 at 10:15 am

The amount of money Trek would be willing to spend on the most microscopic marginal gains is surely awe-inspiring. Just think of how much time they could spend getting the perfect paint on there.

Bundle May 21, 2014 at 10:55 am

Who cares about “entire accuracy”? It’s not all or nothing. It’s not “we can’t have them ride the same bike, so no limits”!! How does “reasonably comparable to Merckx” sound? How about “within certain basic parameters shared by both Merckx and the present”?

channel_zero May 19, 2014 at 6:40 pm

A special team for a standard, no-tech track bike? Trek is “jumping the shark” with that claim since all of their R&D/production is outsourced anyway.

Paul Jakma May 19, 2014 at 12:13 pm

This rule change is a shame.

There was *nothing* stopping athletes from doing the hour on a track TT bike, disc wheels, etc., before under the UCI “Best Human Effort” category for the hour. What this rule change actually does is stop athletes being recognised for doing the hour the Merckx way.

I.e. before athletes had a choice: Try it the “with tech” way, or try it the “with less tech” way. Now that choice is gone.

Stupid, stupid decision from the UCI.

oTTo May 19, 2014 at 12:33 pm


DrHeaton May 19, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I disagree, the hour record is something with meaning, a record with history behind it and something that was obtained by some of the biggest names in cycling’s past.

The ‘best human effort’ record is a nonsense record that has no real historical merit and I can totally see why no big name cyclists were bothered by it.

Allowing the hour record keep up with technologic advancements doesn’t reduce the acheivements of Mercx et al, it just represents the changing nature of cycling.

Also, why should the hour record be the old fashioned one and the best human effort be based on new tech? Why not switch it round and have the hour record based on new tech and a ‘traditional’ record solely to for those riding old fashioned steel bikes and non-aero helmets?

Paul Jakma May 19, 2014 at 3:26 pm

They were *both* hour records. There was a choice. The old way, or the new way – either way could be recognised. That choice is now gone, at least with UCI recognition. That’s a shame.

Oh, and Cancellara apparently has announced his planned attempt won’t go ahead now, because the choice of the “old” way is gone now.

The Inner Ring May 19, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Note there’s little or nothing to stop someone riding for an hour. It might not be the UCI record but it can still be a certified ride for an hour.

hoh May 19, 2014 at 7:30 pm

There indeed were choices, but not equal choices. The “hour record” is far more prestigious than “best human” effort. DrHeaton suggests that it ought to be the other way round, with the record done using an updated UCI legal equipment taking a more central stage and the record done using a Merckxdian bike as a compliment.

I think this makes sense, as most of the guys on the “hour record” did their ride with the most advanced UCI legal track bike at the time. Also, UCI legal rather than fixed standard means the equipment would evolve with time.

With that said one cannot just artificially make “best human effort” more important. So change the rule on hour record makes sense. The only pity is that they didn’t establish the new Merckxdian category.

Arguably, the Merckxdian category would be arbitrary though as nobody is riding the same bike hence not a direct comparison to Merckx. Besides, why Merckx time? Whilst in our view today, aero-bar is a revolution that changed cycling. Many other more gradual innovation would be as revolutionary seen from the perspective of the time they were introduced. For example, if you are going to ban aero-bar, why not ban clipless shoes & pedal as well?

Paul Jakma May 20, 2014 at 1:27 am

Inrng: And if an athlete wants to do the “Merckx” style hour, who’ll certify it as such? The UCI won’t…

The Inner Ring May 20, 2014 at 10:39 am

Paul: anyone with a stopwatch. The UCI is the governing body but they don’t automatically hold a monopoly. Of course an alternative record would not be ratified by the UCI but people could see a rider rode Xkm under controlled and agreed conditions. The more legitimate the attempt, the more legitimate the record, no?

DrHeaton May 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

hoh, that’s exactly what I was trying to say. That the ‘hour record’ has and will always be more prestigous so it’s why nobody really bothered with the ‘best human effort’.

That being said, the old rules re the hour record were nonsense, you had to use a particular design of bike but clothing and other tech has advanced so far to make a big difference in times, likewise velodrome design as improved markedly.

Pretending that the likes of Cancellara, Wiggins and Martin would be directly competing with Merckx just because they’re on a similar looking bike is nonsense, so much has changed from training to pacing to diet to track, bike and clothing design that there cannot be a proper comparison.

Paul Jakma May 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Who will that be? Who will trust them? It’s easy to say “anyone with a stopwatch”, but the reality is that there is significant value in who officiates and certifies the result. You may disagree, but it appears Cancellara and Trek may also feel there is no value in an unofficial “old way” (and they’re not interested in the “new way”).

