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Voigt sets new hour record, riding 51.11km

  • By Spencer Powlison
  • Published Sep. 18, 2014
  • Updated Oct. 31, 2014 at 6:14 PM EDT
Jens Voigt set a new hour record Thursday, riding 51.11km in 60 minutes. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP

Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) set a new hour record at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland.

He rode 51.11km over the course of an hour Thursday. The 43-year-old German bested Ondrej Sosenka’s mark of 49.7 kilometers by 1.41km.

“I started a bit too fast, after 20 minutes I had to ease off,” Voigt said. “I wanted to give it all in my final race.”

For years, the UCI recognized two different hour records. The Athlete’s Hour, also called the Merckx Hour, was performed aboard heavily regulated equipment in a very specific position.

Another record, called the Best Human Effort, placed very few restrictions on the bike and position used. The exceptionally fast “superman” positions of Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman fell under this record.

However, In May, the UCI hit the reset button on the hour record, opening the door for a record attempt by Voigt.

Both the Athlete’s Hour and Best Human Effort were scrapped in favor of a single hour record with regulations in line with modern UCI track rules. That means that as UCI track cycling rules change, so will the rules for the hour.

“Jens Voigt’s performance was sensational. I’m very happy for him,” said UCI president Brian Cookson. “I’m confident that his achievement will have a domino effect: other great riders will resolve to attack one of the greatest challenges in our sport.

“This is good news for cycling and is exactly what the UCI hoped would happen when we simplified and modernized the rules for the hour record earlier this year. This has made the challenge more comprehensible for the fans and a more attractive proposition. I think we’re now entering a new era in which interest in the Hour Record will grow. This is all very beneficial for cycling.”

Voigt’s longest hour

To start his attempt, Voigt turned in a 23.574-second first lap, understandably slow, starting from a stand still.

He needed to average 18-second laps to beat the record.

The German rode the first kilometer in 1:15491.

He turned in a 6:00.954 time for the first five kilometers, 4.839 ahead of Boardman’s 2000 mark, but behind Merckx’s 1972 record.

After the first 10 kilometers, Jens’ time was 12:01.336, which was still ahead of Boardman, but behind Merckx, and slightly behind Sosenka’s splits. It was noted that Merckx’s hour record started at a blistering pace, and the Belgian champion faded in the final half of the ride.

After 15 minutes, Voigt was on pace to set the record.

“The first 10 minutes I could not feel the pedals and thought, ‘Oh this is easy!’ Then I went, ‘Oooooh, maybe you’d better pace yourself a little bit here,’” said Voigt. “Then I went on cruising speed from 20-40 minutes. But I could feel at that speed I was good, I could hold on to this speed, I am not going to break down or slow down. So I felt in control, and yes indeed I had a little bit of time to enjoy it.”

When Voigt reached 20 kilometers, his time was 23:39.198, meaning that his average speed at that point was 50.718kph, on track to set a new record.

Halfway through the hour, Voigt was still on pace.

Nearing the 40-minute mark, he started to show the strain of the effort, adjusting his position, and occasionally rising from the saddle to stretch.

With 15 minutes remaining, Voigt was still turning in laps quicker than 18 seconds.

Voigt’s split at 40 kilometers was 47:16.668. That split indicated that the world record was within his reach.

In the final 10 minutes, Voigt began to push to the finish, riding increasingly faster lap times — some even quicker than 17 seconds. “The last 10 minutes were flat out — all-in,” Voigt said.

With less than five minutes left, he fought his bike in the straights, pushing out of the saddle.

On his 199th lap with 1:28 left in the hour, he surpassed Sosenka’s mark.

At the end of an hour, Voigt had turned in 205 laps, riding a total distance of 51.11 kilometers, a new world record.

“I saw Chris Boardman beating the record in 2000 and I said to myself, ‘What a great way that would be to finish my career,'” he said. “33 years of cycling behind me. This was my last attempt. I’m in so much pain … But what a way to retire!

“I remember how Boardman was walking after his effort, and I am not far off from that. I am basically limping. It hurts in my glutes!

“Boardman was my first roommate in 1997 and I can’t ask for a better good-bye than this.

“I am extremely proud to be joining all the iconic riders that have beaten this record before me. I’m proud that my name is now among the greats. It’s one of the big highlights of my career.”

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Spencer Powlison

Spencer Powlison

When it comes to bike racing, Spencer is a jack-of-all-trades. He loves pinning on a number, whether it’s in a local criterium, a mountain bike enduro, a cyclocross national championship, or a gran fondo. Name any cycling discipline, and more likely than not, Spencer has ridden or raced it. He has been lucky enough to work in the bike industry for the majority of his adult life, from his time turning wrenches in a Vermont bike shop to his five-year tenure at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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