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Dowsett: Yes I would consider another attempt at the World Hour Record

Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation)
(Image credit: Alex Dowsett UCI Hour Record Attempt 2020 Team)

Following his unsuccessful World Hour Record attempt in early November, Alex Dowsett has said that he is open to the idea of trying once again to take on the challenge of beating Victor Campenaerts' 55.089-kilometre benchmark.

The Briton, who fell short by 534 metres in the Aguascalientes Velodrome in Mexico, held the record back in May 2015 before Bradley Wiggins beat it and held it for four years until Campenaerts' 2019 ride.

Speaking at Israel Start-Up Nation's post-season camp in Tel Aviv, Dowsett said that he would attempt the record again in the future, providing that it is organised by his trade team. The latest attempt was sponsored by Israel Start-Up Nation but was more of an independent venture, with Dowsett and his partner, Chanel, putting everything together for the attempt, which aimed to raise money for haemophilia. 

"I think, yes, I would [go for it again]," Dowsett told Cyclingnews. "Even though it was two laps, it was also so close. We know the air pressure that day was the only variable that didn't swing in our favour. If it had been a good Aguascalientes day, then I could've been closer. That's luck of the draw.

"I remember last year I entered it with the UCI, I initially said I'd like to do an hour record between this date and this date – I gave them a week. They came back and said, 'you have to pick a day'. I said 'well, I'd like to notify you of seven Hour Record attempts, of which I'm going to cancel six' and they said 'you can't do that, mate' so it was what it was.

"We – Chanel and I – would not want to organise for me because it was a huge undertaking, far bigger than we had anticipated. We powered through it, and I couldn't have done it without Chanel and others who chipped in, whether we paid them or if they did it through the goodness of their hearts. So, it would have to be a more traditional trade team attempt."

Dowsett, who was with Movistar when he set a record in 2015, added that an attempt with his current team could be possible, maybe even in Israel. Team co-owner Sylvan Adams was a major funder of the eponymous velodrome in Tel Aviv, which the team visited during the camp.

"Obviously, we did it with Movistar and it's not outside the realms of possibility to do it here on the basis that Sylvan owns his own velodrome," said Dowsett. "We've looked at the conditions here and we visited the track.

"From what I can see it looks super smooth, a lot of banking, nice transitions from banking to straight, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be fast to ride. There are plans for a few walls to go in, so it could be a possibility here, but we'll have to do some testing."

Dowsett – who in 2022 will ride his third season with ISN after joining from the folded Katusha squad – also outlined his perfect scenario for leading into an Hour Record attempt, which would differ somewhat in comparison to his preparation this year. As well as trade team backing, more track time and, preferably, a Grand Tour in the legs would be key, he said.

"The one thing I lacked in the build-up was track time, but we kind of relied on the fact that every time I've done the track since the Hour Record, I've slotted in and got back on pace very quickly and easily, so we felt that just gritty training and adaptation to altitude was more important. And off the back of a few stage races as well was important.

"I think the dream scenario is 10 days to two weeks after a Grand Tour, providing you've done a bucket load of track prior to the Grand Tour. That would be a good way of attacking it. But it's a risk thing of getting sick or injured or crashing at the race."

Reflecting on his November attempt, which has raised over £50,000 for The Haemophilia Society, Dowsett noted the brutality of the ride, which left him in a physical state that no road race or time trial has during his 11 years as a pro.

"It wasn't like the 2015 attempt at all," he said. 

"It's amazing how such a small increase in speed can be so significant in terms of difference. It's just completely different to anything else. You don't realise how much rest you get in a time trial until you do an Hour Record of sustained effort on the track.

"I've never been in ... a time trial or a road race where I've been in that state, maybe once, but that was the most buckled I've felt immediately after any kind of effort.

"If you're up on pace you ease off the pedals slightly into a banking or a straight, but you don't get the kind of recovery as you would if you freewheeled in a time trial for a second or two. It's quite a remarkable event in that respect, and you can see why the Hour Record is feared and perhaps avoided."

