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Molly Shaffer Van Houweling (Metromint Cycling) set a new women’s hour record in Aguascalientes, Mexico on Saturday. The 42-year-old American set a distance of 46.274 kilometres, 209 metres ahead of the previous record of 46.065 kilometres set by Dutchwoman Leontien Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel in 2003.
The actual start time of Van Houweling’s attempt remained uncertain up until just an hour before the race. The warm weather outside the velodrome in Mexico City was a big concerns as the barometric pressure had to be absolutely perfect for a successful attempt.
But around 7:45 p.m. (local time), 15 minutes after the slated start, Van Houweling started her attempt. And as rain started pouring down on the velodrome roof, Van Houweling pedalled along steadily, making it look easy. Pacing herself, Van Houweling was ahead of her target time for the first 45 minutes, with a lead as far as 13 seconds up.
With one minute to go, Van Houweling was up by over 15 seconds and the small crowd in the velodrome started cheering. She finished strong, covering 186 laps.
“You never know if everything is going to come together on race day. Everyday this week I was thinking, ‘Am I going to be 100 percent? Does my knee hurt? Am I getting the sniffles? Is it too hot? Or too cold?’ I feel fortunate that everything came together today and that I felt in control,” Van Houweling commented afterward. “I am relieved that everything came together and thankful for everyone that helped me make this –and this live feed – happen.”
A University of California professor by day, Van Houweling is a world-class time trialist and a five-time UCI amateur road world champion. She set the US record last December when she covered 44.173 kilometres in an hour, beating the previous 44.028 kilometre mark set by compatriot Carolyn Donnelly 24 years earlier.
In her run up to the UCI world hour record attempt, Van Houweling travelled to Mexico in February where she covered a fine 45.637 kilometres, ending up just 428 metres off the long-standing record by Zijlaard-van Moorsel. She improved on her own record again in July with a distance of 46.088km. At the time however, she had not yet been in the biological passport program long enough to qualify for the UCI record.
British rider Sarah Storey made a bid for the hour record on February 28 in Lee Valley VeloPark Olympic stadium, but came in 563 metres short of Zijlaard-van Moorsel’s standard.
Van Houweling was riding a Cervelo with Mavic Comete Discs and a 56-14 gear.