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by Anne-Marije Rook
September 12, 2015
Photography by UCI
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From the Ella archives:
We wrote this piece when Molly Shaffer van Houweling first announced her hour record attempt. Now, her time is here. She will attempt to break the record in Mexico City tomorrow, though the exact time is still uncertain due to weather. The weather impacts the temperature inside the Velodrome and conditions must be absolutely perfect for Van Houweling to make her attempt. Her attempt is slated for 7:30 p.m. (Central Time). Watch the event live here.
A little over five months after Sarah Storey had an unsuccessful bid for the world hour record, American rider Molly Shaffer Van Houweling has announced that she will make her own attempt next month.
The University of California professor of law took the US record last December when she covered 44.173 kilometres in an hour, beating the previous 44.028 kilometre mark set by Carolyn Donnelly 24 years earlier.
She then improved that Los Angeles mark in February when she travelled to Mexico and covered a fine 45.637 kilometres.
This improved her previous mark by 1.464km. The then 41-year-old ended up just 428 metres off the long-standing world hour record set by Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel in 2003.
Just a few weeks ago, in July, Van Houweling again broke her own US record with a distance of 46.088km. Although that was farther than the current UCI Hour Record, she had not yet been in the biological passport program long enough to qualify.
Now, Van Houweling has said that she will officially take on the mark on September 12.
In doing so, she will return to the same country Zijlaard-van Moorsel used when she covered 46.065 kilometres in Mexico City.
“It is an honour and an immense challenge to take on the most epic record in all of cycling,” said Van Houweling. “I have had several opportunities to ride on the track in Aguascalientes, and I know that it is a fantastic facility.
“Mexico has a special place in the UCI Hour Record history, as the site of records by Eddy Merckx, Jeannie Longo, and Leontien van Moorsel. I hope my upcoming attempt will be part of that proud history.”
Zijlaard-van Moorsel is one of the most successful female riders in the history of the sport and was both world and Olympic champion when she beat the previous record.
However, she used drop handlebars then instead of a faster tri bar setup.
The current resurgence of interest in the world hour record is due to rule chances in May 2014. Previous regulations had restricted the technology riders could use, winding the clock back four decades to Eddy Merckx’s successful attempt in 1972.
The UCI decided to relax these, permitting riders to use newer technology and thus benefit from more modern machines.
Jens Voigt was first to break the men’s record, setting a distance of 51.110 kilometres in Grenchen, Switzerland, on September 18.
This was improved by the Austrian rider Matthias Brandle, who covered 51.852 kilometres at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, on October 30.
Australia’s Rohan Dennis subsequently improved this in February when he rode a distance of 52.491 kilometres in Grenchen.
Two further improvements were made: Alex Dowsett covered 52.937 kilometres on May 2 in Manchester, then fellow Briton Bradley Wiggins set a mark of 54.526 kilometres on June 7 in the Lee Valley VeloPark in London.
The women’s record has seen fewer bids, with only Storey’s 45.502 kilometres being registered. The latter set her mark on February 28 in the same Lee Valley VeloPark Olympic stadium. This was a new British record but was 563 metres short of Zijlaard-van Moorsel’s standard.
UCI President Brian Cookson said that he was delighted that another rider will take on the women’s hour record.
“Last December, Molly Shaffer Van Houweling broke the US Hour Record, which had stood for 24 years. It will be very exciting to see what she can achieve in her attempt at the World Record.”
Van Houweling is a five-time UCI amateur road world champion. Her most recent such triumphs were the road race and time trial titles at the 2014 UCI World Cycling Tour Final in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
She lives in Berkeley, California and is a long-time member of the San Francisco-based Metromint Cycling team.