Watching Stage 7 of the GIRO this week and Emanuele Sella get beaten into submission by Adam Hanson, there was lots of talk of how great it was that these guys were “up the road getting TV time for their sponsors“. In Hanson’s case the sponsors are obvious, and pretty well known. The team is also lucky to have principle sponsors who invest large amounts in the team, which in the end makes for a simple message and a nicely designed kit. In the case of Sella, not so much. A team that relies on a wildcard and the generosity of their national grand Tour finds it harder to attract the big name deal, and has to work hard to make the numbers work by bringing in as many backers as possible. It was just in this case apart from Venezuela (I took geography) I had no idea who any of the names where on the jersey (apart from the bike). So here it is, the anatomy of the Androni jersey.
It somehow only seems appropriate that the rules of The Hour record be benchmarked against the ride done by a rider who pretty much benchmarked the sport, Eddy Merckx. A blistering 30.175 miles in sixty minutes. A record that stood for 12 years until Francesco Moser beat it by 1.6 miles, the difference being Moser used disc wheels, bull-horn bars and an oval tubed frame, and ushered in the era of technology and aerodynamics. It was at this point the UCI decided to recognize the massive achievement that Merckx had accomplished on a “traditional” track bike and created two records, the UCI Hour, and The Best Human Effort record.
To what sounded like a very rare atmosphere Merckx made one of the sports great records to sound of polite clapping and the chants of “Eddy…Eddy…Eddy”. The shear effort that The Hour takes has humbled all those who have tried. On finishing his record breaking ride Merckx rolled into the center of the velodrome and into the arms of Ernesto Colnago and uttered “Basta (meaning enough, and remarkably close to bastard)… that’s the last time I’ll ever do the hour record. The pain was incredible… ‘. Coming from The Cannibal that is saying something. Although not really a surprise that it hurt as his preparation leading into it was a season where he won no less than fifty races, among them a fifth Milan-San Remo, a fourth Tour de France, a third Tour of Italy, a third Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a third Fleche Wallone, a second Tour of Lombardy. Not really the preparation you would expect.
It seemed the only way to beat Merckx’s record was with technology. Boardman and Obree both breaking it with both unusual and advanced bikes and positions. Merckx’s effort was later beaten by Chris Boardman on a traditional set-up by a painful 32.8ft, riding a 54 x 14 with a 160mm stem (above). The difference between the two rides comes down really to the first KM. Merckx started fast, Boardman was a little more conservative. For the next 45km they basically stayed the same. Boardman had a slight edge having Merckx’s time to beat in the final KM and was able to pull out a little extra to take the record. That record stood for another 5 years until Czech Ondrej Sosenka beat it by nearly a mile, literally, (0.707 of a mile, or 44795.5 inches) pushing a 54 X 13 gear. Unfortunately his incredible ride is somewhat tainted as he later twice tested positive for doping, although not on his record breaking ride.
So since Merckx set the benchmark in Mexico on the 25th of October in 1972 at 30.175 (if we give Sosenka the benefit of the doubt) in 42 years we have moved the record on by 0.7 of a mile. This coming season we may see two of the best chances yet to put a new benchmark on the board. Two of the best cyclists in history against the clock will make attempts to push the distance out further, Fabian Cancellara and hopefully Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins a veteran of the track, and Cancellara one of the best engines in the sport. The Hour is maybe one of the last pure “blue ribbon” records left standing in the sport. Controlled conditions and controlled technology. I can see the attraction for both riders as they enter the twilight of their careers. To have your name talked about in the same sentence as Merckx, Boardman, Moser, Indurain, Rominger, especially as a record holder will stake your place in cycling history. Now all we need is Tony Martin to create the trilogy of the modern “Clock men” to try and break it.
Here at last! Our Ardennes Book Project for Elcyclista Editions. The book is a collection of images captured at the 2012 Ardennes week (Amstel, Fleché and L-B-L). No passes, no “Moto’s”, no access to hotels, the images are all from the perspective of the fan, and being surrounded by the ambience of these three amazing races. We have done the book in a first edition of /50 with each book individually numbered on the special editions page inside the book. This project took some time to finish as during its making my father unfortunately passed away from cancer. It was one of the last things I showed him that I was working on, so the project holds a special place for us. We are offering the book at two prices. We always appreciate the support we get and we try to keep our prices as affordable as possible, the first price is $65 which is the cost of production and packaging. The second price if you can afford to is $70 where we will donate $5 to the Hospice that helped him through his last days. As always we are grateful for whatever support you can give us. Lets see if we can get this fella to a second editon!
Available for purchase at our online store here
The thought of making your team to ride Paris-Roubaix must bring an incredible sense of excitement, and probably at the same time also a complete feeling of dread. A few years back I talked to some of the triathletes in the New York City Marathon, who described the symptoms of what they called the “Hudson River Flu” – a sickness you get from swimming in a river that quite frankly is not appropriate for swimming in (I won’t go into the details). Paris – Roubaix brings its own special type of “flu“. One that is described as hitting the rider two days after the race has finished, a result of the punishment the body receives riding over a surface that most of us would consider only appropriate for an all wheel drive. A “flu” that pains right into the bones. This all just comes from the surface, the storied cobbles, throw in the distance, 50KM of that over cobbles, some weather and a lot of riders making this their early season goal, it is no wonder the race holds the position it does at the top of the things we love about this sport. This year it is predicted to be rain free, and with some late-week rain probably dust free as well. None of this will reduce the spectacle. Thank the lord for the internet, I will have my Sporza and Eurosport streams flowing on Sunday looking down the line for Russ Downing and Alex Wetterhall, both who have won races back in my home country of Ireland and are now riding one of the biggest races in the world. I wish them luck, safe riding and good legs.