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Brian Cookson in favour of letting riders use modern track bikes rather than 1972 Eddy Merckx-style ones

Fabian Cancellara’s bid to set a new Hour Record, said to have been pencilled in for August 3 in Mexico, has reportedly been put on hold while the UCI considers which rules should apply – and specifically, the type of bike that can be used. Trek, sponsor of Cancellara’s Trek Factory Racing team, has been working on a bike that will comply with current rules.

Under rules in place since 2000, any attempt on the official UCI Hour Record must be made on a bike, and in a riding position, similar to those used by Eddy Merckx when he set a distance of 49.431km in 1972. When those rules were introduced Merckx’ record was reinstated to make it a contest between riders rather than technology.

That rule change came after a battle for the record during the 1990s saw radical developments in bike design such as Mike Burrows’ Lotus bike, used by Chris Boardman, and Graeme Obree pioneering the ‘egg’ and ‘Superman’ riding positions.

Since Merckx’s record was reinstated with the purpose of levelling the playing field, only two riders have beaten it – Boardman in 2000, riding 49.441km, and current record holder Ondrej Sosenka, who rode 49.700 five years later.

Sosenka’s otherwise utterly unremarkable career ended in 2008 when he tested positive for methamphetamine and its metabolites.

In February, UCI president Brian Cookson told VeloNews that the governing body’s management committee had asked its track commission to consider changes to the rules surrounding the Hour Record, with potential changes due to be made by the middle of the year.

He said: “My own view is that the so-called athletes’ hour, the record on the old traditional track bike, I think it was a nice idea, but frankly I think it’s an idea whose time has passed.”

Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena told Cycling Weekly’s Gregor Brown that although Trek has been developing a bike for Cancellara that complies with the current rules, the uncertainty over potential changes means the project has to be put on hold for now.

“We are waiting for the UCI to set the rules for the Hour Record,” explained Guercilena. “Once we know that, we will know if the Hour Record will go ahead.

“Cookson said they are supposed to go back to allowing cyclist to use time trial bikes but if that’s the case, we then know which record to beat. If it will be [Tony] Rominger’s record [55.291km set in 1994] or Boardman’s record [56.375km set in 1996].

“As usual, if you want to beat something, you need to know what you want to beat.”

He added that he has asked the UCI to clarify the situation but has not yet received a reply.

Guercilena also said that Trek had put time and money into developing the bike that Cancellara had hoped to attempt the record on, although it is unclear how much of that work was done after Cookson spoke of the possibility of the rules being changed.

“It’s a big deal with Trek. It’s a lot of money to spend and time invested.

“We don’t know which direction to go, so it’s not so easy,” Guercilena said.

“The problem is, if they take too long… You know, you can’t just prepare the materials for an event like that in a snap. We were almost done with the bike and the wheels, and everything for the Eddy Merckx position. It’s a big pity,” he added.

Were the rules to change along the lines favoured by the UCI president Cancellars would be free to attempt the record on Trek's Speed Concept 9.9 time trial bike.

When the idea of Cancellara attempting the Hour Record was first mooted last year, Sir Bradley Wiggins expressed an interest in having a crack at it himself, possibly in London. If Wiggins were attempting the record as the rules currently stand it would abe on board a Pinarello Dogma road bike, no doubt specially adapted for the purpose, if the rules revert to allowing TT bikes as suggested by Cookson he would be free to compete on Pinarello's Bolide TT machine developed by the Italian company with input from Sky and British Cycling.

Reigning world time trial champion Tony Martin a  has also said he may consider an attempt, although his main priority over the next two years will be aiming for Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, having been beaten into second place by Wiggins at London 2012. Martin currently rides a Specialized so his choice would be between the Venge or the Shiv TT machine. Given his emphasis on Rio the chance to ride the same bike for both would obviously be useful.

The prospect of the world’s three top time triallists battling for the record caused a fair deal of excitement among fans, evoking memories of the battles between the likes of Boardman, Obree, Rominger, Miguel Indurain and Francesco Moser in the mid-1980s.

Whether that three-way tussle will ever take place, and the type of bike allowed, now appears to depend on the UCI.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

33 comments

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bohrhead [67 posts] 1 year ago
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Crikey! He'll need to get some of those studded tyres then.

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shay cycles [315 posts] 1 year ago
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So Trek prepare for the old 1972 style record by spending lots of time an money preparing a special bike - that sort of defeats the basic premise of the athlete's hour doesn't it.

If only these guys would ride a competitive hour record attempt series using bikes that were identical other than fit, saddle and pedals - then we'd see who really was the fastest.

It may be old fashioned but it seems to work in Japan for Kierin racing.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 1 year ago
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Personally, I'd like to see three hour records.

An "athlete's hour", using a standard bike built by the UCI (to avoid all this special development silliness), a "Romminger hour" (which is most likely to attract attempts) and an "open hour" (where they can use a recumbent with an enclosed fairing).

