Three of the four attempts at the UCI’s new ‘unified’ Hour Record have taken place in Switzerland – and, so far, all the new records have been set there. Most recently, raised the bar Matthias Braendle to 51.852km at the UCI’s 200m track in Aigle, but the first of the new records was set at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen – inspired and part-funded by Grenchen-based BMC – but by, of all things, a Trek Factory Racing rider – the legendary Jens Voigt.
So a BMC attempt at the record was inevitable and who better to make that attempt than 2011 World Individual Pursuit Champion Rohan Dennis.
Dennis also took Silver in the Olympic team pursuit with Glenn O’Shea, Michael Hepburn and Jack Bobridge – and it was Bobridge who was responsible for the failed (non-Swiss-based…) attempt just a week ago. The Australoan set a blistering pace and simply couldn’t hold it. Would his estwhile team mate be able to pace himself better?
Dennis got off to a good start in front of a noisy crowd in Grenchen, but you sensed that he was riding within himself. The curious timing of the Hour Record sees progress measured in terms of the seconds the rider is ahead of the schedule for the previous record distance. Don’t ask me why. But what was clear was that Dennis was smoothly easing ahead of the schedule.
By the end of the first half hour he was ahead by 20 seconds but far from blowing up, 20 minutes later he’d added another 30. The last 10 minutes saw the advantage ease back a little – but only by a matter of a few seconds – and at the finish it looked as though he was going to neatly wrap up the record at the point where he started.
In the end, the clock ran down 9 metres from where the gate had been an hour earlier – but Dennis had covered 52.941km in that time – 639m more than Braendle. His head looked heavy as he got off the bike, but the realization of what he had achieved kicked and, as he lifted his BMC Time Machine above his head, it was hard to believe that you were looking at a man who had just beaten the Hour Record.
How long will this record stand? There’s a queue of riders waiting for a crack at it – Tony Martin and Bradley Wiggins are all but conifrmed; Fabian Cancellera is anything but – and Alex Dowsett will be re-arranging his bid, previously set for the end of February, after breaking his collarbone in training. All four could take the record, but the next challenger is a real outsider – Thomas Dekker – but one with the advantage of altitude as he will attempt to move the mark on at the incredibly fast Aguascalientes track in Mexico.
The 30 year old Dutch rider chose Aguascalientes partly because of the altitude but also because of the aerodynamic characteristics and structure of the velodrome which – over shorter distances, at least – has proved itself to be fastest in the world. Eddy Mercx was the first rider to break the record in Mexico at the historic Agustín Melgar Olympic Velodrome in Mexico City in 1972. Brian Cookson, UCI president, expressed his enthusiasm this run of 2015 record attempts – and the fact that they are now global, rather than just confined to Switzerland! “This legendary event – held for the first time by the French cyclist Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour de France in 1893, is being reborn in places like Australia and Mexico”.
We can’t wait.