Lotto Soudal's Victor Campenaerts set a new UCI Hour Record at the Aguascalientes Bicentenary Velodrome in Mexico on Tuesday, covering just over 55km over the course of the hour.
The Hour Record set by Bradley Wiggins has stood since his 2015 ride at the Lee Valley Velo Park in London. The Olympic gold medalist set a distance of 54.526km, well below the 55km mark he hoped to achieve due to unfavourable atmospheric pressure.
"I'm super happy. I'm now on a list with some of the greatest cyclists in history. I really focused on this for a long time, and I'm really happy that I took the record, and happy that I could break the magic 55km," Campenaerts said.
Campenaerts started off his race steadily, covering the first 4km at a 53.6kph before beginning to pick up the pace, having recovered from the standing start. At 8km, his pace was up to 54.5kph, and at 12km up to 54.8. Campenaerts continued to build his pace in the first quarter of an hour, covering 13.75km - on pace for 55km if he could remain steady.
After the equivalent of four consecutive individual pursuits (16km) the Belgian's pace was nudging over the 55kph average after a few quick laps, but signs of struggle began to show - a drift above the sprinter's line here, a lap time of 16.4 seconds there - but for the most part his form and pace was rock solid.
At the halfway point, the 27-year-old dialled his effort back into the sweet spot, ticking off even 16.3-second laps, and covering 27.75km in just over 30 minutes, and on track to breaking the record.
Then, Campenaerts, still with some gas in the tank, began to pick up his pace, nudging over the 55.1kph pace and went under 16.2 seconds per lap for 2km before deciding to adjust his pace upwards and settling back in for a more sustainable pace for the remainder of the hour.
By the 45-minute mark, Campenaerts had covered 41.25km and was still averaging 55.11kph, but the pain was beginning to bite and his lap times drifted out to 16.4 seconds - but he'd done more than enough to ensure the record at that pace.
"It was really hard, especially because I was a bit optimistic in the first 30 minutes. You have to be optimistic, but, after half an hour, it was really important to set a new pace a little bit slower. I think I did great. I slowed down a little bit, but I think that at almost every part of the race I was a little bit faster than Wiggins," Campenaerts said.
"I worked really hard and really long for this. The team supported me and gave me 100 per cent confidence, and I think it's important to give a good response to this confidence."
Campenarts became the 18th rider to try to set a new Hour Record since the UCI modified its rules in 2014 to allow for the use of a standard, aerodynamic pursuit bike. Wiggins' mark withstood 10 earlier attempts: three by Martin Toft Madsen, two by his fellow Dane Mikkel Bjerg, and one each by American Tom Zirbel, Swiss riders Micah Gross and Marc Dubois, Polish rider Wojciech Ziolkowski and Dutchman Dion Beukeboom.
Zirbel, Toft Madsen and Beukboom each made attemps in Aguascalientes, with Toft Madsen's 53.63km coming the closest to Wiggins' mark before Bjerg went 100m further in Odense, Denmark, in October, 2018.
The choice of venue for attempting a feat of this level of difficulty must strike a fine balance between atmospheric conditions, track speed, and available oxygen for a top aerobic performance. The Aguascalientes velodrome is at an altitude of 1,800m, and while the reduced air pressure makes it one of the fastest tracks in the world, performing in the lower oxygen conditions takes specific adaptation.
Campenaerts slept in an altitude tent in Belgium and Mexico to simulate an altitude of 3,000m in order to prepare his body for the effort.
UCI Men's Hour Record Progression
Jens Voigt (Germany) - 51.11
Matthias Brändle (Austria) - 51.852
Rohan Dennis (Australia) - 52.491
Alex Dowsett (Great Britain) - 52.937
Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) - 54.526
Victor Campenaerts (Belgium) - 55.089