At just 20 years old, Mikkel Bjerg is a two-time U23 time trial world champion and third in line on the UCI Hour Record list behind current record holder Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) and 2012 Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins. It’s no surprise, then, that the big Danish rider isn’t intimidated by Campenaerts' new UCI Hour Record, which Bjerg will try to break later this year after he goes for his third U23 time trial title.
“I really respect his attempt and his record, but it’s not anything that frightens me,” Bjerg told Cyclingnews last week at the Amgen Tour of California, where he was competing with his Hagens Berman Axeon team and took home the blue Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous jersey for his efforts during the Queen stage to Mt. Baldy.
Campenaerts covered 55.089km on April 16 at altitude in Aguascalientes, Mexico, beating the previous record of 54.526km set by Wiggins in June of 2015 in London’s Lee Valley Velodrome. Bjerg had been planning his attempt before Campenaerts set the new record, but he said the new mark doesn’t really change much for him.
“It doesn’t necessarily give me more motivation, but I need to up my game a little bit,” he said. “I need to focus on what’s really important and just focus on getting the best distance possible. I thought he would go maybe a bit longer because numbers at altitude vary a bit from rider to rider, so I thought maybe he would go even further in altitude.”
Bjerg made his first attempt on the record at his home velodrome in Odense, Denmark, in 2015, riding 52.311km on a hastily set up track bike in a location that sits at just 10 metres above sea level. His second attempt in October of last year, also in Odense, netted 53.730km and slotted him into second on the list behind Wiggins, a remarkable accomplishment for such a young rider. He said his next attempt will also come at sea level.
“I think [making the attempt at altitude] would benefit me quite a bit, but budget-wise on this team this year it looks like it’s gonna be a sea level attempt again, and we’ll see how much I progressed from last year,” he said, adding that he hopes to increase his attempt this year by 500 to 800 metres.
“I think that’s possible for sure, but then I still need 400 metres to beat Campenaerts, and I think maybe that’s something that maybe it’s possible to take the last 500 metres and gain that in altitude or maybe just over the next coming years.”
The attempt will take place after the world championships this September in Yorkshire.
“To get the best shape for world championships, I have to focus on that, and then the hour record is a bit secondary,” Bjerg said.
Bjerg will have the memory of his past two attempts to hold him over until them, including the “absolutely terrible” final 15 minutes.
“In my last two attempts, it was like the first 30 minutes for me was not easy, but it was more easy, and then obviously as the record progresses you get more and more tired and the fatigue starts to set in,” he said.
“So the last 15 minutes are absolutely terrible, but I think as long as you’re up there and close to beating your personal goal, or even if it’s the world record, then that makes you give that last push. But I can imagine if you’re short of 100 metres with 15 minutes to go, then you’re like, ‘Oh, this is really, really bad.’”