'Anyone in the top 10 of the Olympics or Worlds can give it a good crack'

Italys Filippo Ganna celebrates after winning gold and setting a new World Record in the mens track cycling team pursuit finals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Izu Velodrome in Izu Japan on August 4 2021 Photo by Odd ANDERSEN AFP Photo by ODD ANDERSENAFP via Getty Images

Filippo Ganna, pictured here at the Tokyo Olympics, has expressed interest in an Hour Record attempt (Image credit: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Interest in the Hour Record has tended to come in bursts since the UCI's rule change back in 2014. First there was the flurry of attempts and records set between Jen Voigt's initial 51.110-kilometres in September 2014, and Wiggins' ride eight months later.

Over the following years came a series of lesser-fêted challengers before Campenaerts' record-breaking ride two years ago, and then, this autumn, Dowsett's attempt, which came in close proximity with Dan Bigham's British record and Joscelin Lowden taking the women's record.

In October, Filippo Ganna, the Italian star of track and time trialling, said he is considering an attempt on the record following a post-Giro d'Italia 30-minute test in which he rode an average of 57.5 kilometres.

When asked his opinion of who could possibly take on the Hour Record in the near future, Dowsett said that the field would be quite wide in theory, before noting that it's one thing to consider an attempt, and quite another to actually undertake it.

"The second half of the hour is where it all falls apart. I think I remember Ganna saying he was pretty done for at the end of the first half, but he is the obvious candidate," Dowsett suggested. 

"Stefan Bissegger shouldn't be ignored at all – track pedigree, great aero, and a great time trialist. Anyone in the top 10 of the Olympics or Worlds [time trials] can give it a good crack.

"That's one of the things I was ready for with 'who's next?' It's a question that journalists love to speculate about and ask bike riders. I remember when I was younger everyone was talking about if Cancellara would do his record attempt, and he never did it. Tony Martin would be asked about it a lot and he toyed with the idea of saying yes, but it never happened. There's a lot of guys who could do it but then there's a big difference between that and actually doing it."

Dowsett added that any rider hoping to attempt the record would need to have trade team backing, rather than attempting to replicate what he and his independent structure did earlier this year. He said the time and monetary restraints of preparing and planning the attempt would only add to the difficulties, otherwise.

"Knowing what I know now, your team has got to be committed to it because it's a big expense for a team and a big commitment. Or if you're going to do it as we did it, you've got to have a thick skin, a phenomenal small team behind you and good sponsors, like I had. 

"ISN were a sponsor of the attempt, they supported it. But it was something we undertook ourselves. It's a very long way from going to a track and riding around it for an hour. That's a big blocker.

"It's a tough one – I sat there in the days leading up to it and looking at the budget thinking 'we're 20 or 30 thousand short on budget' and we'd have to find sponsors and then it would happen again and I'd have to find more sponsors."

The accessibility of attempting to break the record is something Dowsett has clearly thought hard about, and it's a factor that he is still admittedly unsure about. On one hand, the cost can exclude some real challengers from taking it on – Dan Bigham being the prime example – while it's also true that taking on a prestigious cycling challenge such as the Hour Record has to have some barrier to entry.

"Something like this shouldn't be this difficult and inaccessible but then the record has such prestige and history that it should be difficult – you can't just go and enter a Formula 1 race because you feel like it should be accessible," Dowsett said.

"Then there's the dilemma that cropped up with Dan Bigham's attempt that he's not in the registered testing pool and that comes down to a matter of finances. It's a shame he wasn't on the list because everyone's like 'we trust Dan completely'. But the registered testing pool has to be in place and anti-doping is hugely expensive and vitally important, so you can't just roll it out to anyone that wants to throw their hat in the ring.

"Post-Hour Record, I was very on the fence about how accessible or inaccessible it should be, and I am still on the fence about it. But I'm lucky enough to have held it, shown how far I can go, clocked a distance that I'm pretty proud of. It's not the record – some nights I go to bed and think 'it would be nice to be the World Hour Record holder right' and some nights I think 'shit, I did 54.5km for an hour and edged out Wiggins who is one of best riders of this decade and clocked something that I'm proud of'." 

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Daniel Ostanek

Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news and features, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content throughout the season.


Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Strade Bianche and the Vuelta a España.