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aslongasicycle [380 posts] 1 year ago
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I genuinely scoured the article for new evidence of ice being a super low-resistance performance material.

I am thick and tired.

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dstuk [6 posts] 1 year ago
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Pretty certain Tony Martin rides a Specialized...

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dave atkinson [6139 posts] 1 year ago
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dstuk wrote:

Pretty certain Tony Martin rides a Specialized...

yeah, my bad  3

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Paul J [836 posts] 1 year ago
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This is ridiculous. There is *still* a "modern" hour record category with the UCI, it's called the "Best Human Effort". If Cancellara wants to do the record on a modern bike, he can simply go for that category - *without any rule changes*!

Personally, I think it's a *good* thing to try minimise equipment differences in cycling. Track and road cycling, as a sport, is about the people for me.

If I want to watch the end-result of engineers competing behind the scenes, running their CFD simulations, I'd go look at Formula 1. Except of course, I gave up watching Formula 1 cause I kept falling asleep!

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CarlosFerreiro [100 posts] 1 year ago
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The principle is fine, but the result even with the current athletes hour rules were i) Very few attempts made ii) Trek throwing cash at a team of a dozen people to find the gains the rules still do not rule out.

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levermonkey [642 posts] 1 year ago
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So long as it is clearly stated which hour record he is going for; what's the problem?  7

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pwake [374 posts] 1 year ago
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"...Mike Burrows’ Lotus bike, used by Chris Boardman..."
Pedant alert! I believe Boardman never officially set the record on a Lotus bike. He used a Corima for the first ride and, a little ironically, given the later rule changes, an Eddy Merckx for the second. Okay ,the Merckx was a Lotus bike painted blue with Merckx stickers....
I guess that means that Eddy himself had no objections to the technological developments if his name was on them!

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jova54 [644 posts] 1 year ago
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How about someone nips down the nearest Halford/Evans etc and buys a bike and helmet for less than two grand and they have to use that.
Only changes allowed are replacement of pedals, if fitted, with cyclist's own and adjustment to seat post height, saddle for and aft and stem height. All other fitments, including bell, wheel reflectors, front and rear reflectors to remain.
All attempts to be made on one selected velodrome track.
Whatever the result becomes to new 'Unified World Hour Record', sanctioned by UCI.
Result levelled playing field, simplified equipment and no more arguing and whingeing.

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clayfit [68 posts] 1 year ago
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What level playing field? Merckx, by his own admission, did not compete in compliance with modern anti-doping rules. His Hour belongs to a bygone era.
So I think Cookson is right to start a "new" Hour, with clean(ish) athletes and modern(ish) bikes.

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step-hent [718 posts] 1 year ago
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Why is it that anything involving the UCI seems to involve a lot of arguing before anything remotely exciting can happen? I don't disagree with Cookson's point of view that using modern track bikes would result in more record attempts - riders train for efforts like this in the specific position they'll be using, and if the only time they use that position is for an hour record, they won't bother.

But at the same time, we were building back up to a bit of interest in the hour WITHOUT revising the rules again - all of Cancellara, Wiggins and Martin had said they fancied a go. And just as the interest level rises and it looks like we might get some competition going again, the UCI decides to look again at the rules and slow the whole thing down. Very frustrating.

As for the comments about having a single bike produced by the UCI: one factor in riders having a go at this is sponsor interest. If their sponsor couldn't give a toss, they won't be given the time to do it. But if their sponsor thinks they can find some small gains and get some good publicity out of it, their interest level tends to go up. So I'm all for having a clear set of requirements, but also all in favour of bike manufacturers doing whatever they can to find the limits within those guidelines. Boardman did it, and he doesn't get criticized for it - why shouldn't the others do the same?

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Paul J [836 posts] 1 year ago
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Even if you can't create a level playing field, does that mean you shouldn't try minimise equipment differences? Just because you can't completely make things equal, therefore anything should go - let the engineers run riot?

Thing is, it's a false dichotomy. Because the "anything goes" categories *already exist* - in two forms even! The "Best Human Effort" category, which allows tri-bikes, and the really-anything-goes HPV one, which Obree went for recently. So let the athletes who want that go for whichever of those *already existing* categories they want!

Why change the rules on the Athlete's record to make it less about the athlete? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

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Markus [49 posts] 1 year ago
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Seems like a totally unnecessary change, especially given the Best Human Effort category and current interest in the Hour mentioned above. Also disrespectful to Boardman and Obree, whose efforts in the 90's were stricken from the books.

But. The rules have not changed yet. Do it now!
If the rules change later on, the record will be forever.

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daddyELVIS [654 posts] 1 year ago
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Cookson, shut up! No rule change needed - just choose which hour record to go for. Sounds like Spartacus had decided on the official record and was happy with the rules. I'd love to see him smash it on a 'traditional' track bike!

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thatkidduffy [4 posts] 1 year ago
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Surely Wiggo would be on one of the secret squirrel bikes, like the olympics?

