The idea is simple. Take a cyclist and see how far he can cycle around a velodrome track in an hour. So how did such a simple thing become so complicated?
The hour record is one of the most prestigious things a professional cyclist can add to his palmarès, but until recently the record has not been what it once was. Before 2014 the last male cyclist to set a new distance was Chris Boardman in 1996. In fact, the 1990’s were the ‘heyday’ of the hour record seeing it swapped between various cyclists pushing the limits of what their bodies and bike technology could achieve.
It was the latter that would eventually lead to the downfall of the record when the sports governing body, the UCI, started its ‘work’ with the likes of Greame Obree and Chris Boardman and their less conventional methods.
In 1997 the UCI took the decision to remove a number of records from the official hour record and stipulated that any further attempts would have to conform to the same standards as Eddie Merckx’s in 1972, meaning the same track bike would have to be used. Previous hour records were moved to a new, less prestigious category called the ‘Human Effort Record’ that would allow attempts on more modern machines.
In this series Podia sits down with record holders and talks for 30 minutes about their thoughts on the past and the future of ‘The Hour’.
In Mexico City, 1984 Francesco Moser took the prestigious hour record from Eddie Merckx setting a distance of 51.151km. This was his second record in a week after the first break of Merckx’s distance with a 50.808 attempt.
I felt good that week, but the biggest reason I did the second attempt is that no Italians were watching the first attempt, it was only Mexican’s. It was this second record-breaking attempt, that got not only the Italian public interested in the record, but the whole cycling world. The second endeavour was screened live on TV and some argue this is the moment that cycling became a TV spectacle.
But this wasn’t the only thing Moser was changing about the hour record. He was also the first to use disk wheels on his bike as well as a system to lock his shoes to the pedals, without the use of straps and this was before the Look pedal system had been introduced. He also took the preparation very seriously; with a team behind him ensuring his preparation was correct.
We ask him if he was surprised how fresh Jens Voigt felt after his attempt, given that Eddie Merckx had complained it was the hardest thing he did and couldn’t walk after it. The problem is that Merckx didn’t do enough preparation at high altitude; he just went to Mexico and did it. No wonder he felt terrible. When I finished I felt great, so I am not surprised that Jens was also ok.
Francesco Moser takes great pride in his hour record even though it was essentially removed from the record books. Not only does he keep all his hour record bikes in the Moser museum at his vineyard, he also produces a Trentodoc (a sparkling wine) named after his Hour Record, ‘51,151’.We asked him how he felt about the UCI removing his record in that way.
It was frustrating, really frustrating. But, I know what I did and I think other people do as well. The UCI make a mess of everything and I can’t understand why they only reinstated Boardman and Obree’s records.
What about the future of the hour record and Jens Voigt’s recent attempt? I’m really happy that it is coming back in popularity, but Jens is not a specialist. Things will get really interesting this year when Wiggins, [Tony] Martin and maybe Cancellara make attempts. I hope we see some good rivalry for the record about to start, I am pretty sure those guys will be pushing 54km.
Since meeting with Francesco Moser, there have been a number of attempts at the hour record, some ending in success and some without. The current holder (at the time of publishing) is Rohan Dennis of Australia, who posted a 52.491 record in Switzerland.
Special thanks to Giorgio Gelmetti and his son for introducing us to Francesco Moser and making this visit possible.
Podia also spoke with Francesco about his Hour Record. We will soon publish this conversation in a new series called ‘The Hour in 30 Minutes’.
The Moser Family Winery and Museum in Trento, North Italy is open for visitors and wine tasting, see website for details.
Win – a Podia Tangerine Dream Bidon signed by Francesco Moser. Sign up to the mailing list on the right hand side before Friday 27th February and we will pick a winner at random.