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Achieving the goal he announced earlier this month, Jens Voigt entered a very select group of riders in breaking the world hour record in Switzerland today.
The Trek Factory Racing rider clocked up an impressive 51.115 kilometres in his effort on the Grenchen track, beating the previous record of 49.7 kilometres. This was set by the Czech Ondrej Sosenka on a standard bike on July 19, 2005 in Moscow.
Voigt turned 43 years of age on Wednesday, one day prior to his effort, and his beating of the record was the final point in a long pro career.
The resurgence of interest in the hour record came after a change in the UCI presidency one year ago. Brian Cookson’s tenure saw a relaxation of the UCI rules, thus meaning riders were no longer being required to use the same sort of bike as used by Eddy Merckx in 1972.
This enabled Voigt to use an aerodynamic frame, twin disk wheels and tri bars, and helped him in his task today.
Voigt’s effort was precisely calculated beforehand and he largely stuck to the schedule, although he admitted starting faster than was planned. After ten minutes he was 12.587 seconds up on the former record, then was 24.367 seconds ahead after twenty minutes.
His half hour pace saw him 34.489 seconds ahead and he was just under a minute faster after 40 minutes. He then ramped up the speed at that point, dipping under 17 seconds on lap 181 and continuing to pour it on.
His average speed crept up as a result and extended past 51 kilometres per hour close to the end.
Voigt is known for his wavering riding style, and prior to the effort many pondered how much further he would end up covering as a result of this. Team manager Luca Guercilena spoke to CyclingTips about this, confirming it was something Trek Factory Racing was aware of, but saying that they had worked with Voigt to try to minimise this.
That work paid off, with the rider looking smoother than expected. He also showed strong composure, with a couple of short periods out of the saddle plus a growing grimace near the end the only signs that he was under pressure.
The negative split technique employed kept something in reserve. As a result he accelerated towards the end, ramping up the pace. This resulted in a final finishing distance of 51.115, 1.415 kilometres further than Sosenka’s record, and moved the hour record into a new era.
“I knew it was the last time in my life that I had to push like this. Because it was the last time in my career, it was easy to turn myself inside out for it,” he said afterwards.
“My strategy was quite conservative. I went too quick at the beginning, then I had to slow down. But then 20 minutes from the end I decided to accelerate. I started pushing it as I was well within my comfort zone. In the end, going over 51 kilometres is much faster than I had expected. I am really, really satisfied.
“We will see what happens to the record with the other riders out there.”
Guercilena was enthusiastic about the outcome, although he admitted that he hoped Voigt would have exceeded the 51.151 Francesco Moser set in Mexico city in January 1984. [Note: this was on a now-banned bike, explaining why it and subsequent marks by Graeme Obree, Chris Boardman, Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger no longer apply].
“At the end I was really hoping he could beat the time of Moser because that was the first reference for the hour record and that would have been good,” he said. “He was really, really close. It was a really nice way to finish his career with a good performance, and we gave him all our support and this is what he deserved.
“I am really happy the event went well. We all watched [the Hour Record] from a computer in Spain and I can say it was inspirational, and has given us a boost for Sunday.”
Voigt appeared to recover very quickly at the end, but confirmed the physical discomfort that he felt during his effort. “Having this cramped up position to hold for an hour is pretty tough. Basically the place where I sit on the saddle was really beginning to hurt and giving me a lot of pain, so every 10 laps I got out of the seat to stretch and release some pressure of my behind, so to speak. I am happy that I don’t have to sit on the saddle for the next days now!
“I remember how Chris Boardman was walking after his effort and I am not far off from that. I am basically limping. It hurts in my glutes!
“Boardman was my first roommate in 1997 and I can’t ask for a better good-bye than this.”
He thanked the fans for their support, saying that they were vital in helping him achieve the record he did. “The fans have been absolutely wonderful. They have been with me throughout. Their support was vital to this challenge. I reckon they are for half a kilometre per hour, just the atmosphere.”
Voigt will now retire from the sport, one month after he was originally scheduled to do so. He said that taking a place in the history of one of the most hallowed challenges in cycling was something he was extremely proud of.
“Now I am on the list, nobody is going to strike me off it. My name is up there. To be up there with like of Eddy Merckx, Boardman, Indurain…I am now proud that my little name is with them.
“It’s one of the biggest highlights of my career. Now I can take the plane back home. There is a pizza waiting for me..!”