Jack Bobridge is the next to have a go at cycling’s Hour Record. Once the record was very prestigous but today it seems to be a record cherished within cycling rather than beyond it. However it is the ultimate chance to define and redefine a career.
Jens Voigt’s attack on the record was opportunist, much like his breakaways. Fabian Cancellara abandoned his attempt when the UCI came out with revised rules allowing any approved track bike to be used for the UCI Hour Record, in other words a bike approved for the 4km pursuit was now OK for an hour’s riding. Cancellara’s loss was Voigt’s gain. Famous for his long raids the timing of the UCI’s rule change allowed a glorious swansong that saw him end on a high rather than the bunch catching him yet again.
Matthias Brändle make a name for himself. Perhaps you saw him in the Tour of Britain getting the better of Alex Dowsett and others for a stage win? Most of the world didn’t and so the Hour record was a good way to get some notoriety for him and his IAM Cycling team. It worked and the Austrian time trial specialist broke the record, arguably winning a contest that had been sprinkled with Jens Voigt’s stardust. Had Brändle gone first perhaps some might just have shrugged? Now we all know his name although some are still struggling to pronounce it. Brändle should sound like “brendler” or here’s the audio file:
Next up is Jack Bobridge. Can he beat Brändle? He’s done it before as the photo from the 2009 Thüringen Rundfahrt shows. He was the “next big thing” in cycling with a precocious haul of rainbow jerseys and medals. Today’s L’Equipe reports his contractual value was once close to a million Euros but the costs beat the benefits, his successes were few and far between and not that glorious either, see his Eneco Tour time trial win. Now he’s gone from a six figure salary to the modest Budget Forklift continental team with talk of glory in the Rio Olympics as he gets things, literally and figuratively, back on track. What what will this Hour do for him? He’s talking about doing more than 380W for an hour and the record attempt is far from the track specialisms which last little more than four minutes. If he can beat Brändle over an hour on Saturday he can do it again and again. Maybe the door to the World Tour opens again?
Rohan Dennis goes in just over a week. He’s almost the odd one out. He’s got a fat World Tour contract in his pocket and hardly needs to make a name for himself having just been plastered over the press for winning the Tour Down Under. But this wasn’t known when the record attempt was announced and his BMC Racing team were planning on putting his Australian summer form to good use. It gives him a good intermediate goal before aiming for higher things in the stage races later this year in Europe and the USA.
Alex Dowsett was planning to take the limelight and shine it onto the plight of haemophiliac children, to show them that sports and success are there if they want. Alas a training crash has put paid to this and if there’s talk about resuming the ride, perhaps he’ll study how high the bar gets raised knowing the Tour de France is a goal for this season, he’s a key rider for Nairo Quintana in the first week, especially the team time trial.
Thomas Dekker is the one really hoping for publicity. The Dutchman’s out of contract and trying to piece together partners to fund a crack at the record with talk of going at altitude. Not easy for a one off show especially now the bar’s going to be set so high by Bobridge or Dennis. A successful Dutch national record doesn’t have the same ring to it and it shows the perils of a record attempt. There’s no podium ceremony for coming second.
British rider Sarah Storey is going to become the first woman to have a go at the record, itself a pioneering moment but she’s ridden at the Paralympic Games so should she break the record it’ll be a coup for her ahead of able-bodied competitors and perhaps a wider symbolism that paralympians can match anyone.
Finally there’s Bradley Wiggins. Paris-Roubaix seems like a fantasy thanks to all the variables but nobody is betting against him when it comes to the track, the nursery of his cycling career. As students of cycling history go he’s got an elephantine memory whether it’s the sport’s past glories or what brand of shoe a rider was wearing in 1995. For Wiggins the Hour is a chance to put the record on the shelf, his shelf and end a career on the road with roadman’s track record.
On top of this there’s the forgotten element. No longer is the Hour a track version of the Eroica albeit a shallow comparison because if the old record required a “Merckx” bike it was fine to use bladed spokes, ceramic bearings, wind-tunnel tested fabrics and a catalogue of other factors that render comparisons invalid. Today’s record allows manufacturers to submit their best time trial frames, note Voigt used a road-going Trek modified for the track. This might be a big factor behind Rohan Dennis’s bid, a publicity coup for BMC especially as he’s racing on the Grenchen velodrome, a spanner’s throw from the BMC factory.
Much more than a time trial, the UCI Hour Record is a career defining event that has attracted riders, teams and sponsors for a variety of reasons. Each story might be different but there’s the feeling Bradley Wiggins will write the conclusion to the book later this year.
Jack Bobridge goes for the record on Saturday evening at 7.00pm local time / 9.00am Euro time / 8.00am UK time / 3.00am EST