Taking on the UCI hour record set by Australian rider Rohan Dennis on February 8 in Grenchen, Switzerland, Alex Dowsett was successful in his attempt on Saturday.
The British Movistar rider started steady and cranked up his pace near the end to cover 52.937 kilometres, exceeding Dennis’ mark by an impressive 446 metres.
Dowsett’s attempt took place at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, Great Britain, and came nine weeks after he was originally due to take on the record.
That earlier attempt was foiled when he crashed in training on January 13, fracturing his collarbone. He worked hard on his recovery and knuckled down again to training, building the form needed to fight for success on Saturday.
Dowsett started conservatively, clocking a pace of just over 52.2 kilometres in the first quarter of an hour. He and his support team had seen other riders get the pacing wrong during their attempts, many slowing inside the final segment, and they were determined that this would not be the case.
“In training, we only ever did like 35 minutes, so there was always those 25 minutes which were a bit of an unknown,” he said. “But 30 minutes in, I was still feeling comfortable. The time was ticking away a lot quicker than I was expecting.
“I was scared of the suffering, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. That is a testimony to the preparation I went through – there was a plan, I didn’t like it much, for the risk of riding behind Dennis for the first 45 minutes, but I had faith in my coaches, Mark Walker and Mikel Zabala. I was a little bit enthusiastic at times, but Steve was bringing me back down onto schedule. I just had faith in everything that’s gone into today – it was carefully executed.”
Dowsett’s early pace had him at approximately 17.1 seconds per lap early on. However after 35 minutes he ramped that up to 16.5 seconds and continued to push all the way to the end of the hour.
His 52.937 kilometres was just 103 metres short of the 53.040 kilometres clocked up by Miguel Indurain on a more extreme bike in 1994.
“Everyone in the team said that if I was feeling OK, I’d be let loose into the final five minutes. As soon as it clocked ten minutes to go, I had a lot in me still and I could press on a bit,” he said. “It really was a dream.”
Dowsett is a rider with the blood clotting disorder haemophilia and said in advance of his attempt that setting an example was a big motivation for him.
He succeeded in that goal today.
“I just hope the message comes out – to all the young haemophiliacs of any age, really,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in the world who face adversity.
“I was lucky to have a responsible family to take care of me, and I could push myself to this. It wasn’t about failing or succeeding today – it was about trying something I hadn’t done before.”
UCI president Brian Cookson and his organisation are partially responsible for the new spate of records, having relaxed the previous stringent rules and reigniting interest from riders, teams and bicycle equipment manufacturers.
“Alex has done an incredible job,” he said. “Returning from injury he had to reschedule his attempt and he put up a stellar performance this afternoon. Alex made the UCI Hour Record one of his major goals of the season and his choice paid off.
“This is a great publicity for our event and for other riders who wish to follow in Alex’s footsteps. Let’s see what Bradley can do now. I would say he’s a safe bet but I’m excited to see what he can do in what is one of the toughest challenges in our sport.”
Bradley Wiggins will stage his own attempt in just over one month’s time, attacking Dowsett’s new mark at the Lee Valley Velopark in London on June 7.
Video courtesy of Movistar, photos by Chris Keller Jackson