Q & A: World Hour Record holder Rohan Dennis

BMC rider will 'probably' make another attempt later in his career

On February 8, Australian Rohan Dennis set a new and existing world hour record of 52.491km at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland. In the high altitude of Aguascalientes in Mexico on Wednesday night (local), Dutchman Thomas Dekker will attempt to break Dennis' mark. Whatever happens, Dennis will forever be known as a world hour record holder, but as he told Rupert Guinness while Dekker prepared for his attempt, the BMC rider has not ruled out another attempt later in his career.

Rupert Guinness: It's been 17 days since your world hour record ride. Have you been able absorb the feat and its significance?
Rohan Dennis: I've not had a whole lot of time to absorb it and reflect on it too much, to be honest. I tried to not think about cycling for about three days after (when) I got some time off. Now I am ready to set my goals for my next races which are Paris-Nice [March 8-15], maybe Waregem and the [Tour of] Pays Basque, Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse … back to my normal job. My feeling I have taken from the hour record [is] why didn't I go quicker? I know I can go quicker. I want to go quicker, but I'm not in any hurry to do it any time soon to be completely honest.

RG: How did you recover from your ride - from that night to the days after?
RD: Physically not too bad. I have felt worse. It was probably more just sitting on the saddle afterwards was probably the biggest challenge. I took three days off after … I tried to think anything but cycling and be as normal as possible, but it took about a week for saddle issues to disappear and go back to normal saddle issues. I feel like I have gone to another level … physically a little, but mentally too. I know I have been in worse pain – or more pain - than what I have put myself through in training [since].

RG: After your ride, you dismounted and held up your bike. Jack Bobridge had to be helped off in agony after his failed attempt in Melbourne a week earlier ...
RD: Obviously I felt sore but it quite surprising what you can do when you know you have achieved a goal. You have finished, got your breath back which amazingly only takes a short amount of time and then you get that energy to celebrate … which I did. But a week before when Jack did his attempt, it's amazing how much it hits you when you don't break a record and put so much in to it. You are absolutely fried physically and then your [mental] state takes a massive hit as well. I think that played a part in the difference between him and me after … from what it looked like anyway.

RG: Did seeing Jack's state after his attempt give you any second doubts?
RD: It did initially … when I heard that bit of advice to anyone who does it and he said, 'Just don't do it.' It hit me for a good 10 or so seconds until I thought, 'Hang on a minute. The way he rode it wasn't perfect … he went into the red way too soon.' So that's why he would suggest that … and if I did exactly the same sort of thing pacing-wise as what he did, I would be somewhat scarred from that. That really made me concentrate on my schedule and not try to win it in the first 10, 15 or even 30 minutes.

RG: From January to February when you also raced on the road, a theme to your rides was timing – it cost you in the national time trial, and in the Tour Down Under it paid off with your stage three win to Paracombe and when you went with Richie Porte in stage five up Willunga Hill, and in the hour record …
RD: Pacing wise at the national TT I probably went out a bit harder. And you could say I did in the hour record – I haven't perfected it yet, and that's why I said I know I can go faster. I'm not looking at doing it any time soon. There is no such thing as a perfect ride. You can always fix something. I did learn a lot from nationals and leading into the Tour Down Under that snowballed… with confidence … for the hour record. I knew I was putting out better power than in January [2013] but you can't take into account what I did [that] year because I didn't do a long [time trial] – I crashed out at the nationals – to see where my form was in relation to this year.

RG: Can you describe some of the challenging moments in your hour ride?
RD: Between 25-30 minutes I was thinking, 'God, this is crap. What am I doing?' I had that in the half hour test I did about four days before – about 15 minutes in I was like, 'I know I am good, why am I bothering doing this in training? I know I can hold this race pace, I just need to do it on race day.' I was thinking the same thing on race day, but I knew I had to keep going. It was almost half-way, but I was going to be in the unknown, so it was more of a mental battle leading into that half hour. The physical thing kicked in at around 40 minutes. I thought, 'that pinches a bit' and then my mind started to waver. I started thinking about things outside of what I was doing … the smell of the sausages and the coffee and [how] I'd love a drink of water. [With] 15 minutes [to go] I was thinking, 'if I get through seven minutes that's almost half of what I have left to do. Then with seven minutes to go I was absolutely fried. I knew I had it, but it was a matter of getting to the finish at the hour with the best speed possible.

RG: When you began to feel the strain physically where and how did you feel it?
RD: In my thighs and hamstrings. I did feel a slight grab in my [left] hamstring. It caught me by surprise a little … it only grabbled once and it didn't do it again. But then my thighs got heavier and heavier. I had the exact same feeling I would get in an individual pursuit where the pedals felt like they were going around quicker than my feet and pushing my feet. I almost felt it might be better to unclip [laughing] and let the bike do its own job. That was the point where it was getting really hard.

RG: You kept your hour record data private. Were your numbers as forecast?
RD: With my coach Neal [Henderson], I started talking to him about power and what he thinks I will have to hold or average for that hour. He was saying a number and somehow he nailed it on the head to [almost] exactly that number on race day. I don't know how he did it but I think he was 0.8 off … nine metres short of what he predicted. You could say it was bang on the perfect ride, but my power in the last 10km dropped off … with 15 it started to drop off with 10 it was quite significant.

RG: Can you clarify why you want to keep your data private?
RD: If no one else was ever going to try it I would happily let it out, but the less information people have the harder it is for them to mimic. It's like Apple with their phone that they have a patent on … it is their product. You can't copy it. Obviously you can go and buy it – or you can go and watch my race – but you are not allowed to get the data of my race. That's how I look at it. It's my property and I don't want anyone to try and get a leg up and basically me do the job for them to beat me.

RG: That data might be a good resource to draw on for another attempt …
RD: It's my first hour of continuous pedalling so I know I can do that for an hour. Seeing [the power output] was higher than what I did for the road nationals [time trial] shows I have made improvement. We might look at my race preparation and whether we do it after a grand tour. I'm not going to do it again for a while ... probably later in my career - maybe after a grand tour when I'm more like a diesel.

RG: When Thomas Dekker makes his world hour record attempt in the high altitude of Aguascalientes in Mexico, will you be watching?
RD: I will be in Germany that day, looking at my position and if we can improve it. But I will be keeping an eye on how he is going. I hope he doesn't break it. It is an unknown with [the attempt] at altitude and whether that will benefit him or hinder him. With breathing in the first 10 or 20 minutes, he might be fine but it might really hit after that [and he] might come to an absolute crawl. It might be a tense 20, 30 or 40 minutes … if he is pushing the limit and looking like he is going to break it, I might switch it off [laughing]. He is an ex-teammate [at Garmin] and we got along really well. And he is without contract, so he has everything to gain this week.

Rupert Guinness is a sports writer for The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media) 

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