DrHeaton: Yes, of course there are differences. Can you eliminate all of them, of course not. You can easily minimise aerodynamic differences from the bicycle design though, and aerodynamics have the biggest effect on performance, outwith the rider. Position of the rider on the bicycle makes the biggest difference to aerodynamics, and that variable can definitely be minimised.

This “We can’t make everything the same, so there’s no point trying to make /anything/ the same” argument, if consistently applied, should have you arguing in favour of fully-faired recumbents..

channel_zero May 19, 2014 at 6:46 pm

IMHO, this was more a marketing problem of the UCI’s own making.

The objective seems to be to get WT riders to attempt the hour record. That is something the WT riders were not doing, and the excellent article suggests maybe their problem isn’t solved.

I agree there should be both records. I kind of like the idea of “elite without contract” doing the traditional attempt, and “elite with contract” essentially required to do the high tech attempt. But, that’s just one idea.

Sam May 19, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Maybe we should wait to see whether top WT riders do step forward before judging whether or not this change is going to be successful in resurrecting the Hour.

Physics Pedant May 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm

“It’s said the centrifugal aspect reduces blood circulation, a giant blood spinner.”

Strictly speaking, you mean the centrepetal aspect. Centripetal force is that which acts outwards from the centre whereas centrifugal force is that which acts in opposition (i.e. the boards of the track pushing back on the bike).

In a centrifuge (like a fairground ride or aerospace testing unit), you are pushed out by the centripetal force but are more aware of the centrifugal force – as this is what you feel pushing back as you are squashed into your seat.

Physics Pedant May 19, 2014 at 12:55 pm

er, humble pie moment: centripetal is the inward (towards centre of rotation) force and cetrifugal is that acting outwards. So you’re right and I misremembered my school physics!

The Inner Ring May 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm

No worries. I’ll add that it’s not a big problem and if anyone is worried they can always use a large track, eg Moscow where the wide bends mean it’s even less of a factor.

Tovarishch May 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Garden ring or MKAD?

Physics Pedant's Pedant May 19, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Actually centripetal force acts at tangent from the circumference of rotation, not an “outward” or “inward” force, but straight on.

Physics Pedant's Pedant's Pedant May 19, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Actually, humble pie pedant is right

Anonymous May 19, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Greame Obree.

LM May 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm

… will always be the King.

betabug May 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm

But what the really important question here is (obviously everybody was thinking the same, but nobody had the courage to ask): What does this mean for the record in the Masters 100+ category?

max May 20, 2014 at 9:15 am

I was thinking that. I was also thinking that we need more hour records, one for each marketing niche (defined by Specialized ideally).
A road bike hour record, a cross bike hour record, a fixie hour record, a gravel bike hour record, commuter, urban and of course mountain bike 29er, 650B and enduro hour records. should keep uci busy.

The Inner Ring May 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm

Update: the data table showed avg. speed based on a course distance of 56.8km as reported by cyclingnews, the profile shows 57.9km… but the actual course was 57.2km. The data table included has been updated to account for 57.2km and if the numbers don’t show now, they’ll feed through at some point during the next 24 hours.

Jerome May 19, 2014 at 2:44 pm

While the mental repetive aspect is often quoted and i feel magnified, if it is such a hindrance swimmers must be struggling big time doing lap after lap looking at the same tiles, they even do it without a garmin or music, just their own thoughts

Sam May 19, 2014 at 6:37 pm

There’s little value in comparing across different sports (and maybe swimmers do struggle – and they can listen to music in the water by the way).

I was making a comparison within the same sport.

Nikolai May 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Rominger’s bike from 1994 Hour record looks legit by the new New Hour Rules but it’s not — front wheel is 65 while the rear is 67. Not allowed today.

Also, if Cancellara wanted to go against Merckx, what stops him? He can still go ahead and race a classic track bike to find out what it is to go full gas for an hour on the boards without resting your upper body on tri bars.

Sam May 19, 2014 at 6:32 pm

The answer is: in theory, nothing is stopping him

Tom May 19, 2014 at 4:48 pm

The UCI is pretty inconsistent on the use of aerobars on the track:

Flying 200: Illegal
500/Kilo: Legal
4k Pursuit: Legal
Team Sprint: Illegal
4k Team Pursuit: Legal.
Mass Start: Illegal
Omnium: Illegal, Illegal, Illegal, Legal, Illegal, Legal.

channel_zero May 19, 2014 at 6:53 pm

That’s not really inconsistent. While sprints might benefit from them in the last 50 or so meters, they aren’t essential the way they are in pursuit events. The bars are serious trouble in a mass start event.

