What you need to know about Jens Voigt’s attempt at the hour record

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Jens Voigt might have retired from professional racing but “The Jensie”, never one to shy away from an hour of pain, has one last gift for his legion of fans. On Thursday afternoon (early Friday morning Australian time) Voigt will attempt to beat the world hour record, challenging the current mark of 49.7km, set by Ondrej Sosenka in 2005. Here’s what you need to know about Voigt’s attempt.

The basics

Jens Voigt’s attempt at the hour record will take place at the Vélodrome Suisse in Grenchen, a municipality in the north west of Switzerland. The clock will start at 7pm local time (3am on Friday morning AEST) with Voigt hopping off his bike an hour later, hopefully with a new record.

The record

As mentioned, the mark for Jens Voigt to beat this Thursday is 49.7km, set by Czech rider Ondrej Sosenka in Russia in 2005. Sosenka’s career was marred by two positive tests for banned substances, casting some doubt on the legitimacy of his hour record.

The rules for the hour record changed in May this year when the UCI announced that any future attempts would be bound by the regulations governing endurance track bikes, equipment and position at the time of the event.

“Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent”, UCI president Brian Cookson said at the time. “This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the Hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”

Between 2000 and the UCI announcement of May this year, riders attempting the hour were required to use bikes similar to that used by Eddy Merckx when he set his record of 49.431km in 1972.

Several riders have gone beyond Sosenka’s mark of 49.7km including Graeme O’Bree and Chris Boardmann whose records don’t stand as they were used on equipment not currently allowed under UCI rules.

Clarifying the rules in May this year, the UCI said via press release:

According to the regulation in force from today, all successful attempts on the hour that respected the rules applicable at the time the record in question was achieved are considered “Hour records.” In the light of the current regulation, the records to be beaten today are those established by Ondrej Sosenka (49 km 700) for men and Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (46 km 065) for women, as these two athletes beat the Hour record using equipment which is still within the regulations currently applicable to track endurance events.

Paving the way

In recent years there’s been plenty of talk about the sport’s time trial specialists having a tilt at the hour record, with Fabian Cancellara, Bradley Wiggins and Tony Martin all rumoured to be preparing for an attempt.

The early months of 2014 were particularly full of rumours about upcoming attempts, especially from four-time world ITT champion Fabian Cancellara. But the UCI’s revision to the rules saw Cancellara’s proposed attempt put on hold with no revised date set. Indeed, since the rule change, no-one has attempted to break the hour record, giving Voigt an opportunity.

“Maybe my attempt could kick off a new round of hour-record attempts”, Voigt said in a Trek Factory Racing press release. “I could establish a mark for everyone to give it a try. Make a bridge, you know.”

“I can pave the way for [riders like Fabian Cancellara]. 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 my grand children about it, when they sit on my lap when I’m 75.”

The bike

Voigt has reportedly been working with Trek since June on a bike for his attempt at the hour record. Voigt will use a modified version of Trek’s Speed Concept 9 Series TT bike which features altered rear dropouts to feature a wider track wheel hub, custom rear cogs to work with a Shimano 9000 series road crankset, and the replacement of the integrated brakes with “carbon filler”.

While it doesn’t appear Voigt has chosen his gearing for the event yet, a 54×14 setup could be an option. By contrast, Ondrej Sosenska used a 54×13 to set the current record, Chris Boardman used a 54×13 in 2000, while back in 1972, Eddy Merckx used a 52×14 setup in Mexico (at altitude), about which he later said:

“My 52X14 was plenty big for me. For five or six kilometres it didn’t pose a problem, but for a whole hour it was very much otherwise.”

The bike also features an hour record-themed paint scheme with the wheels painted to look like clock faces. Voigt’s status as the ‘Chuck Norris of cycling’ is referenced in two quotes on the bike — the top tube reads “Jens Voigt can beat the 1 hour record in under 60 minutes” and the downtube reads “Jens Voigt doesn’t normally ride in velodromes, because he doesn’t like to lap himself.”

See below for some images of the bike Voigt will use on Thursday.

Watching the event

Eurosport will be broadcasting the attempt live, with coverage starting from 2.30am AEST, half an hour ahead of the attempt itself. Alternatively you can see it here.

There will almost certainly be commentary of the event happening on Twitter as well, with Trek Factory Racing suggesting fans use the hashtag #HourRecord.

And if you happen to be in Switzerland at the time, tickets are still available to watch the attempt live.

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