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cub [86 posts] 1 year ago
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The Dogma and Venge couldn't be used because the bikes are required to have tubes with a circular cross section.

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Gordy748 [110 posts] 1 year ago
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shay cycles wrote:

So Trek prepare for the old 1972 style record by spending lots of time an money preparing a special bike - that sort of defeats the basic premise of the athlete's hour doesn't it.

If only these guys would ride a competitive hour record attempt series using bikes that were identical other than fit, saddle and pedals - then we'd see who really was the fastest.

It may be old fashioned but it seems to work in Japan for Kierin racing.

I thought the same thing. How much time and money do you really need to invest in a traditional track bike?

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Skylark [144 posts] 1 year ago
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Skating on Ice.
More like.

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londonbrick [25 posts] 1 year ago
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The mentioned changes would not only affect a bicycle design but also the very specific preparations for a record attempt. It takes months to adapt to such bike. I suppose this might be more of concern considering one is to sacrifice good part of the season.

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Simon E [2539 posts] 1 year ago
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cub wrote:

The Dogma and Venge couldn't be used because the bikes are required to have tubes with a circular cross section.

That's under the current "athlete's hour" rules, where bikes are meant to replicate Merckx's machine. The article suggests that the rules could change to accomodate either full time trial bikes or current road bikes (though they would surely be fixed gear pursuit/track bikes, no need for gears, cables or drillings for brakes etc).

Gordy748 wrote:

How much time and money do you really need to invest in a traditional track bike?

Quite a lot, some would say, when corporate and rider reputations are at stake. Look at the effort Genesis have gone to with the Volare (here). A big company like Trek will want to get as much PR mileage as possible out of an Hour attempt with their star rider. They will have spent some time working on a one-off metal bike with round tubes, it won't be a case of saying to the welder: "please build me a steel version of the Domane".

If the rules are relaxed I reckon Wiggins could use a Team GB track bike or the plain black TT bike like the one he used for the Olympic time trial.

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JackBuxton [34 posts] 1 year ago
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Why not just start fresh, design a brand new bike which can be used for the next 20 years to attempt this record, but on the same bike frame, with the same components (obviously different sizes)http://road.cc/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/Yahoo!/smile.gif

sorry if anyone else has said this but really can't be bothered to check everyones comments!http://road.cc/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/Yahoo!/yawn.gifhttp://roa...

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James1822 [1 post] 1 year ago
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Why would Wiggins et al be competing on modern road bikes if the rules don't change? Surely they would be just as unacceptable as a modern TT bike? (Also surely any attempt -whether Merkxx style or using modern technology - would have to be on a fixed bike anyway to be track legal?)

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SteppenHerring [322 posts] 1 year ago
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It seems odd that a legal, pursuit bike can't be used for the hour. Just make it the same as the current track rules and stop buggering about.

Oh and it must be set at Calshot.

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Bryin [37 posts] 1 year ago
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If a bike were invented that allowed you to ride farther than Merckx in a hour would that make you better than Merckx? Sounds silly...
That is exactly what we are talking about here. Merckx (drugs or no drugs (and don't believe that the current crop is clean)) was the greatest cyclist in all of history. It is fitting that the technological arms race ends with him for at least the hour record. The hour is the perfect device to compare cyclists across the ages. Keeping technology out of it makes good sense.
Fabian clearly wants to mark his place in history and has with his classics wins. But if he wants to write his name as better than Merckx then let him battle him on even terms. Not a battle through technological means. Don't give Merckx the chance to say what he said when Moser set the new mark aboard a totally different machine- "for the first time a weaker man has taken the record from a stronger man."

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giobox [352 posts] 1 year ago
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There is no way Wiggins would use a Dogma or Martin a Venge - why the hell would they turn up with a bike loaded with gears that they will never use during the event?

Not to mention the bottom bracket location on a typical road frame greatly increases the likelihood of pedal strikes on the banked corners.

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mrmo [2013 posts] 1 year ago
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Bryin wrote:

If a bike were invented that allowed you to ride farther than Merckx in a hour would that make you better than Merckx?

And by riding in Mexico was Merckx cheating? Do we need to ensure that all riders are on the same track, do we need to ensure that the weather is the same?

what was the tubing that Merckx used? is it still available? What about the tyres?

There can NEVER be an exact match. However the UCI do need to stop fiddling on this, either anything goes or they need to lock it down.

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stealth [254 posts] 1 year ago
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Track bike for the track, do trek make a 9.9SSC for the track??

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abudhabiChris [692 posts] 1 year ago
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It's not the bike anyway, it's far more about the position.

In that regard I don't see what the issue is with allowing newer adaptations. Learning more about airflow and drag is part of modern development in all areas of cycling so why not encourage more of it.

How is that any different to learning more about diet or training and using those to improve times?

It was a stupid idea to try to freeze the record. Nobody would argue it diminishes Merckx's achievements any more than we would say Roger Bannister was a rubbish runner because he wouldn't make an Olympic final these days. He did it in his time and of his time, and times change.

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