I don’t know how many Redmonites watch the GCN cycling show on the internet, or are inspired by some of their exploits. I certainly am. And if you don’t watch the show, I do encourage you to look. It’s better than what’s on FreeView.
The Global Cycling Network is a specialist YouTube cycling channel presented by some great and well known cyclists. Their latest project was an attempt at Eddy Merckx’s hour record using modern methods by the cycling journalist Oliver Bridgewood which took place on Monday 17th February.
Eddie and I were keen to see it, and were up early on the day to drive to Newport to watch the spectacle.
In 1972 the great cyclist Eddy Merkx went to ride the track in Mexico City to see how far he could go in one hour. He used a very light custom built Colnago bike, that would not be UCI legal today, and wore wool cycling kit with a leather helmet. He was very successful, in shattering the previous record with a staggering 49.431km.
Oliver wanted to see how far a mere mortal and an ‘everyday’ amateur cyclist could achieve using the latest technology, equipment and training techniques. His carbon BMC track bike was equipped with two disc wheels, custom made Aerocoach aerobars and a riding position refined in the wind tunnel. His kit comprised a special custom fit skin suit made with Noprinz proprietary aero fabric also developed in the wind tunnel along with a Bell aero helmet.
Ollie’s training was something else; and followed on Strava by many enthusiastic cyclists. He was coached by two of the ‘Sufferfest’ experts, one of whom has coached two previous attempts at this record: Evelyn Stevens and Rohan Dennis. I can only describe his workouts as brutal, although possibly Eddie might disagree with me!
The question was: could the expertise of today’s sports science with power optimised workouts, yoga, mental toughness training, and modern technology help Oliver match (or beat) Merckx’s record?
When we arrived, the car park was flooded thanks to Storm Dennis, and we had to wade into the velodrome! Not a great start – his mental toughness training would be put to good use. The excitement mounted as he warmed up and the time to the start approached.
Then at 10:00am he was off with the first tough lap on his high gearing, which I think was around 107”. Once going he seemed to be maintaining steady laps of just over 18 second. There was a great crowd of supporters to cheer him on, and cheer and shout they did.
The target was 200 laps or thereabouts, and at ½ an hour he was a little short, but the plan was to start slowly and build up towards the end. As he got closer to the end, you could see the pain in his face, but impressively he held the same smooth aerodynamic position and steady pace for the whole hour. And for someone with only a little track experience he held the line pretty well. I certainly couldn’t have done it.
With a few minutes to go at around 180 laps, the volume of the cheering and shouting in the velodrome became deafening – just like watching the 2012 Olympic time trial event. Quite an experience for Eddie and me too, which you don’t often have the opportunity to witness.
And then it was over… I’ll bet Ollie was glad – I can’t begin to imagine the pain. He managed just over 190 laps, with a result of 47.593km, quite an effort, and an amazing distance. To put it in perspective he was just over one mile short of the ‘greatest cyclist’s’ distance and mind bogglingly only 400m short of the current women’s World record!
Well done to Ollie!
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