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When Bradley Wiggins demolished the previous UCI hour record in London’s Lee Valley VeloPark on Sunday, three names were mentioned by him and others as being capable of considering taking on the new mark. Fabian Cancellara and Alex Dowsett were two of those and while their teams were relatively tight-lipped about their ambitions on Monday, Tony Martin’s Etixx QuickStep team confirmed that they had been giving it some thought.
However, as sport and development manager Rolf Aldag told CyclingTips on Monday, it is not a decision that will be taken lightly.
“The whole story of the hour record has a lot of dimensions. One out of the big three did it thus far, and that is Bradley. He deserves a lot of respect, obviously,” he said, explaining the size of the challenge.
“It is important to understand what he achieved. 54.5 kilometres is probably hard for most people to even think about. He set the mark very, very high.
“We also have to understand that he did not decide just yesterday to do it, he did a lot of preparation and took his time and was very focussed on it. That is the way he works for a decade now, and the way British Cycling worked in the past to be successful. It is not only him, it is the team around him.”
Aldag’s explanation was a precursor to making clear that if Martin were to take on the challenge, he and the squad would need to show total dedication. In addition to the difficulty of the hour-long effort itself, months of work would need to be put in beforehand.
“If you want to do it, you have to get a team around you. That means you have to be 100 percent committed, in terms of the road programme that you do to prepare for it, and also the bike, the helmet, the tyres. All that kind of stuff,” he said.
“There has to be a protocol behind it; that is now the current situation for everybody else. It is really, really hard to define a spot when you want to do it when you are not sure about the timeline and the protocol.
“This is because of the nature of the thing and also out of respect for what Bradley achieved.”
Aldag said that no matter who took on the challenge, be it Martin, Cancellara, Tom Dumoulin or anyone else, that it was crucial to do this correctly. To be fastidious and also to choose the time for the bid very carefully.
Beating the record is a big task, but would also be a very significant achievement for a rider to pull off. It’s also something steeped in history and also very symbolic.
“I think it is a great story, something that is very interesting. The hour record is obviously a comeback story too as it was dead for a long time after Boardman.
“The hour is interesting to watch. As a rider you can show yourself, you can also show improvement in equipment, technology, in many things.”
“It’s not a short term goal, that’s clear”
Martin has a glittering pedigree against the clock in the sport, winning multiple time trials including Tour and Vuelta stages and three editions of the world championship. He doesn’t however have much track experience and, given Wiggins’ far greater background in this area, this is something that he will also have to plan for.
According to Eddy Merckx, Martin may also have to adjust his on-bike position too. Whether or not this proves to be the case, the message is clear: a lot of work would have to be put in.
Aldag keeps returning to this point: chasing the hour is no walk in the park and, after Sunday, Wiggins’ high figure makes this even more the case.
Because of that, he is not able to give a clear answer as to if and when Martin will take on the challenge.
“Ultimately Tony has to decide if he wants to do it and when he wants to do it. Obviously we have a big focus this year with Utrecht [the opening time trial in the Tour de France – ed.] and next year with the Olympic Games. He crashed and broke his hand before the last Olympics and so 2016 is very important.
“So it’s not a short term goal, that’s clear. You can’t just put Tony on a bike and get him to do it, it is unrealistic. We would need a lot of discussion. We would have to talk to our technical suppliers. It is so far out there that we cannot name a limeline as we have to get everything together before doing it.
“It wouldn’t be so complicated if it was a case of riding 51 kilometres in an hour. But it is Sir Bradley Wiggins, it is his record, and so that deserves respect.”
However, having outlined the various difficulties and obstacles, he’s also clear on the attraction of the idea.
“He is definitely toying around with it in his head,” he said. “If he was clear on not doing it, then it would be really easy as we could forget about it. But he’s thinking about it.
“Right now I don’t want to get into his head [about it], distract him and take him away from his current goals. We will not do that. Now we focus on Utrecht.
“Maybe if we have a nice warn summer evening after that we can sit down and have a chat about it, see how we feel…”