Van Dijk smashes women's Hour Record

Dutch rider Ellen Van Dijk races during her world hour record attempt in the Velodrome Suisse an indoor velodrome in Grenchen northern Switzerland on May 23 2022
Dutch rider Ellen Van Dijk races during her world Hour Record attempt in the Velodrome Suisse an indoor velodrome in Grenchen northern Switzerland on May 23 2022 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Ellen van Dijk (Trek-Segafredo) inked her name into the history books as the new holder of the women's Hour Record. The UCI verified on Monday that Dutch rider covered 49.254 kilometres in the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen.

The reigning time trial World Champion's performance beat the previous record set by Britain's Joscelin Lowden on September 30, 2021 of 48.405 kilometres by 849 metres.

Once Van Dijk got reached the hour mark and had the record, she took a few easy laps to unfold herself from the aero-tuck and was able to let the achievement sink.

"I'm very happy I broke the record," Van Dijk said. "In the beginning I  was a bit nervous but I was under control, I did what we wanted to do. If I would feel great I would accelerate in the second part but instead I slowed down a little bit."

Van Dijk was on pace to cover another lap inside the hour mark but faded slightly in the final 20 minutes.

"At 45 minutes, I thought OK, I need to accelerate. I thought I was accelerating but I was slowing down. That meant this was it for today."

"I knew the first half hour was around laps 81-82, and it was under the pace I needed to ride. I thought if I don't slow down too much, if I don't go over five (18.5-second laps) I should have it. I think I was almost never over five but I couldn't hear everything. Everything became a little blurry and especially at the end I was not riding so straight. I was just happy when I heard it was over.

"This whole project has been so amazing for me. The whole build-up, it was such a great experience. I couldn't wish for any more support from Trek. It was really the best I ever had. I also thought about the whole team during the ride, I thought everyone put so much time and effort into this I need to give them my all for all their work and their time and everything they put into it."

Koen de Kort, who helped managed Van Dijk's equipment development and performance team, was elated with the record.

"We were really with the whole team working really hard for this. Between all the sponsors, the staff, everyone did their utmost to help Ellen make her dream a reality," he said when the record looked assured.

How it unfolded

Favourable atmospheric conditions aided Van Dijk's effort. After a week of hot, humid conditions, a weather system moved in, bringing cooler temperatures and lower barometric pressure (1004.06 mbar/29.65in), an important factor for Hour Record attempts as it provides lower air resistance.

In 2015, Bradley Wiggins blamed unusually high pressure for preventing him from reaching his goal of covering more than 55 kilometres, he set the record at 54.526 when the atmospheric pressure in London was 1036 mbar. Victor Campenaerts broke that mark at altitude in Aguascalientes, Mexico on April 16, 2019, who completed 55.089 kilometres at 813.5 mbar.

Van Dijk looked smooth and powerful in the opening quarter hour, gradually upping her pace from the standing start and getting quickly onto a schedule to beat 49 kilometres.

Her average speed after 15 minutes was hovering around 49.2 kph as she powered around the 250-metre track head down and focussed on staying as low as possible on the banking.

Her dual disc wheels sang as she settled into a rhythm of 18.2 second laps, her coach shouting her splits to keep her at a sustainable effort level.

At the halfway mark, Van Dijk upped her pace to move on track for a 49.4 kilometre hour, almost a full kilometre more than Lowden's record.

Her pace dropped between 30-40 minutes into the effort to 49.1kph laps but in the final ten minutes, Van Dijk upped her intensity to keep the average speed above 49.3 kph.

With 55 minutes behind her, the pain began to show and Van Dijk started to waver and lose momentum, dipping below 49kph for the first time but she had already done more than enough to ensure she would set a new record.

It was a remarkable performance for any athlete but even more impressive for the 35-year-old who, in Paris-Roubaix last fall, suffered a serious concussion that affected her through the off-season.

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