At first blush, it would seem that Fabian Cancellara would be happy with the momentum surrounding the hour record after the UCI changed its rules and, essentially, opened up the boards for a flurry of attempts.
Jens Voigt held the record for a brief period of time as he put on one final show before retiring, and then Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) took the mark just 42 days later. It stands at 51.852 kilometers now, to be precise.
Cancellara would stand to benefit from the popularity, and the current record appears to be one that the man they call “Spartacus” could smash up like a box of champagne flutes. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has said he wants in, and so has Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
But there is one problem for Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). He still looks at the longest hour as having two separate classifications. And he thinks all this “stuff” right now is “low level.”
“At the moment when I see all this hour record stuff, it’s just low level. Instead of higher it’s getting lower… but in the end, the UCI set up the rules, and everyone can do it who wants and there’s no limit. When there’s people motivated, they just do it,” he told VeloNews recently.
Last May, the UCI ditched the Merckx-era bike-design rules in favor of a single, unified hour record using equipment regulations borrowed from modern track pursuit bikes. UCI President Brian Cookson said the move would modernize the record.
“Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent,” Cookson said in a press release. “This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”
Cancellara, though, doesn’t see it that way. And oddly, the hour record was resurrected in part because of him. When he began to make noise about the record last winter, interest spiked and the UCI was prompted to revise its rules.
“As soon as I was thinking [about it] everything got huge. And that’s what I didn’t want it to [be],” he said. “Without putting effort from my side in I think there would never be a big discussion… Now there’s already two people [who have] had it, the third one will probably come.”
But isn’t all of this a good thing, the recent trend toward the hour record? More attempts, more exposure, more… money?
Maybe for others. But Cancellara, who obsesses over the quality of a win and not just a “win,” wanted it the old way, the Merckx way. On the old school road bike with thin tubes, shallow wheels and drop bars. The Belgian rode 49.431 kilometers on the traditional road bike setup in Mexico City in 1972.
“It’s not possible to compare the hour with a time trial on the road,” Merckx said just after he set the mark. “Here it’s not possible to ease up, to change gears or the rhythm. The hour record demands a total effort, permanent and intense, one that’s not possible to compare to any other. I will never try it again.”
Cancellara saw it as an unfortunate progression of science in a part of the sport that had been largely protected from it. That particular record, reverence and all, had been left largely neglected in the past decade.
“I still see that as another record, with the Merckx-style bike and with the normal TT position, however you want to call it,” Cancellara said. “Now we are in 2014 but we have to run with the times somehow, but I think it’s also nice to not run with the times. Because at the moment the equipment is much faster than even [Tony] Romiger’s time. Also, now with cycling the sport gets cleaner and we still ride faster. It’s also because equipment, scientist stuff, training all this.”