Doesn’t the omnium rule just mean they are permitted in the omnium pursuit events?

UHJ May 19, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Flying 200 is part of the Sprint discipline and must be ridden on a bike compliant with Sprint.
Legal in timed events – Also within the Omnium.

Consistent, no? – I think so.

You could argue that the opening Flying Lap in the Omnium is inconsistent, but I doubt the benefits of the TT-set-up will change anything as you go just one lap and 1/4 of this is standing and the remainder is full throttle on the rpms. The TT-set-up is for high steady revs not for the full 130+ rpms. That would make the TT too difficult to control.

Tom May 20, 2014 at 2:47 am

Legal for standing start 500 (single woman); Illegal for standing start 500 (two women).

Illegal for 3 men (Team Sprint); Legal for 4 men (Team Pursuit).

Consistent? No.

UHJ May 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

@Tom, you are confusing the timed events and the placings-events. Sprint is per se not a timed event, the fastest will win. Also in the team sprint which is considered a sprint-event and thus not a timed event despite the looks of the discipline. So consistent, yes.

Alex Simmons May 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

The team (and individual) pursuit is run the same way the team sprint is. One qualifying round with individual teams on track to set a time and ranking order to establish teams to progress to the finals: currently there is only the Gold final and the Bronze final (used to also be semi-finals), where in each final the team crossing finish line first wins (or in case of team pursuit, catches the opposing team). Just like the team sprint, the time in a final isn’t relevant in the pursuit either, just the winner.

Tom May 23, 2014 at 11:05 pm

I’m not confused. Sorry.

Daniel Banks May 19, 2014 at 5:38 pm

What would be the downside of instead having two records on the books: one for a mass start non-aerobars legal track bicycle similar to a road bike regulated configuration and a second for the currently legal track TT configuration? Would that confuse the public? Would it have value? I think it would be nice to have both. Then guys like Cancellara can go over the “classic” position record and the world’s best time-trialists at the moment can go after the pursuit style position record. Neither would allow for a superman position and both would allow for small ongoing changes with technology. Both ought to allow for a skinsuit, aero helmet and aero wheels if that’s the consensus.

Paul Jakma May 19, 2014 at 8:16 pm

That’s how it used to be. There were two categories of hour record, the “Athlete’s hour” and the “Best Human Effort” hour – both sanctioned and recognised by the UCI. Athlete’s had a choice. Now there’s effectively only one.

hiddenwheel May 20, 2014 at 2:21 am

Well, why outlaw the superman position (an innovation) while allowing other new tech? Lots of distinctions could be made and, so, lots of records could be on the books. A bunch of different records dilutes each individual record. And with only tw0 possible records over the last ten years, we’ve seen little interest in big names trying, which suggests bad consequences of such confusion. Establishing one set of rules for one record is arbitrary of course, but track’s beauty is in the simplicity. So, I’m all for one record…and all for debate about what the rules should be. I’m not sure the UCI got it right here. But an uptick in interest would suggest they’re on the right track.

Still, somehow swimming manages to be popular despite different strokes and a bevy of events (25 meter vs. 50 meter pools, etc.).

Daniel Banks May 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm

One argument in favor of banning the superman position is that it’s so different from anything allowed throughout the rest of cycling disciplines, what everyone trains and races with year round. You want the best (track and road) cyclists of a generation taking a crack at the hour record as it adds to its prestige. My bias is that I’d like to see who is the best at an hour on something resembling a road bike position and muscle recruitment, like a Cancellara/roadie, even though this is a track hour record. And separately a best hour record for a time trialist. That used to be Cancellara but now it’s Wiggins, Martin, Phinney. While the record is for the track, don’t you want it to draw from the best road cyclists of an era also? And the pursuit/TT configuration is not too far off from that on the road time trial bike. But you may be right, it may make the most sense to have only one record and have it be a TT like position. Either way, I don’t think you can hold back innovations like frames, wheels, skinsuits and helmets because obviously you can’t get an apples to apples comparison with earlier generations of riders anyway for reasons such as sport science and training advancements.

Tom from Raleigh May 19, 2014 at 8:21 pm

If I were in Cookson’s postion, Graeme Obree would be sitting on the tech committee. His DIY ethos is so inspiring, along with his mental toughness and his anti-doping stance. Obree is one of the bright lights of the last 30 years in cycling, yet he’s outside the mainstream.

Zarbio May 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Completely agree Graeme Obree should be sitting on the Tech Committee, he is an assewt they should engage with with.

LM May 19, 2014 at 11:34 pm

If Cookson’s reorganizing had instead stipulated that, in order to qualify, a rider could not have ever used performance enhancing drugs, Obree would be the only rider on the results list…

I love that part.

