Tag Archives: World Hour

Voigt’s World Hour falls already…to Matthias Brandle

Maybe it was the time of year and the fact that with most cycling done for the season I wasn’t following the news quite as closely over the past couple of weeks as I might otherwise have done, and so forgot all about Matthias Brandle’s World Hour attempt until he was some fifty minutes into it.  Maybe it was just me but the entire build up certainly seemed to fly well under the cycling radar, at least in comparison to Jens Voigt’s effort just a month or so ago.

It certainly didn’t have the fanfare and perhaps that was because Jens got out ahead of the field and was the first man to tackle the record in many years coupled with the fact it was the final ride of what had been a celebrated career by the German rider. But perhaps Brandle preferred the comparative lack of attention until he was sure he had it beat, and even that wasn’t for sure until the final minutes when nothing shy of a crash could stop him.

By then I was right into it. Feeling bad that I hadn’t paid more attention to the build-up but glad that I was seeing a part of it. A fine effort by the Austrian who at just 24 years of age surely has his best cycling years ahead of him, in stark contrast to Voigt. 51.852km was the distance covered in the hour – 742 metres better than Voigt – and while the numbers are staggering, I’d be a fool to say that this is a record that will stand any great length of time.

When Jens Voigt kick-started this World Hour fever for the first time since the early to mid-90s when it was tackled six times over a sixteen month period, it became obvious that others would line up to take a shot at it, especially now that the UCI have relaxed the kind of bike you can use. It was this rule change that inspired Voigt and no doubt Brandle and I believe it will do the same for Sir Bradley Wiggins next year and no doubt the likes of Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara.

It’s great to see though I just hope that the lack of attention on Brandles effort by comparison to Voigt’s isn’t a signal of coverage to come now that the idea of someone tacking the record isn’t quite as unique as it was when Voigt came out of nowhere to take it on for the first time since Ondřej Sosenka in July 2005.

I don’t think so though. There may not have been the same build-up to Brandle’s go, but that is also in part due to the time of year (nobody since Ferdi Bracke on the same day in 1967 has done it so late in the cycling season, though Boardman did it on 27 October 2000) and the fact he is still a rider making a name for himself in the sport. In breaking the hour record he has certainly now made that name…early reports suggest his following on Twitter has doubled in the twenty-four hours it has been since he set the new milestone.

When the likes of Wiggins, Taylor Phinney, Martin or Cancellara (here’s hoping they all do) step up, the hype will be at levels of fever pitch; or is it fever track?

Brandle’s record should see out 2014 and last longer than Voigt’s did, but with all due respect to him, it’s hard to see how someone like Wiggin’s won’t smash the current mark by quite a stretch when he takes his turn in 2015. The good thing for Brandle however, unlike Voigt, is that in due course, as his career progresses and he becomes a better rider, he may well, feel the urge to go again.

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Voigt smashes official World Hour; sets new benchmark

It’s been so long since this last happened that a whole generation of cycling fans have come into the sport and grew to love it but without ever having seen one of cycling’s greatest records get broken and so how good it was to see the likable and ever hard suffering Jens Voigt bring down the curtain on a long and illustrious career by setting a new benchmark for the World Hour for a new era of cycling.

Voigt was expected to break the record, though it wasn’t certain, not when the previous record was set by Oleg Sosenka, a rider who had previously been under suspicion of EPO use and who would later go on to fail a drugs test, and not when the current effort was being attempted by a rider who had just turned 43 years of age the day before. But Jens smashed it with a distance of 51.115 kilometres, further than many, including himself, had expected.

All throughout his ride he was on pace for the record yet when some wondered whether he was on the verge of tiring and whether it might turn into a battle to achieve the great feat, he upped his speed and only moved clear. Gritting his teeth, no doubt shouting ‘shut up legs’, Voigt reminded himself that this was one last effort before a life in retirement; one last turn of suffering, and with it his average speed rose up over 50.5km/h and on over 51km/h.

By comparison to Sosenka, Boardman and Merckx, Voigt’s first kilometre was standard enough. 1:15, equal to Sosenka, two seconds quicker than Boardman, but a staggering five seconds slower than Merckx. It’s well known that Merckx flew out of the gate setting a first kilometre equal to that of someone going for a 4km pursuit rather than World Hour record and that it caught up with him later in the hour.

By five kilomeres Voigt was again equal to Sosenka with a time of 6:00, four seconds up on Boardman; five seconds down on Merckx. By ten kilometres Voigt was two seconds ahead of Boardman, a second behind Sosenka, and eight seconds behind the Cannibal.

