Bradley Wiggins set the new standard for the UCI Hour Record on Sunday, riding 54.526 kilometres on the Lee Valley Velodrome in London to beat the previous record of 52.937 set by Alex Dowsett in May.
Although Wiggins was unable to beat the record of Chris Boardman's 'Superman' effort from the mid-1990s, he established a distance that may well deter a number of potential rivals in the near future.
With conditions far from ideal – the air pressure was far higher than expected – Wiggins still managed to execute a strategy based around discipline as much as aerodynamics and pure speed.
"I'm glad it's done," he said. "That's the closest I will come to knowing what it's like to have a baby.
"It's tortuous. It's such a relief and was such a build-up. We've been through so much, my wife and children know so much about air pressure now."
Wiggins started out like a train, quickly settling into his race pace. At the 30 lap mark he had established a 20 second lead over Dowsett, settling the nerves of the crowd, a sell-out audience that included Wiggins' childhood hero Miguel Indurain as well as Johan Bruyneel, David Millar and former UCI President Pat McQuaid.
After 10 kilometres Wiggins' fast start began to slow, but only marginally, and he was still able to distance Dowsett's marker, rattling up a 28 second buffer, the equivalent of nearly two laps, as he churned along on his 58x14 gear ratio.
With a metronomic pace, Wiggins extended the lead to 38, 48, and then 58 seconds, and at the 20 kilometre point the Olympic time trial champion had put close to 750 meters between him and Dowsett, a pace that would establish a new record well over 54km – shy of an eye-popping 55 kilometres – but given the high air, a remarkable feat all the same.
The lead pushed out to an advantage of 1,250 meters after 35 kilometres as he averaged more than 54.5 kph. Wiggins struggled over the final 10 minutes, however, as his pace slipped slightly, with his speed dipping to just above 54 kph. Wiggins picked up his pace again in the final minutes as he struggled to complete the challenge, knowing he had already topped Dowsett but hoping to establish a mark that could withstand future assaults.
In the end, Wiggins sailed across the line and into the arms of coach Heiko Salzwedel, eventually acknowledging the roaring crowd's approval by walking to mid-track and hoisting his record-breaking machine over his head in celebration. Trackside stood Indurain, and Wiggins' former team boss Dave Brailsford. The Spaniard offered a thumb's up in approval, aware that Wiggins had joined an elite club of Tour de France winners and Hour Record Holders that includes Indurain and Eddy Merckx.
"It tops it off. To do everything and come here as an old man, I had such great memories here as a kid and to come here... It's memorable.
"It's done now. I always compare myself to the greats and I am just glad to be in the company of those guys. To get up there and do that... to put yourself on the line takes a lot of courage and it's a mental game as much as anything."
The new UCI Hour Record announced on the big screen at the velodrome
Latest on Cyclingnews
Mathieu van der Poel goes down swinging in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne with 80km breakDutch rider caught inside the final 2km of racing
Andrea Bagioli wins Royal Bernard Drome ClassicDaryl Impey second and Mikkel Frølich Honoré third
Tom Pidcock closes Opening Weekend with third in Kuurne-Brussel-KuurneIneos Grenadiers rider makes the podium after strong showing in Omloop
Mads Pedersen wins Kuurne-Brussel-KuurneTrek-Segafredo rider wins sprint as Mathieu van der Poel and breakaway are caught in closing kilometres
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.