Half gas May 19, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Make it a television spectical:
Martin in Germany
Wiggins in England
Cancellera in Switzerland
Phinney in the USA

Simultaneous broadcast. Winner takes all

Bundle May 19, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Why not add Malori in Italy and Kelderman in the Netherlands??
I think it would be a superb event, and that Specialized, Pinarello, Trek and BMC and others should have no problem pooling resources to fund it and organising it. Actually, it could be a two-heat event. One Sunday the hi-tech bike, and the next one on Merckxist bikes.
Cycling needs more visionaries like you!

OUCC May 19, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Except that for a variety of reasons (which INRNG has detailed before) some tracks are faster than others so it wouldn’t actually be the straight shootout we would love it to be. They could ride consecutively (or simultaneously?!) on the same track, but I feel that would rather defeat the spectacle or seeing the riders ‘race’ each other.

Bundle May 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm

But all of the tracks would be equally apt to register the record, so the comparison would still stand. Up to them to get the track in its fastest condition.

Michal May 20, 2014 at 3:35 am

Get them ride on “Wahoo Kicker” or something like that in “virtual race” – “equal track”, no wind and no “centrifugal” forces, just watts :)

Half gas May 20, 2014 at 12:25 am

It’s getting better and better. I understand the point below about the tracks but I’m sure that could be wicked out somehow. Love the idea of a 2 day event

tj May 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I’d pay to watch that!

Sceptic May 20, 2014 at 1:38 am

Err, wouldn’t they all be at different times of the day/night? Plenty of reasons why it might be a lot better riding the hour during the day than 3am in the morning.

I’m tipping Phinney simply because it’s a meaningless race and he can only win those. It will also give him lots of opportunities to talk about his new hair style, Instagram photos of his new shoes, etc. while he’s preparing. They could package up a show “Cycling’s New Top Model” with just him in it. Meanwhile the real cyclists with backbone are racing elsewhere, but we can check in on Phinney anytime on our iPads…

noel May 20, 2014 at 9:14 am

ouch!… there’s room for a few characters out there isn’t there? not just a bunch of grim faced automatons.

Alpine9 May 19, 2014 at 11:40 pm

For me Fabian has hit the nail on the head: “The whole appeal of the Hour Record for me is that you are competing against riders from the past. I would have loved to race Eddy (Merckx) in the Classics, or in a time trial, but it’s not possible. The Hour Record has this charming side to it that I like a lot.”

The hour record should be a level playing field, man against man, and using a Merckx style bike is as close as we can get to a historical head to head. From where we are we can always use a retrospective bike, but we can’t compete with one from the future.. Each record will be tainted with technological advances…

There’s a romantic simplicity to it too, n’est pas?

The Inner Ring May 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Cancellara would surely start with a lycra skinsuit, carbon-soled shoes, ceramnic ball bearings, high tensile bladed spokes and a special frame made from carefully layed-up carbon etc.

We can’t compare today to the past. Merckx no doubt had big advantages on Roger Rivière or Fausto Coppi. Plus it’s worth revisiting Merckx’s record attempt. Having read about it his pacing was bad, he was all over the place at the start. Today’s riders would gain from a much steadier start.

None of this diminishes Merckx but each record is surely a product of its time?

Alpine9 May 20, 2014 at 12:09 am

I’m confused! Sorry! Why couldn’t Fabian line up with a steel framed track bike, no aero tubing, with standard profile spokes? If those were the criteria set, i.e Merckx era, the record would have the element of history to it that cycling fans crave. Granted, there will be tech gains that will filter in, carbon soles etc, but we lose all comparisons by riders lining up on aero masterpieces from the Secret Squirrel Club…

Are we ultimately not looking for records that reflect the strength of the man, and not the marginal gains of technology?

First post on any topic – sorry if I’m getting overexcited!

Canocola May 20, 2014 at 1:02 am

Insisting on cyclists riding the same sort of bike as Mercx (except with better bearings, better steel tubing, better tyres etc etc) offers only the illusion of a comparison with the past. The history of the hour has always been cyclists attempting it with the best components they could muster and the best techniques that science or art could devise, and that runs in a line from the earliest attempts, through Mercx and onto Obree and Boardman. It was only once the UCI decided it needed to enforce some nonsensical rules that the hour split into a load of vague disciplines that nobody cared for.

If you want to measure the strength of a man, measure the margin between his achievements and his peers. Technology marches on, and is broadly comparable across riders in a given generation. If Wiggins goes faster than Mercx on a superficially similar bicycle it means nothing, for Mercx destroyed his rivals by seconds, minutes and kilometres.