It was around here that Merckx began to tire and after the 20km mark he had slipped back to a time equal to that of Boardman but now trailing both Sosenka and Voigt by three seconds.

Voigt then began to open the burners and at the next checkpoint of 30km he was a massive 34 seconds ahead of Sosenka who himself had gone through 12 seconds up on Boardman and 14 seconds up on Merckx.

By the 40km mark Voigt was all but assured of the record baring a complete capitulation. He now led Sosenka by almost a full minute with Boardman’s record only a second up on Merckx’s but 1 minute 17 seconds down on Voigt’s new standard.

When the gun went off to signal the record had broken, Voigt was still able to ride another 1.415 kilometres, pushing the record further and further out of reach with each final turns of his pedals.

His time still fell well short of records set in the 1990s by the likes of Graeme Obree, Chris Boardman, Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger, on super bikes later deemed illegal by the UCI for their official record. That was the last time that this record truly captured the public’s imagination; a long time ago when you think that children unborn then are now entering university.

When the UCI put those 1990 times into a category of ‘best human effort’ and reverted the official UCI record back to Eddy Merckx from 1972 when he went 49.431km, requiring those attempting the record to do it on a Merckx style bike. Boardman returned in 2000 to take the record by a mere ten metres before Sosenka broke it with a distance of 49.7km in 2005. But the record no longer seemed to hold the public’s attention and nor the interest of the riders until earlier this year when the UCI relaxed the rules to allow any bike deemed legal for current track competition, thus opening the door for new attempts. And Voigt was the first to step through.

With modernised regulations for the bikes that can be used and a more scrutinised sport it really feels like this record has been reset with a new benchmark. Sure it would be nice to see the modern cyclist ride the same bike as Merckx but generations and technologies change with the eras and like any sport where we could love to know for sure how the best of today stacked up against the greats of yesteryear, it isn’t realistic. Even when Boardman and Sosenka tackled the record on a Merckx like bike they did so with aero-helmets, clipless pedals and bladed spokes, backed with modern training techniques and nutrition.

The sudden interest in Voigt’s attempt proved just how special this record truly is for cycling and while Voigt’s new benchmark was beyond what many expected and will certainly be tough to beat, it isn’t impossible and Voigt’s lasting legacy to the record may be that he stokes the competitive juices of others like Wiggins, Tony Martin or Cancellara, to come out and try break it for themselves.

Voigt’s time checks against previous records:

DIST.     MERCKX     BOARDMAN     SOSENKA     VOIGT
1km 01:09.97 01:17.89 01:15.01 01:15.00
5km 05:55.60 06:04.01 06:00.42 06:00.94
10km 11:53.20 12:03.88 12:00.59 12:01.34
20km 24:06.80 24:06.07 24.03.05 24:03.57
30km 36:20.20 36:18.40 36:06.73 35:32.76
40km 48:34.43 48:33.40 48:15.32 47:16.67

DIST. 49.431km 49.441km 49.700km 51.115km

Jens Voigt attempts to rekindle one of cyclings greatest records: The World Hour

Tonight the seemingly ever popular, never aging, Jens Voight will bring down the curtain on his long career in cycling by taking a shot at one of the most prestigious standards in all of the sport: The World Hour record.

It’s a record steeped in history but one that in recent years has lay dormant, but thanks to the UCI amending their rules on what equipment is applicable to go for the official UCI record, there’s a hope that Voigt’s big effort tonight will open the floodgates for further attempts.

The official record at the moment is 49.7 kilometres set by Ondrej Sosenka in July 2005, and although several riders bettered this time significantly in the 1990s, their times were later split away from the official UCI record to the category of ‘best human effort’ when the UCI deemed the bikes used to be illegal and that any future attempt must be made on a bike similar in style to that used by Eddy Merckx when he broke the record in October of 1972 by going 49.431 kilometres.

With the record re-set, Chris Boardman, the man who had held the best record when the UCI decided to revert back to that of Merckx, became the first to beat it in 2000. It was a fine achievement but one that said as much about the talent of Merckx as it does anything else.

28 years had passed since Merckx laid down the marker in an outdoor velodrome in Mexico wearing one of those old style rubber helmets, riding a bike with normal wheels, flat spokes and toe-clips on his pedals and while Boardman used a similar bike to Merckx in specification he had the advantages of an aero helmet, clipless pedals and bladed spokes. All this made a difference and coupled with modern training and nutrition techniques, Merckx’s time was beaten by just ten metres.

Sosenka then took Boardmans record but three years later he failed a drug test and suspicion has lingered over his record ever since. And nobody has attempted to break it again; unwilling to go onto an old fashioned style bike that isn’t suited to what they have been accustomed to riding for such efforts. Bike companies likewise have seen little benefit to getting behind a record set on a bike that isn’t going to promote their technology.

