British junior cyclist rides 49.1 km hour record

The UCI doesn't recognise a World Junior Hour Record, but British Cycling will ratify Fred Meredith's ride.

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The UCI breathed new life into the Hour Record in 2014 when it scrapped the Merckx style rules and opened the door for riders to use modern aero equipment. Since then, a host of riders have tried their hand at the fabled “hour” – some successfully, some not so successfully. Rarely, though, have we heard of a junior rider attempting an hour record.

And yet, that’s precisely what Welsh junior Fred Meredith set his sights on as his first objective for the 2022 season.

So rare is a junior hour that the UCI either doesn’t recognise or has never ratified a Junior World Record for the hour. However, British Cycling agreed it would recognise a British junior record – and with a 49.184km ride, Meredith has (provisionally) cemented his place in Hour Record history. The 17-year-old believes he has also unofficially broken the World Junior Hour Record – if such a thing existed, 48.480km by Australian Aston Freeth was the best junior attempt Meredith was aware of.

Meredith, already the Welsh junior time trial champion, took to the boards of the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome in Newport, Wales, for his hour attempt. The young Shrewsbury, England-based member of the Holohan Coaching Race Team was not only hoping to set a British national record but also “inspire other junior riders to give it a go, or even to just get out on their bike.” Despite falling short of his 50km target, Meredith’s ride is nonetheless remarkable given a puncture-enforced restart after just two laps and given he is just one lap shy of beating Eddy Merckx’s distance of 49.431km.

Speaking after the ride, Meredith said, “I’m so glad to have achieved this record, and after such a fantastic build-up I couldn’t be happier. I hope my efforts have inspired others to get on a bike and get involved in the sport.

“I must say a huge thank you to everyone who got behind me and lent me their skills, knowledge, experience, and also their gear,” he added.

A junior can’t command the same support as Merckx and the other top riders who have attempted the Hour, and as such, the “fantastic support” Meredith mentioned looked slightly different.

Meredith, born on Christmas day, traded his birthday and Christmas present for an aerometer used to hone his aero position over the winter. More interestingly and perhaps more valuable than many sponsors, the current British elite hour record holder Dan Bigham – who is also an aerodynamicist, Ineos Grenadiers advisor, and Wattshop founder – lent Meredith his record-breaking bike and technical support for the junior attempt. As such, Meredith rode with the same bike Bigham powered to both a British Hour Record and Individual Pursuit Record glory in the past five months, complete with all the aerodynamic optimisation and planning Bigham has become renowned for.

“Very well done to Fred, it’s been a pleasure to support and advise his ambition to set a new junior hour record. He put a solid and ambitious plan in place and has worked hard to put himself in the best position to achieve his goal. Congratulations!”

Dan Bigham

As for the bike, bar a few extra handlebar spacers, the build was almost identical to that Bigham raced both the Hour and British Track National championships on. Most notably, Meredith rode with a huge 64×15 gearing – just as well there are no junior gearing restrictions on the track.

The teenager raced Bigham’s Argon 18 Electron Pro”Derbados” edition frameset complete with Wattshop Pentaxia Olympic bars, Anemoi extensions and Fast Forward discs. Meredith had Vittoria’s Pista Speed 2.0 23mm tyres pumped up to 15bar, at least before the puncture. An ISM PN3.1 saddle, Speedplay aero pedals, and ViewSpeed S4 front skewer complete the build.

Meredith is now resetting his focus for the upcoming road season. Whether the UCI will recognise this as a Junior Hour Record remains to be seen.

This is the same Argon18 Meredith rode on, seen here in Grenchen, Switzerland at the time Bigham broke Bradley Wiggins British hour record.

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