Voigt goes for hour record: German ‘really convinced’ he can do it

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Shut up clock. He’s been retired a week and a half but Jens Voigt has announced that he has one last big target in cycling; to try to beat the world hour record in two weeks’ time.

The German rider announced the surprise news on Wednesday, saying that he was going to make a bid on September 18 in Grenchen, Switzerland. This is one day after his 43rd birthday.

“I am going to attempt to break the hour record mark of 49.7 km, previously set by Ondrej Sosenka,” he said in a statement issued to Trek Factory Racing fans. “It’s a huge challenge for me, both physical and mental. This is a huge project and probably it’s going to come as a surprise for many people. We have been doing some discrete tests in the velodrome in Roubaix prior to the Dauphiné and we believe that I have a fair chance.”

His former team-mate Fabian Cancellara has long spoken about an attempt, although this has been postponed several times. Voigt’s bid will be drawing on research done by the company into such a bid. It is also likely to provide information which Cancellara himself can use.

Others thought to be considering attempts include the Briton Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

Voigt described the hour record as a fascinating event and a very difficult challenge. “[It’s] man and machine against the clock. A lot of logistics comes in play: when, where, how, etc. But I didn’t have to convince anybody: both Trek and our GM Luca Guercilena were all exited when I told them about my idea. They gave me a lot of support. Luckily we could use some of the blueprints that were being drawn for Fabian, so we kind of hit the ground running.”

He said that his supporters were in mind when the project was being finalised. “I look at this as one last present for my fans. I want to give them something to smile about – before the final curtain falls. But also: I want to do a good performance. This is not a circus act. The ‘hour’ has lost some of its magic over the last years. Maybe my attempt could kick off a new round of hour-record attempts. I could establish a mark for everyone to give it a try.

“I raced against Boardman, Indurain and Sosenka. And I’m racing with Fabian and his generation. If I make it, it would be sandwiched between those names. I can pave the way for them. I have no illusion to keep the record once Fabian and other specialists start having a go. But I kind of like the idea of telling me grand children about it, when they sit on my lap when I’m 75.”

Voigt added that a bike has already been designed for him and that testing has been done using different skin suits, helmets and positions. He said that he will use the Tour de France as the base, plus the racing kilometres at altitude he stacked up in the Tour of Utah and the US Pro Challenge. He confirmed that he has been training ‘very hard’ for the attempt.

“My near-win in Colorado Springs, where I was caught with 700 meters to go, was a good reference in terms of power output. I basically was out there for one hour by myself. I had this attempt in mind that very day, besides taking the stage, of course.

“Why I do this? Why not! Everyone saw the memo from the UCI. It’s been four months and I honestly find it quite strange that nobody has given it a try so far. We have 18 WorldTour teams, plus more than a 1000 pro continental riders and an immense group of amateurs that also can have a go. I’m not to blame that I take the chances that life – or in this case the UCI – gives me. I’m the first one that’s brave enough to do it. Everybody had the same time frame to be ready for it.”

Since UCI President Brian Cookson took over in the position, the governing body has brought in a change of regulations which have relaxed the former constraints on the equipment which can be used in attempts. Riders no longer have to use technology akin to that employed by Eddy Merckx in his successful attempt in 1972.

This has increased the interest in riders and companies being involved in new hour record attempts. Cookson hailed the news. “I’m delighted that one of the most popular riders of the modern era, Jens Voigt, is going to make an attempt on this, the most iconic of all the UCI’s records,” he said in a UCI statement.

“It is exactly what we hoped would happen when we changed the rules earlier this year to allow the use of modern track bike design and technology. Jens has proven over a long career to be one of the very best riders at the long lone effort, and cycling fans around the world will be delighted with this news.”

He said that he had been at two previous hour records and expected Voigt’s attempt to be ‘a superb spectacle.’

“Like Jens, I too am hoping that this will be the beginning of a new wave of interest in ‘The Magic Hour’, as it was known in a previous golden era of our sport.”

It remains to be seen if Voigt can beat the existing mark; he accepts that nothing is certain, but also said that he is ‘really convinced’ that he can do it. “I worked hard and I will keep working hard until the day is there.”

Voigt concluded his statement by saying that fans who wish to attend can buy tickets for the event.

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