With this in mind and in the hopes that a new marker could be established to carry the sport into a new era, the UCI finally relented and changed the rules earlier this year to allow a modern track and time-trial style bike to be used. And Voigt, cleverly, was the first to jump at it.

On a standard Merckx like bike, it is unlikely that Voigt could break the record, but on the kind of modern day bike he will be riding, he stands a very good chance. It’s a shame we’ll lose that direct reference to a time done by Merckx, but with the prior mentioned advantage of training, nutrition, and equipment, it was hardly an level playing field between eras anyway.

And given the lack of attempts at this record in recent years a whole generation of cycling fans have come to the sport since this record last made serious headlines and many will have never seen the record broken before. This serves as an opportunity to set a new standard and re-awaken the great record.

Following Voigt’s effort tonight I’d expect to hear announcements by the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Sir Bradley wiggins and even Tony Martin of their intentions to now go for it themselves with much encouragement of their respective bike sponsors.

It’s a historic evening for cycling and on the line is the opportunity to rekindle one of the sports greatest milestones.

Good luck to you Jens Voigt.

The following is a video of the great Eddy Merckx attempting the record in 1972. The difference in the equipment used and the track he rode on is striking, yet it it is unbelievable that the time he set could only be bettered by a mere ten metres by Chris Boardman 28 years later.

It may look like poetry in motion, but the suffering is unparalleled. Merckx would say afterwards that it was the hardest thing he had ever done on a bike and that he felt paralytic when climbing off and that three days went by before he could walk again.

Merckx went out of the gate like a rocket and barely relented.

Eight things to look forward to in 2014 as well as a few predictions

There is so much to look forward to in the upcoming 2014 professional cycling road season, as there is every year and if I asked a dozen people for things that they’re looking out for the most I’d no doubt get a dozen different answers, so take of this what you will. These are eight things that jump out at me as things worth watching for as the Grand Tours make their starts in the UK, as British cycling tries to continue its dominance, and as the World Hour record comes back to prominence. I’ll also lay down a few predictions; though don’t be running to your bookie with them. Predicting cycling results on the day of a race is hard enough never mind months in advance. One thing I can guarantee however is that the season will be full of good action, beautiful scenery, and a few records here or there.

Giro in Belfast; Tour in Yorkshire

It’s a rare treat for any Grand Tour to start in the UK, indeed only the Tour de France has done that before, but for two to do it in the one year is almost as rare as the idea that back-to-back British winners of the Tour de France might have seemed a few years ago. The last time a Grand Tour visited the island of Ireland was in 1998 when that years ill fated Tour de France arrived in Dublin. Remembered for the ‘Festina Affair’ that year the Giro organisors will be hoping for none of the same when their big event arrives on that island with the start in Belfast. It’s a huge occasion for a city like Belfast and it should look fantastic. Likewise with the Tour starting in Yorkshire. Mark Cavendish seen last year’s mass start on Corsica as a big chance to pull on the Yellow jersey by winning that first stage sprint, but it didn’t go to plan. And maybe for the best because what better way to pull on his first Yellow jersey than on home turf?

Back to Back for Froome?

Chris Froome will be the favorite for the 2014 Tour. He won it in style last year and so long as his preparation matches what he did twelve months before and he can avoid any injuries there’s nobody I can see beating him. It could be tougher this time however with Vincenzo Nibali returning to the race and the most likely opponent to cause the Kenyan born, South African educated, British license holding Froome some trouble. There’s no such thing as a foregone conclusion in the Tour, but Froome retaining his title is about as close as it comes to one.

Boonen back

In 2012 Tom Boonen was the King of the classics. He won Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, but injuries derailed his defense of those in 2013 and he watched from the sidelines as Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan took up the dominance of the spring races. Fighting fit again Boonen will be out to recapture his crown and that only serves us well. Seeing him, Cancellara and Sagan, among others, go head to head this spring will make for fantastic viewing. My money is on each of them winning at least one of the spring classics.

The continued rise of Rui Costa

At 27 years of age, Rui Costa is coming into his prime years as a cyclist and there’s enough there to suggest that it could be prime years full of big race wins. Back in 2011 he showed his ability as a big time racer by winning a stage of that year’s Tour de France and in 2012 he took the overall at the Tour of Switzerland. He repeated there last year and added to that result with two stage wins in Le Tour on the difficult stages of 16 and 19 before winning the World Road Race Championships in conditions even worse than those that faced him in one of his two Tour stages. Some think he even has Grand Tour potential in him and after moving to Lampre this winter to become a team-leader in his own right we’ll truly see how far his talents can go. At the very least this will remain a man who should feature highly in the spring classics and again for stages in the Tour de France as he looks to retain that rainbow jersey at the end of the 2014 season.

