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Cancellara Eyeing the Hour Record

I'd been thinking of posting about the Hour Record sometime, even had a thought on the bike today that I should get on that subject this week. Then I opened Sporza:

Fabian Cancellara in the future would like to attack the world record. "I'm on that record in my head. Sooner or later I will get there," said the Swiss.

Fabian Cancellara demonstrated during the World Championships time trial in Mendrisio. "When I have shown I'm ready. But is not strong enough, you should also on a velodrome can," said Cancellara in an Italian weekly. His intention is linked to the press opening of a hillside in Brescia in May.

Wikipedia has a terrific article on the Hour Record. Some basics: thanks to the evolution of modern equipment there are actually three hour records: The UCI Hour Record, which only recognizes traditional road setups, helmets, etc.; the "best human effort" which covers funky bikes, disc wheels, helmets and other aerodynamic innovations, and a third category for recumbents. The latter has actually been very active, with new records each of the last four years. But historically there has been one "hour record," and the schism between the first two categories is meant to reestablish that. Starting with Francesco Moser in 1984, guys started adopting funky aero setups and beating the hour record, to the consternation of many who said that such advantages defeated the purpose of the record. So the UCI established the "best human effort" category and dumped all the records (Graeme Obree, Miguel Indurain, Tony Rominger) whose equipment made them disputed. As a consequence nobody has attempted a full-on aero setup hour record since 1996. Even Chris Boardman, owner of two of the aero records, got back on a regular bike to set the real hour record.

Ondrej Sosenka is the current owner of the Hour Record. He's a continental-level rider, though he's also 6'7" and isn't built ideally for the road scene. Unfortunately, he's been hit with two doping cases and was last seen awaiting the untimely end of his professional career. Nevertheless, he owns the record for having 49.700km in an hour.

The Hour Record is a truly elite distinction, though one aspect of it is quite typical of why I love cycling: any of us could go down to our local track with a road bike and make an attempt. Just warm up, set your lap counter, and ride for an hour. I suspect there would be more official process to it in terms of creating a record, assuming there was a chance of breaking it, which there wouldn't be. But hey, there's nothing stopping you from trying. I plan to attempt the hour record next spring after I get back from Flanders, when I will be sitting on a huge block of form. So come on out to the Marymoor Velodrome next spring and watch me fall 20km short, at a minimum.

Anyway, the short distance between us pedestrians and the gods of cycling is an illusion. The Hour Record has an honor roll next to it that is short, and rather quirky. Henri Desgrange owns the second mark; Oscar Egg set three marks in Paris in the WWI era, topping out at over 44km. One Willie Hamilton set the record in Colorado Springs... in 1898. Otherwise, the first several records were set in Paris, Milan, and Bordeaux, with more recent ones happening in Mexico City, Manchester, and now Moscow. Anyway, guys like Coppi and Merckx described their Hour Records as the hardest things they have ever done. Jacques Anquetil and Lucien Petit-Breton are among the other famous record breakers.

Cancellara is the obvious person to try. He has a big body, tons of raw power, and can extend his devastating chrono form out to pretty good distances. Sure, he rides his time trials on aero setups, but Cancellara's ability to dig deep is truly what separates him, so this same incredible will should get him through an hour of killing his road bike. The other contender is Lance Armstrong, not because he looks like he was about to destroy any records in 2009, but because a) he sounds like he's interested, and b) he's not the kind of guy you would put it past. If Armstrong gets his power to his top-top-end, I wouldn't bet heavily against him pulling it off.