Alex Dowsett has set a new UCI Hour Record at the Manchester Velodrome this Saturday with a distance of 52,937 kilometres, beating Rohan Dennis' previous record of 52.491. Dowsett looked like he still had more to give as he lifted his bike over his head after completing his hour.
"I want to say thank you. I've got a lot of thanks yous to make. It's not been easy since November when we started thinking about the Hour Record. I thought when the UCI changed the rules that I'd have a punt at that… suddenly I realised what I'd let myself in for. I just want to say thank you to the whole crowd because the last five minutes it was all you guys," Dowsett said in the track centre.
"The first 30 minutes I'm not going to lie were easy. Easier compared to what I expected. Every time I've got on the bike I've got faster. This is the first time I've done it with the higher temperature. I knew it was going to be easier early on but I wasn't expecting that. I just had to stay disciplined because the last 10 minutes were a little grippy."
Dowsett began just under the Hour Record pace, riding at a speed of 52.291kph at the end of the first 15 minutes. Knowing that going out too quickly could be fatal to his Hour Record hopes, he gradually built up his speed over the entire hour. Well acquainted with track racing, Dowsett looked at home on the boards and stuck religiously to the sprinters' black line, only making a brief deviation in the blue of the track centre.
After 30 kilometres, Dowsett was still over eight seconds behind Dennis' pace. However the tide began to turn after that as the Movistar rider's speed exceeded 52.6kphh with 20 minutes remaining. The pain didn't show for Dowsett as he neared the crucial final 10 minutes where many have seen the record slip through their fingers. Dowsett's pace was now at almost 52.8 as he began to take chunks out of Dennis' record.
"The coaches gave me a plan which I didn't like that much but deep down I knew that it was the right plan. I'm not very good at changing pace so we'd ride at an easy pace, which would put me behind Rohan for 45 minutes and I wasn't too keen on it," Dowsett explained. "At the halfway point I knew that I more left in the tank. I think I got a bit excited at halfway and posted a few quick times.
"A massive thank you to Steve Collins, we must have had about 30 or 40 hours of track time. He's been there for every single training session," he said before receiving a big hug from his coach.
A huge roar ripped through the velodrome when, with nine minutes of racing remaining, Dowsett rode under Dennis' Hour Record pace. The British rider didn't stop there and continued to wind up the pace, finally setting a distance of 52.937. Dowsett hinted afterwards that he may make another attempt, but only after June 7 when Bradley Wiggins makes his own attempt at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London.
Dowsett was originally set to attempt the record on February 27 of this year but in the build up to the event he crashed while training out on the road and suffered a broken collarbone. Surgery quickly followed and the Movistar rider was back in training within a matter of weeks before confirming a new May date for the event.
Dubbed the #perfecthour, the original announcement to attempt the record was made in December in London, and Dowsett was originally set to race on the London Olympic velodrome before latter changing venue to Manchester.
The build-up to the record attempt has been about Dowsett's charity work as much as athlete performance. The rider competes at the top level while also living with Haemophilia. Dowsett revealed that his motivation to attack the Hour Record came during an off-season trip to support the Miles for Haemophilia campaign. Dowsett races as a professional despite having Haemophilia.
"Things like the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics, the Tour de France and world championships hit home with the general public, but I truly had my eyes opened during my offseason this year when I travelled around Europe with the Miles for Haemophilia campaign," he said when announcing the record attempt in December.
"On these trips I saw my story was spreading hope: their boy or girl could in fact lead an ordinary life. So I thought: what more can I do to bring a positive outlook on the future to them, alongside my own personal career ambitions? Everyone understands a world record, so I wanted my next target to be the hour record," Dowsett said.
Video interview with Alex Dowsett in the build-up to his Hour Record ride.