Our cycle blogger has already given a brief history of the hour record and, with the scene set, we now look at Bradley Wiggins’s attempt in a little more depth.
Wiggins is due to attempt the record at 6.30pm on Sunday 7 June 2015, aiming to beat the current record of 52.937km set by fellow Briton, Alex Dowsett, earlier this year. But how do the two compare?
Undoubtedly, Wiggins has the superior track record (no pun intended), which will inevitably prove a great advantage. (The record is invariably attempted in indoor velodromes that provide the optimum warm and windless conditions.) Long before his stardom peaked in 2012, Wiggins was winning medals in track cycling, from the Individual Pursuit at the 1998 Junior Track World Championships, to gold at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games. He is a six-time Track World Champion at senior level.
Dowsett, by comparison, has little to compete, with the relatively meagre offering of a European Junior Team Pursuit title. In a discipline that requires absolute control, to keep the front wheel glued to the inside black line, it is difficult to see anyone better suited than Wiggins and his unerringly steady style.
In some respects, it is unfair to compare the palmares of a veteran with a rider whose best years are yet to come. It may be more informative, then, to consider how they have fared when head-to-head over recent years.
In 2013, Wiggins made a bid to win the second of the Grand Tours: the Giro d’Italia. Stage 8 was a 54.8km individual time trial where Wiggins planned to make significant gains on the other GC contenders, just as he had the previous year in the Tour de France.
Despite a puncture, Wiggins made up time on almost the whole field; all apart from Alex Dowsett, that is. To the surprise of many, the latter took the stage win by 10 seconds. (And just to emphasise the challenge of the Hour, Dowsett’s winning time was some 16 minutes over the 60-minute mark for a similar distance.)
Even more recently, Wiggins attempted to take Dowsett’s 10-mile crown. He managed the distance, covered on open roads near Hull, in 17 minutes 58 seconds, some 38 shy of Dowsett’s 2014 British record. However, he reported faced a headwind, as well as the other vagaries encountered with outdoor time-trialling.
Despite Dowsett’s minor scalps, there are numerous occasions on which Wiggins has had the upper hand: Wiggins finished 2 minutes 35 seconds ahead of 20th-placed Dowsett at the 2014 World Time Trial Championships, and 20 seconds and eight places ahead in Stage 8b of the 2014 Tour Britain, winning both.
In truth, then, it is difficult to see how Wiggins will fail to break the record. Indeed, the more pertinent question is how long will Wiggins’s record stand? As any UCI-legal pursuit bike is now permitted, any mark is vulnerable as cycling technology advances.
Another target in Wiggins’s sights must surely be the now outlawed records of the nineties: Obree, Boardman, Indurain and others broke the record using bikes and aerodynamic positions that would not meet current UCI regulations. (Ironically, neither would Eddy Merckx’s 1972 effort that the technology-ban was designed to protect; his 5.5kg bike was below the UCI 6.8kg minimum weight.)
To be the record-holder bar none, Wiggins would have to surpass these discarded attempts. The farthest of them – Boardman’s 1996 effort in the Superman position – stands at 56.375km. Could Wiggo go further?
Yes he can, Wiggo did indeed break the hour record, well actually he ‘smashed it’ with a distance of 54.526km. The man himself related how he went to the barber on the morning of his record attempt. The barber asked ‘are you p to anything today?’ To which he replied… ‘just breaking the hour record, no biggie’.
Big question is though – how long will this record last?