Dan Bigham set a new UCI Hour Record of 55.548km on the velodrome in Grenchen on Friday, beating Victor Campenaerts’ previous mark by 459 metres.
Bigham was already the British record holder after he covered 54.723km in Grenchen last October, but he was unable to target the outright Hour Record at that point as he was not part of the UCI biological passport testing pool.
Bigham posted a negative split on Friday, even if he edged ahead of Campenaerts’ record pace a little sooner than he had perhaps anticipated. The 30-year-old was undaunted, however, winding his speed up to clock repeated 16-second laps after the half-hour mark.
“I had five-minute splits, and I knew I had to be a certain amount of time down and then ahead of the record, but I was actually a little bit ahead pretty much across the entire board,” Bigham said. “After that you start to do the maths of what you need to do to break the record. Every lap is half a second in your back pocket and that gives you confidence.”
Campenaerts’ previous record of 55.089km was established at altitude in Aguascalientes, Mexico in April 2019. Bigham’s compatriot Alex Dowsett was the most recent rider to tackle the Hour Record but his attempt in Aguascalientes last November fell 500 metres short.
Speaking to Cyclingnews this week, Campenaerts had tipped Bigham to beat his mark and the Belgian’s assessment was sound. Once Bigham moved ahead of his pace at the Tissot Velodrome on Friday, he never looked like faltering.
“I guess you’ve never got it until you’ve ridden the laps, which is kind of scary: you’re on pace but you still have to cover the distance,” Bigham said. “I had a bit of a wobbly in my head just after halfway, thinking, ‘How am I going to ride 16.0-second laps for the next half hour? That’s nuts.’ But it just never bit. I felt in control, and I just kept doing it.”
Bigham passed Campenaerts’ mark with a little over half a minute to spare and he pressed on to push the UCI Hour Record out to 55.548km. “It was really, really enjoyable,” he said. “In my head I wanted 55.5km, so to out another 48 metres onto it, I’m pretty happy with that.”
Indeed, Bigham covered more distance than all bar one of the attempts that were expunged when the UCI first reset the rules on equipment for the Hour Record in 1997. Bigham surpassed Tony Rominger 1995 record of 55.291km, though Chris Boardman’s 1996 mark of 56.375km – covered on the outlawed ‘Superman’ position – remains untouchable.
The UCI’s decision to tweak the rules on equipment still further in 2014 triggered a new wave of record attempts, with Jens Voigt, Matthias Brändle, Rohan Dennis, Dowsett, Bradley Wiggins and Campenaerts all establishing new benchmarks before Bigham’s effort on Friday.
Bigham had his first, informal crack at the Hour as a student at Oxford Brookes University in 2015, covering just short of 47km at Reading’s Palmer Park Stadium, and he broke Wiggins’ British record last year shortly after lining for Great Britain in the World Championships time trial.
On Friday, Bigham paid tribute to the support Ineos Grenadiers had provided in the build-up to this latest attempt. Ineos rider Filippo Ganna had been touted to attempt the Hour Record this summer, but the world time trial champion has postponed his effort until later in the year or perhaps next season.
“I got an ungodly amount of support from Ineos and I think that’s what’s been the step change,” Bigham said. “It’s not just the equipment and the people who’ll hear me talk about CDA all day, but it’s all the execution, all the physiology, all the thermal interventions, nutrition – all that kind of stuff, they just absolutely stepped it up.
“The support I’ve had around me is second to none. It’s just made life a lot easier, just having to come here and perform. Even this week, I’ve not had to worry about my bike, mechanics, timing, the livestream, nothing. I didn’t even have to cook dinner, and I didn’t even have to put my stuff in the dishwasher. It’s everything you’d expect from this level of team, it’s been second to none.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.