World Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts has reacted to Alex Dowsett's upcoming attempt to break his record of 55.089 kilometres, giving the Briton a 50 per cent chance of beating the distance he set in April 2019.
Dowsett will take on the challenge in Manchester on December 12, having previously held the record at 52.937 kilometres in 2015. Campenaerts, who set the current record at altitude in Mexico, said that Dowsett has a big task on his hands, adding that he'd plan another attempt if he loses the record next month.
"I'm especially happy that my record is finally being attacked. If he pulverizes my record it will be a bit painful but frankly, I don't believe it. Alex is facing a tough challenge – it would be sad for me if he wasn't," the Belgian told Het Nieuwsblad.
"We had already talked about it at the Giro. I like Alex but I'm not allowed to give too many tips; he's a rival who can take away my biggest achievement as a rider. If he takes my record, then I'll plan another attack in the near future."
The effects of altitude – or rather the lack of it in Manchester, a full 1,850 metres lower than Aguascalientes Velodrome where Campenaerts set the record – will have a big effect on Dowsett's ride, said the Belgian.
Dowsett had ruled out a high-altitude attempt in Mexico or South America due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. In Manchester, he won't suffer any adverse effects such as lack of oxygen from the high-altitude, but he also won't benefit from the lower air resistance.
"Alex spends half the year at altitude in Andorra and he doesn't like that very much," said Campenaerts. "That doesn't mean an altitude camp doesn't work for him – the performance gain after is just as good. It just makes him less suitable to perform at altitude himself and that's exactly what you have to do during a record attempt in Mexico.
"Air pressure makes or breaks an attempt. I'm not a climatologist but in Mexico the air pressure is almost constant every day. In Belgium or the UK, it fluctuates day to day. If he has bad luck on December 12 the attempt will be impossible, I'm afraid."
While the lower altitude comes with both advantages and disadvantages, one factor Dowsett has in his favour is the freedom to choose his own materials – a unique benefit among professional riders. He used a Factor bike in recent wind tunnel photographs he released alongside his announcement but that could change according to Campenaerts.
"When I last spoke to Alex at the Giro, he was still expecting to stay at Israel Start-Up Nation and that the team gives him complete freedom to use the materials of his choice. That's a big advantage and especially important when choosing a bike.
"Brands like Dolan or Koga-Miyata do specialist bikes but perhaps he will end up with BH.T, the British Federation's track bike. I know Alex doesn't have all of his equipment at the moment but as soon as he has everything in place, he'll go to Manchester to train on-site."
Dowsett will need to improve by 2.153 kilometres in order to take back the title. That's an equivalent of 50 watts, Campenaerts suggested. He matched the Belgian's pace over the final five kilometres of his effort but will now face the daunting task of doing the same for 10 times as long.
"I know he has been at my pace for half an hour. For that he'll have to push 50 more watts than his first attempt. That is a huge amount," warned Campenaerts.
"I'm sure he can do better than the 358 watts he averaged, but as a critical voice he didn't go any faster than me when he accelerated in his final five kilometres. Now he has to hold that pace for the previous 55 minutes."
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