Classic expectations for Sagan

No doubt about it, Peter Sagan had a superb season in 2013. Victories at the Gent-Wevelgem and the Cycliste de Montréal to go with multiple stage wins at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tour of Alberta, Tour of California, Tour of Oman, Tour de Suisse and Tirreno-Adriatico, not to mention his Green jersey victory at the Tour de France, highlighted that. But to some there was too many second places at the classics and therefore too many missed opportunities. He was second at Milan-San Remo when those around him out foxed him and then he was beaten into second by his new spring-rival, Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders. It’s hard to imagine pressure being on Sagan to do even better than in 2013 and remember he’s still only 23 (24 later this month), but then, that age is a reason why we could well see better from him in 2014 and if he’s to truely prove to the world that he is going to be one of the greats then he might well need a win or two in one of the Monument classics this year.

The breakout of Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski broke through into the big time last season and he’ll be looking to show the world that Sagan isn’t the only young talent capable of big wins and 2014 will be a year for him to prove it. And unlike Sagan, Kwiatkoswki appears to have the ability to climb in the higher mountains and compete at the sharp end of Grand Tours as well as time-trial and sprint. He didn’t have any big victories to his name last year but he was in the mix at a number of races and finished 11th overall at the Tour de France holding the White jersey for best young rider between stages 2-7 and 11-14 before falling short of phenom climbing sensation Nairo Quintana. And it was in the Tour that his talents truly began to shine. He was right near the front on several early race sprint stages, he was 5th and 7th in the respective individual time trials and never far off the pace in the high mountains fading only towards the final days of the Tour. He’ll be one to watch in 2014.

What will Wiggins do?

Sir Bradley Wiggins had the world at his feet as the 2012 season came to an end. He had won the Tour becoming the first British cyclist to do so and then he won a Gold Medal in the individual time-trial at the London Olympics. It was a supreme season and many wondered how he could top it. Well … he couldn’t. An off season rift with Chris Froome over the leadership of the team boiled over into the early season with both of them racing apart. Wiggins went to the Giro d’Italia for his Tour prep, but as we all know in this day and age if you try to win the Giro you probably aren’t going to then win the Tour and Wiggins was out to try and win the Giro. But he couldn’t do that either. A sudden fear of descending struck him followed soon after by an illness and before the racing had even got serious, he was gone. An injury followed and Wiggins was ruled out of even competing in the Tour leaving his season in tatters. He won the Tour of Britain but aside from that and the Worlds, in which he also failed to finish, little has been seen of him. Has he finally succumbed to working for Froome at the 2014 Tour as some have suggested, or is he out for one last throw of the dice? A penultimate stage time-trial at the Tour might allow for it, but chances are Wiggins will help where he can in the Tour before turning his attention back towards the track. I’d love to see him take a run at a spring classic, but who knows. And therein lays one of the great mysteries of the upcoming season: What will Wiggins do?

Cancellara world hour

This one has me the most excited of all. The World Hour is a special record in cycling history, though the way so few have tried to break it of late you would be forgiven for thinking the cyclists themselves didn’t think so. Then again, that is a tribute to its difficulty that so few have felt able to go for it. But that looks set to change this year as big Fabian Cancellara gets set to take a run at the record. Currently held by the relatively unknown, Ondrej Sosenka (49.7 km), if anyone can beat it, it’s probably Fabian. Prior to Sosenka taking it in 2005 it was held by Chris Boardman who had taken it under conventional methods (standard bike as used by Eddy Merckx when he set a record in 1972 (49.431 km) that stood for 28 years) in 2000. Before that Boardman had got into a head-to-head with Graeme Obree on superman like bikes that seen the top names of the era — Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger — all come out to have a crack at it. Cancellara taking on the record might well perk up the interests of another time-trial specialist, Tony Martin and don’t forever rule out someone like Wiggins having a try. And with that the World Hour rivalry might yet be born again.

Predictions

Milan-San Remo (23 March): Peter Sagan
Tour of Flanders (6 April): Tom Boonen
Paris-Roubaix (13 April): Peter Sagan
Liège–Bastogne–Liège (27 April): Rui Costa
Giro d’Italia (9 May – 1 June): Nairo Quintana
Tour de France (5-27 July): Chris Froome
Vuelta a Espana (23 August – 14 September): Alberto Contador
Giro di Lombardia (5 October): Philippe Gilbert
World Road Championships, Ponferrada, Spain (28 September): Peter Sagan