With Alex Dowsett and Sir Bradley Wiggins being the latest high profile cyclists to attempt to beat the World Hour record, what has changed to make the holy grail of cycling achievements “cool” again?
It has been the most feared and gruelling test of a cyclist for over 100 years. However, during the late nineties, technology threatened to overshadow the cyclists ability, and helped create an era where records were annulled almost as quickly as they were set. At its peak, the likes of Graeme Obree, Tony Rominger & Chris Boardman pushed the boundaries ever further, with the latter covering 56.375km in 1996, still the furthest distance covered. However, in 2000 the threshold was reset to bikes reminiscent of the Eddy Merckx era.
Poetically it was Boardman that was the 1st to challenge and beat the new benchmark, which was then beaten by unknown Czech rider Ondrej Sosenka in 2005. The distance of 49.700km failed to inspire at the time, but was to become the new standard, as in 2014 the rules changed again to bring them into line with current pursuit bikes. Having breathed new life into the format, there have already been 5 attempts at the record in the last 12 months, with Rohan Dennis being the current holder, having covered 52.491km earlier this year.
Furthermore, traditionally popular TV sports like football and F1 are pricing themselves out of reach of the average fan. Coupled with these new rules & the relative accessibility of cycling means that UK interest in the sport is at an all time high. It finally seems that we have returned to a time where the rider’s true skill & stamina is the dominant factor, bringing cycling back to it’s roots.