Rohan Dennis (BMC) lived up to expectations and moved this iteration of the Hour Record to fresh territory when he established a new mark of 52.491 kilometres at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen on Sunday.
Turning a gear of 56x14, it was quickly apparent that, barring mishap, Dennis would comfortably overhaul Matthias Brändle's record of 51.85 kilometres established last Autumn. The Australian was decisively ahead of Brändle's pace within the first kilometre and he endured no scares over the course of the hour as he bettered his mark by over 600 metres.
"I'm pretty tired but really proud," said Dennis, who has begun the season on something of a high after winning the Tour Down Under last month. "BMC made it easy. The whole week leading into this since the Tour Down Under was really stress-less, it was perfect. It nearly felt too easy but of course it wasn't. It was just that they made it absolutely perfect."
The predicament Dennis faced in drawing up his pacing strategy beforehand was not a common one. Historically, riders have tackled the Hour Record by basing their schedule firmly on that of the holder, but with a spate of riders set to take to the boards following the UCI's change in regulations last year, Dennis was looking to better Brändle’s mark and tack on some significant change.
In essence, Dennis was not so much chasing Brändle's 'ghost' around the velodrome as trying to establish a mark that might prove beyond Bradley Wiggins when he takes to the boards this summer. That said, Dennis will have drawn lessons, too, from his compatriot Jack Bobridge's failed attempt last weekend, when he set off aiming to break 53 kilometres and ultimately fell short of Brändle's mark.
Dennis, however, looked very smooth indeed through the opening half of his effort. He set off to the strains of the Black Eyes Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and there were early auguries that he was going to outstrip Brändle by some considerable distance.
After 20 minutes, he was on course for 52.6 kilometres and Dennis' pace rose to 52.7kph by the halfway mark. By the time he reached the 40-minute mark, Dennis has upped the ante once again and was now on track for 52.8 kilometres, and his effort appeared to be a masterpiece of pacing strategy.
For a dizzying few laps, it seemed as though Dennis might even edge closer to the 53-kilometre barrier but crossing the three-quarters mark of an Hour Record attempt has the feel of breaking the 20-mile wall in a marathon. The best laid of plans can come undone in a matter of laps and for the first time, Dennis showed some visible signs of strain as he came off the crown of the bends.
His pace dropped slightly but the Hour Record was never in doubt – nor indeed, was it ever in doubt that he would easily surpass the 52-kilometre mark. The only question was by how much.
"We had a couple of different options in terms of pacing and he was bang on. There was potential to go a little faster which he clearly did," Dennis' coach Neal Henderson said. "We had goal of 52.4kph and one a little bit higher than that. We’re fantastically happy."
Dennis passed Brändle's 51.852 kilometres with almost a minute to spare and from there, it was simply a matter of how much he could add to the record. “There was a lot of pain. I couldn't really enjoy it too much to be honest," Dennis said of the moment he set the new mark. "I knew I needed to get 208 laps and once I went past it, I knew I had about two, two and a half laps still to go."
The clock hit sixty minutes just as Dennis was completing his 210th lap of the Siberian pine track and the official measurement for his new record is 52.491 kilometres.
In comparison to the "old" hour record – that is, the distances achieved on aerodynamic bars between 1972 and the 1990s that were expunged by the UCI at the turn of the century – Dennis overhauled the mark of 52.270 kilometres established by Chris Boardman in Bordeaux in 1993.
That record came during a period of remarkable competition for the Hour Record, when Boardman, Graeme Obree, Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger all set new marks in the space of 15 months in 1993 and 1994.
2015 promises a similar spate of Hour Record activity, with Bradley Wiggins ready to try in June, and with Tony Martin also considering a tilt in the not so distant future. Only time will tell if Dennis' record endures but his place in the history books is assured.
"It's a great event and hopefully that record stands for a little while," he said.