Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation) will attempt to set a new UCI Hour Record on December 12 in Manchester.
The British rider held the record after covering 52.937km in May 2015 but Bradley Wiggins and Victor Campenaerts have since set new records, with the Belgian setting the current marker at 55.089km in 2019.
Dowsett recently won a stage of the Giro d’Italia and is planning to use the form developed in Italy to help set a new marker. There are several reasons why the 32-year-old is attempting to reclaim the Hour Record he owned five years ago.
"The first is that I want to try and get the record because, although the bar has been set very high, it’s not outside the realms of possibility, although he [Campenaerts] has made life very difficult," Dowsett told Cyclingnews.
"Secondly, it’s a personal thing, because last time around we got the record but it was deeply frustrating because we realised that there was quite a lot left in the tank. To put all that work in and then deliver an 80 per cent ride was frustrating, so I want to see what I’m capable of."
Dowsett will be backed by his 2020 trade team, Israel Start-Up Nation, for the attempt, with Zwift and Muc-off supporting the event. Dowsett himself is a haemophiliac and is riding the Hour Record attempt for charity partners Little Bleeders and the Haemophilia Society.
"Lastly, it’s for the awareness of haemophilia. There’s going to be a strong presence and awareness for that on the day and I want to bring a message to help inspire the next generation of haemophiliacs to reverse the misconception that haemophilia can hold you back," Dowsett said.
The off-bike preparation work around the Hour Record attempt has been kept under wraps for months, with Dowsett and his wife planning a possible ride since the spring. With the road season over and space between now and the start of the next campaign, Dowsett believes that the winter provides the best timing to try and break Campenaerts’ record.
"When things started going south in March and April we knew that if there was one thing that we could do it was an Hour Record because you don’t need many people at the venue and it’s COVID friendly," he explained.
"This is something that I’ve wanted to do since the first one and we almost did it at Movistar again but they didn’t want to risk an unsuccessful attempt. At Katusha there were far bigger issues with the team struggling. Then it got to the point where I had to do this before it was too late in my career. With the Olympics being pushed to next year we decided to go for it. Now we’re here, five weeks out.
"I’m using the Giro because as well as being a fantastic race it’s also a phenomenal training block. I wanted to use that impetus and that form and put it into an Hour Record attempt."
How far can he go?
Dowett and his team contemplated several indoor tracks and even considered the velodrome attached to the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland, but he will return to Manchester and the scene where he broke the record five years ago.
"It’s quick. It’s one of the fastest tracks in Europe. We toyed with the idea of Aigle because it’s a 200m track and there is an element of picking up your own slipstream, so you’re effectively closer to yourself. There’s the obvious question over altitude but with travel, there’s a huge hurdle and it would almost be impossible."
The question Dowsett will face constantly between now and December 12 will be how far he thinks that he can push a possible new record beyond the 55.089km mark.
He has done enough testing to believe that a new record is feasible but the conditions on the day will be crucial. The equipment has yet to be finalized, although Dowsett has confirmed that a track-specific bike - and not a road conversion - will be used on the day. However, the question over distance will come down to conditions and Dowsett’s legs on the day.
"Atmospheric pressure on the day will be quite influential in terms of if we’ll break it or put a chunk onto it. As we get closer to the event we’ll run some proper tests at race pace and make sure we think everything is where it needs to be," Dowsett said.
"I’m doing less track prep this time around, and for the first 40 minutes we’ll stick to a schedule of trying break it by a small margin and then in the last 20 minutes I’ll decide if I want to stick to that or if I can move it on a little bit."
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