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by Shane Stokes
October 31, 2014
Achieving his goal in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the UCI’s World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, Austrian rider Matthias Brandle dug deep to break the world hour record previously held by Jens Voigt.
The IAM Cycling rider covered 51.850 in the hour, surpassing Voigt’s mark of 51.115 set on September 19 in Grenchen, Switzerland. He had looked on course to achieve his goal of covering 52 kilometres but faded inside the final ten minutes, his cadence slowing and his style becoming ragged.
He dug deep, though, and beat Voigt’s record by less than a minute, setting a new mark.
Brandle is not as well known as Voigt but, being 24 years of age rather than the German’s 43 years, he had the advantage of youth on his side.
He is also a strong rier in his own right: Brandle is a multiple winner of his national time trial championships, took the points classification in the 2011 Tour de Romandie, the sprints classification in the same race two years later plus the mountains classification in the Tour de l’Ain. He also won this year’s Tour de Berne.
More recently he took two stages in September’s Tour of Britain and those performances plus Voigt’s own hour record inspired him to try to take on the challenge.
He did testing with his team before Il Lombardia and concluded that it was a feasible target. So it proved, and he goes into the history books.
“I feel really great, but during the race it was so hard,” he said afterwards. “It was so good that so many people are supporting me here, because I had a difficult period in the middle of the race. I really suffered. I had to do a few laps a little bit easier, but then in the end I could find my rhythm again and bring it to the end.”
His team owner Michel Thétaz was close by and was elated at the result. “I am very, very proud. I had no doubt he was going to succeed,” he said. “He made a terrific race and all IAM Cycling, all of us, all of my companies are very proud of him.”
He said that it would take time to sink in. “It is difficult to realise [what he did], even for him. It is going to come tomorrow. For me, I was prepared. I know what it means. It is going to be fabulous for him and fabulous for the team…so it is great.”
Brandle quickly got up to speed after the ticker began and reached a pace of over 52 kilometres per hour, putting him well up on Voigt’s pace. He stuck close to the black line on the track and appeared tidier than the German was during his attempt.
He reached the ten kilometre point in 11 minutes 32.027 seconds, almost 30 seconds ahead of Voigt’s 12 minutes 1.336 seconds. Holding a heart rate of 180, he then reached the 20 kilometre point in 23 minutes 1 second, and the 30 kilometre distance in 34 minutes 31.782 seconds.
Voigt had taken 35 minutes 32.761 seconds to cover the same distance and the minute one second between them there showed that the record was very much on. Brandle continued to hold a faster pace and reached the 40 kilometre point in 46 minutes 7.930 seconds, one minute and eight seconds up on Voigt.
Things looked good but fatigue then began to bite in, cutting through his legs and raising his heart rate to 184 beats per minute. He explained afterwards that he really started to struggle. “In the first minute of the race you think it is easy, you can do it for one hour,” he said. “But then the lactic acid comes to your body and every pedal stroke is harder and harder.
“I was sure after 30 minutes that I could do it. But then I had my difficult period. I hoped that I could recover so that I could keep the speed until the end.”
With 48.4 kilometres covered, Brandle’s advantage was down to 53 seconds. His cadence was slowing and he was wavering on the track, finding it increasingly difficult to take the corners tightly. His average speed dropped below 52 kilometres per hour after 50 minutes and he almost lost control of his bike on the finishing straight.
“At the end it was really hard, I was really on my limit,” he said. However while his body was screaming out, things then became earlier mentally. “The closer the hour comes, the easier it goes,” he said, talking about the moment he realised he could do it. “You know there are ten minutes left, five minutes, then you know it is going to an end. You can suffer pain so much.
“Finally it was enough. I could do it and I am really, really happy.”
UCI president Brian Cookson also shared Brandle’s excitement, although his satisfaction came from seeing another rider have a go at the hour record. Stagnant for a long time, the change in rules in relation to equipment has completely changed the perception of the hour record and has renewed the interest in trying to set new marks.
“It is another notch further up,” said the Briton. Importantly, he felt that other attempts will soon follow. “I don’t think it’s out of reach for other riders, it might encourage others to have a go. But it is a really good hour record.”