Abdu May 20, 2014 at 1:40 am

Spot on mate, perfectly put.

Bundle May 20, 2014 at 8:21 am

What you really can’t compare is the extremely marginal advantages of Merckx over his predecessors to the advantage of triathlon bars over drops.

Dan May 20, 2014 at 1:44 am

Totally agree, it would be much more awesome to compare modern riders to the greatest cyclist of all time. At the moment, there are 3 or 4 guys who can probably all put out the same power for an hour given they all have ideal preparation. As a result, a lot of the record will be influenced by the aerodynamic drag of both rider and equipment.

Alex Simmons May 20, 2014 at 2:44 am

You know, when I read that UCI press release again, it does not say that the legal bike for an hour record will be the same as in use for the *individual pursuit*. It’s quite an ambiguous statement, which is par for the course for a UCI rule. We haven’t actually seen the rule yet.

Remember there are several different bike set up rules depending on the event, and there are two types of bike set up rules for endurance events (basically mass start endurance events and pursuit events). The press release says:
“From now on, the Hour record can be beaten using any bicycle that complies with the rules governing bikes used in endurance competitions on the track”

That could mean bikes that comply with *mass start* endurance events, and hence the bike set up permitted for an hour attempt will be a mass start bike, IOW the “Merckx” set up but allowing aero frames and wheels within current regulations, but not aero bars or helmets.

The reason I wonder about this is the setting of the record to beat being Sosenka’s record, and not to Boardman’s 56.375 km record, which was set using the same set up he used to set the world 4km pursuit record in 1996, a record that stood in the UCI’s official records until Jack Bobridge broke it in 2011.

IOW, if the rules now mean the hour record can use a pursuit bike set up, and the pursuit world record set by Boardman’s using that same bike set up was maintained as the official record by the UCI, then why is the hour record not reset to Boardman’s 56.375km mark? It’s an inconsistency only the UCI could muster.

Mick May 20, 2014 at 5:19 am

I think it has been mentioned that Boardman’s ’96 record was set using the superman position, so the position used in this record is the limiting factor in reverting the record back to this era as far as the UCI see it.

Alex Simmons May 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

Which is totally inconsistent with how they’ve treated the pursuit (and kilo) records. Which is why I am wondering which endurance bike set up rules the UCI are referring to in their press release.

Boardman sets world record for both 4km pursuit and the hour using the Superman bike set up. Superman is used by many riders at Olympics.
UCI subsequently ban Superman position.
Despite this, Boardman’s pursuit record stands, as does the hour record.

1998, 1999:
Pursuit bike rules changed a couple of times.
Boardman’s 1996 pursuit records stands, as does the hour record.

UCI changes the hour bike set up rules to “Merckx style”.
Boardman’s hour ride is no longer considered the record.
The pursuit bike rules are also modified but Boardman’s 1996 record still stands.
Boardman sets new hour record under the new “Merckx set up” rules.

Pursuit bike rules are modified again.
Boardman’s 1996 pursuit record still stands.

Sosenka sets new hour record using “Merckx set up” rules.

there are several more changes to pursuit set up rules.
Boardman’s 1996 pursuit record still stands.

Boardman’s 1996 4km pursuit world record is beaten by Bobridge.

UCI changes hour record rules back again to permit more aero equipment. Record set as Sosenka’s 2005 ride, and not reverted to Boarman’s 1996 record set using the pursuit bike set up legal at the time.
Pursuit bike set up rules changed, twice.
Bobridge’s 2011 pursuit record stands.

So the UCI decided that Boardman’s 1996 hour record isn’t the right record to revert to even though his 1996 pursuit record stood after Superman set up was banned. That’s why it makes me wonder if the rule change for the hour isn’t to adopt pursuit bike set up, but mass start bike set up rules.

John Liu May 20, 2014 at 6:46 am

I think Wiggins, Cancellara, Martin, and whoever else wants a go should attempt the hour together on the same road in a straight line. There are probably some highways in Texas or Saudi Arabia that run more or less straight for 60 km. Paint “lanes” to keep the riders separated and not drafting. Start at daybreak on a windless morning. Repeat the race every three years. Award a bushel of UCI points.

Alex Simmons May 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

There’s a world championship ITT every year for that. The hour record is a track event, not a road event.

Anonymous May 23, 2014 at 10:56 pm

New Mexico, Moriarty to be precise.

Bundle May 23, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Cookson: “After looking at the old regulations, my feelings and those of colleagues where that there was an outdated set of regulations. It (using a traditional position like Eddy Merckx did in 1972) was nice idea at the time but it’s an idea whose time had past”. How rational, well-argumented, and convincing… :(

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