Dutch individual pursuit champion Dion Beukeboom has announced that he will attempt to break the UCI Hour Record next year in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The current mark of 54.526 kilometres was established by Bradley Wiggins in London in June 2015.
The 28-year-old Beukeboom rode for Continental outfit Destil-Jo Piels on the road this season, and won bronze medals on the track in the pursuit at the European Championships in 2015 and 2016. Although he acknowledged that he does not have the same pedigree as Wiggins, Beukeboom does not feel that the Briton's mark is unassailable.
"I do not have the illusion that I am a better cyclist than Wiggins. But I also know that Wiggins set his record in conditions that were not ideal," Beukeboom told Dutch newspaper AD.
Beukeboom's coach Jim van den Berg – who was part of Thomas Dekker's coaching team for his unsuccessful hour record attempt in Aguascalientes in 2015 – believes that the commercial aspects of Wiggins' televised hour record ultimately restricted the athletic performance of the 2012 Tour de France winner.
"Wiggins rode in London, on a track at sea level, with high air pressure," Van den Berg told AD. "It was a commercial party. Tickets were sold, a book about the hour record attempt was published, VIPs were invited to come and watch. However, the hour record was not as impressive as it could have been. There is a window of opportunity and we want to crawl through it."
Van den Berg believes Beukeboom can save between 25 and 45 watts by attempting the Hour Record on the track amid the lower air pressure of Aguascalientes, which lies almost 2000 metres above sea level.
"At that altitude, the gain of reduced air pressure is greater than the loss of reduced oxygen intake," Van den Berg explained.
No publicity stunt
Having fallen short in his bid to move up to Pro Continental or even WorldTour level on the road, Beukeboom has committed himself entirely to the pursuit of the Hour Record on the track, with Van den Berg insisting that the project is no mere publicity stunt.
"Over the past two years I have tried to secure a contract with a big team. That did not work. Mostly because I'm not good enough, maybe also because I'm too nice," Beukeboom said. "Sometimes you have to be a bastard as a cyclist - I do not have that quality."
Beukeboom's attack on the Hour Record is slated for August 2018, and the Dutchman's whole season will be built around his preparation for the attempt. He will ride for the Vlasman Cycling Team in 2018, and has pledged to post his training data online as he builds towards the attempt.
"In recent years, I've just missed out on the road and on the track," he said. "But if I'm honest, this is exactly what I'm good at: just an hour of hard work."
Interest in the Hour Record was renewed in 2014, when the UCI again allowed the use of time trial aero bikes after a gap of 17 years. Jens Voigt was the first to establish the new unified record in September 2014, before Matthias Brändle broke his mark a month later. Rohan Dennis and Alex Dowsett each set new records in 2015 before Wiggins established the current mark in June of that year.
The greatest distance ever recorded in an Hour Record attempt remains Chris Boardman's 56.375 kilometres in 1996, though the 'Superman' position and monocoque frame he used have since been outlawed, and the record was re-set to Eddy Merckx's 1972 mark in Mexico City.
Boardman proceeded to set a new official record of 49.441 kilometres in 2000, before Ondrej Sosenka set 49.700 kilometres in 2005, a record that stood until the rules were revised in 2014.