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Could Bradley Wiggins's Hour Record be beaten within a year?

Bradley Wiggins Hour Attempt SiS
Joe Robinson
12 Oct 2017

Young talent and altitude could threaten Bradley Wiggins's Hour Record in the near future

When Bradley Wiggins set a new official Hour Record at the Lee Valley Velodrome in 2015 many wondered if the record had been shelved never to be beaten again. 

The distance of 54.526km achieved in London by Wiggins bettered the previous record set by fellow Brit Alex Dowsett by over 1,500 metres. For many the only person who could surpass this distance was Wiggins himself. 

Reflecting on the record, the now-retired Wiggins was disappointed with the distance and believed he could have ridden further, potentially matching the 56.375km mark Chris Boardman reached using the Graeme Obree 'superman' position in 1996.

Chris Boardman riding the Hour Record in 1996. Photo: Offside

However, the 37-year-old Wiggins may soon be getting uncomfortable in his chair as it appears some believe they have what it takes to beat the record with a youthful Dane and Dutchman at altitude looking to threaten the existing record.

Into the unknown

One tilt at Wiggins's record has been confirmed but from a relative unknown. Dion Beukeboom of the Netherlands has confirmed he will attempt the Hour next year. 

Beukeboom lacks the track prestige and sock drawer full of medals of the current record holder but he is firmly in belief that less attention and higher altitude with lower air will help him go further.

'Wiggins rode in London, on a sea-level track, at high air pressure. It was a commercial party. Tickets were sold, a book about the Hour Record attempt was published.'

'The Hour Record was not as sharp as it could have been,' Beukeboom told Dutch newspaper AD.

With less external pressure, the former Dutch national track champion believes he can match the power output of Wiggins and even supersede it, or so his trainer, Jim van den Berg believes.
  
'At altitude, the benefits of lower air pressure is greater than the loss of reduced oxygen uptake. Compared to the London attempt, Dion will gain between 25 and 45 watts,' the coach said.

Attempting the record at altitude has been shown to work, as Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser found when they set their own records in Mexico, in the 1972 and 1984 respectively.

At 2m tall and 90kg, the Dutchman should certainly be producing big power. However, this usually would be counterbalanced by higher air denisty causing more aerodynamic drag against his large frame.

Yet, thanks to Beukeboom attempting the record at altitude at lower air pressue, drag should be less of an issue allowing 

Eddy Merckx setting the Hour Record in 1972. Photo: Offside

Young, Dane and dangerous

Under the radar, the Hour Record actually was attempted last week at a small velodrome in Odense, Denmark.

This attempt was made by 18-year-old Mikkel Bjerg. After recently becoming the U23 time trial World Champion, the teenager set a new Danish record around the track of 52.311km

This record attempt saw Bjerg fall 2km short of Wiggins's distance, proving a clear-cut failure. However, as a rider that is yet to have even competed in the WorldTour, this effort shows raw potential.

If Bjerg, once fully developed and with many more race miles in the legs, was to commit himself to the cause and train specifically for the hour-long time trial, he could pose one of the biggest challenges to Wiggins' current record.

Current crop

Bjerg and Beukeboom are relatively unknown outside of their own circles, and despite both having credible opportunities at taking the Hour, neither would be considered the biggest challenge to the current record with more substantial claims coming from the WorldTour.

Of riders in the current peloton, with true time trial pedigree, there are most likely only a handful that could challenge the current benchmark.

The first is former record holder Dowsett. The 29-year-old Essex-native has persistently mentioned re-attempting the Hour and believes that, with the right preparation, he could come close to regaining the record.

Despite wanting to reattempt the record this year, lack of cooperation from Dowsett's team Movistar saw this never materialise. However, with a fresh start at Katusha-Alpecin, Dowsett coulb be back on the boards within the next year.

The most impressive individual time trialist of the past 12 months has been Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).

Giro d'Italia glory and the individual time trial World Championship title were all part of a near-perfect year for the Dutchman who managed to prove his abilities as an all-rounder.

Arguably, for Dumoulin to take the Hour, he would have to forgo his Grand Tour ambitions and focus solely on the record. 

Whilst this is unlikely to come soon, at only 26-years-old and after potential victory at the Tour de France, the Sunweb man has plenty of time to consider following in the footsteps of Wiggins himself.

The final rider who has the potential to go close to the record is Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing).

Dennis actually held the record briefly in 2015 with a distance of 52.491km. At only 24-years-old, this was an impressive feat by a rider who was just discovering his time trialling prowess. 

Like Dowsett, Dennis may be tempted into trying to regain the record.

Wishful thinking

The task of actually making a credible attempt at Bradley Wiggins's Hour Record would have to consist of a rider specifically targetting this event. 

When Wiggins set his benchmark, this was all that he focused on, tapering his body to be able to complete this one hour time trial.

No rider has been able to get to within 1km of the record set in 2015 which is a considerable distance considering 1000m would convert to over a one minute deficit at these speeds.

For the distance of Wiggins to be surpassed, it could be young talent or an attempt at altitude that is needed. Hopefully Beukeboom, Bjerg or the current peloton can mount a credible threat and reignite interest into the hour record.