Alex Dowsett falls short in UCI Hour Record attempt

Alex Dowsett put in a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to break the UCI Hour Record at the Aguascalientes Velodrome in Mexico on Wednesday. The British rider, who briefly held the record for 35 days in 2015, rode 54.555km over the hour but he never threatened Victor Campenaerts’ benchmark of 55.089km with the gap between them constantly growing during the second half of Dowett's effort.

Dowsett, who also used the attempt to raise money for charity, flew to Mexico earlier in the week to help acclimatise to the conditions, and he was confident of setting a new record in the days leading up to his ride. The 33-year-old started well and looked smooth in the opening laps but after 14km he found himself just over two seconds off record pace.

The British rider continued to turn a huge gear and he held Campenaerts’ record to within just a handful of second for the first half of his rider. However after 40 minutes on the track the gap began to stretch. At the 45km mark Dowsett found himself 18 seconds off the pace as he continued to slow and the six-time British time trial champion slowly began to unravel as he fought to maintain his line and speed.

At the 48km mark, with his coach and family shouting encouragement from the side of the track, Dowsett briefly lifted himself from his time trial position as he looked to ease the pain.

Dowsett didn’t throw in the towel, and he pushed all the way to the line.

“There were three targets coming into this. The first was to break the record. I came up short. I want to take the chance to say another well done to Victor and to Dan Bingham because there was a British and World record up for grabs today and I was a bit shy on both of them,” Dowsett said after his ride.

Dowsett surpassed Bradley Wiggins's 2015 mark of 54.526km but Bingham set a new British Hour Record in October, covering 54.723km.

“But today was still a success because the other two targets were to see how far I could go and 54.555km is as far as I can go," said Dowsett. "We chucked everything at this, both Chanel, my wife, and the small team around us. It’s been a lot of work to get here. It wouldn’t have been possible without Chanel, my coach Michael, my team, my family, and everyone who believed in me. I believed in me."

"That’s as far as I can go and I’m proud of that and the distance that I managed to cover today but the most important point today was the awareness that we’ve brought to haemophilia. The overriding message for young haemophiliacs, anyone with haemophilia, anyone with a rare condition, anyone who is facing any kind of adversities, just give it a shot because the biggest failure today would have been not being here. 

"With the last couple of months, we’ve had it would have been easier not to have been here. It’s been a huge journey just to get here, and the belief we’ve kept comes from the good that we know that we’re doing.”

Dowsett’s Just Giving page can be found here and is accepting donations for the Haemophilia Society.

The preparation

The Hour Record has enjoyed a resurgence since the UCI modified the rules to allow for standard track pursuit setups in 2014. Jens Voigt was the first to break Ondřej Sosenka's 2005 mark of 49.7km, covering 51.11km in Grenchen, Switzerland on September 18, 2014.

Since then, its been broken five more times - by Matthias Brändle on October 30, 2014 (51.852km), and Rohan Dennis on February 8, 2015 (52.491km). Dowsett broke Dennis' record on May 2, 2015 by riding 52.937km in Manchester, but opted to make this attempt at high altitude.

Bradley Wiggins then topped Dowsett, setting his record at sea level in London on June 7, 2015, covering 54.526km but said he was hampered by the atmospheric conditions.

Tom Zirbel, Martin Toft Madsen and Dion Beukeboom tried to break Wiggins' record at the Aguascalientes velodrome but failed. It wasn't until April 16, 2019 that Campenaerts was able to use the Mexican facility to top Wiggins, covering 55.089km.

Dowsett tried to duplicate and outstrip Campenaerts' effort at Aguascalientes velodrome in Mexico on Wednesday. The attempt was independent from his Israel Start-Up Nation pro team but he used the team's bike sponsor Factor, racing on the Hanzo time trial frame which has a unique 3D printed titanium rear triangle.

He paired the frame with HED Volos, Vittoria Pista Ora tyres (23mm front and rear) with an Aerocoach Aten 61T golden chainring that they claim saves 2.4 watts at 60kph. Other features included the Aerocoach Ascalon aerodynamic handlebars with shims to bring the angle to within UCI rules and a Simmons saddle.

“This is quite unique in that it’s not a stack system; the fork is the handlebar stack,” Dowsett said earlier this week. 

“It’s very stiff, it’s genius. It’s sort of a bayonet system, it took some time to get made accurately and it had to be super strong. It’s a little bit heavy, but weight really doesn’t matter on the track. In fact, we modelled weight gain, and worked out that adding 3-4kg, without compromising aerodynamics, would cost you one third of a watt. When you’re trying to hold 350, that really is something quite irrelevant.”

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