The UCI has announced changes to the rules governing the Hour Record, with several big-name riders now expected to target cycling's most prestigious record now that modern endurance track bikes fitted with aero bars can be used.
The UCI killed off interest in the Hour Record in 2000 when they ruled that any attempts had to be done using a tradition bike, much like the one used by Eddy Merckx in 1972. That stifled innovation and cancelled records set by Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman, who set the record using the Superman aerodynamic position.
Under the new rules, anyone attempting the Hour Record will have to use a bike that complies with rules for endurance competition on the track. This means that aero bars, disc wheels and aero helmets will be allowed.
The UCI had back dated its record books, ruling that Eddy Merckx's record of 49.431km in 1972 and Cornelia Van Oosten-Hage women's record of 43.083km set in 1978, are legal Hour Records. All records established since then with non-conforming bikes, including the records of Chris Boardman (56.375km) and Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (48.159km) in 1996, receive the new name of “Best hour performance”.
Under the new rules, the Hour Records to beat are those established by Ondrej Sosenka (49.700km) for men and by Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (46.065km) for women. These two athletes beat the Hour record using equipment which is still within the regulations currently applicable to track endurance events.
"This new rule is part of the modernisation of the UCI Equipment Regulation," UCI President Brian Cookson said in the press release announcing the changes.
"Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent. This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the Hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”
Guercilena stays quiet on Cancellara's Hour Record attempt
The new Hour Record rules are expected to spark a lot of interest from some of the sport's biggest stars, possibly as early as this summer.
Fabian Cancellara and his Trek Factory Racing team has already done a lot of research and preparation work but put their plans on hold after the UCI announced it was reviewing the rules. Cyclingnews spoke to Trek Factory Racing team manager Luca Guercilena at the Giro d'Italia but he refused to comment if Cancellara will now attack the Hour Record, possibly as soon as after the Tour de France.
Any record attempts are likely to be made at altitude with the new covered velodrome in Aguascalientes, Mexico the track of choice after several track records were smashed during recent World Cup events.
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) could also attempt to set a new Hour Record now that endurance bikes, likes those used in pursuit events, can be used.