Hour Record regulations "modernised and simplified" by UCI

Out goes 2000 'Merckx position' rule change, previous records restored, current (shorter) record stands - eh? There is method though…

by Tony Farrelly   May 15, 2014  

UCI logo on white

In a widely expected move cycling’s world governing body, the UCI. today announced that the rules for Hour Record are to be modernised and simplified.

The upshot of the new rule change is that any future attempt on the record can be set by by a rider on a bike that conforms with the endurance track bike regulations of the day. Presumably, although it is not explicitly mentioned in the UCI statement, that will be a pursuit bike with aero bars - though both the madison and the points race are longer than the track pursuit the bikes ridden in them don't lend themselves so well to a ride against the clock.

The new rules replace the previous rule change made in 2000 which required the hour record to be set on a bike with the same riding position as that employed by Eddy Merckx when he set when he set a distance of 49.431km in 1972 for men; and 1978 for women when Cornelia Van Oosten-Hage, 43 .083km.

The 2000 rule change created the seeming anomaly that the hour record - a time trial - could not be set on a time trial bike or a bike using tri-bars or any sort of handlebar extension designed to help the rider get in to a more aerodynamic position - because such things did not exist in 1972. 

As ever though the rules of unintended consequences kicked in and a rule change made with the intention of levelling the playing field emptied it instead. In the 14 years since the change the record has been broken twice. Chris Boardman bettered Merckx in 2000, riding 49.441km, and then the 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 - which by association unfairly or otherwise cast doubt on the purely athletic nature of his achievement.

When it comes to clarifying which marks any future hour record attempts have to beat the UCI has, in the short term at least, replaced one anomaly with another - the current record is shorter than previous records:

“ According to the regulation in force from today, all successful attempts on the hour that respected the rules applicable at the time the record in question was achieved are considered “Hour records.” In the light of the current regulation, the records to be beaten today are those established by Ondrej Sosenka (49 km 700) for men and Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (46 km 065) for women, as these two athletes beat the Hour record using equipment which is still within the regulations currently applicable to track endurance events.”

That mean that although Chris Boardman, Tony Rominger, Graeme Obree, Francesco Moser, and John Frey all rode considerably further to set records that all now count - the record to beat is Ondrej Sosenka’s because it was set under the rules that applied when he set it.

The new regime at the UCI led by Brian Cookson has made no secret of its openness to technical innovation and marks a complete change of direction from what went before under previous presidents: Pat McQuaid; and Hein Verbruggen. The change comes amid worries that Hour Record - long considered the blue riband of cycling achievement was in danger of becoming moribund.

Last month we reported that Fabian Cancellara’s attempt to set a new record had been put on hold because of uncertainty surrounding the Hour Record regulations - or as it turned out, the certainty that they were about to change rendering pointless any further development work on an Hour bike that managed to be both high tech and conform to the 2000 equipment regs.

The writing has been on the wall for the Athlete’s Hour (as the UCI called the Hour Records set which conformed to the 2000 Equipment Regulation) since February when the 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.” Today it offically passed.

 

The idea for the 2000 rule change was to to take technology out of the equation and make the hour record purely an athletic contest between riders. To that end the UCI devised a new set of Equipment Regulation defining the technical characteristics of bikes that could be used in competition and applied them retrospectively - Merckx and Van Oosten Hage were the most recent record holders deemed by the UCI to have ridden bikes that complied with the 2000 Equipment Regulation.

The hour records set between Merckx’s 1972 mark and the change of rules in 2000 were were wiped from the list and re-classified as Best Hour  Performance - a move which today was reversed with those previous records being reinstated to the list of previous hour record holders.

Commenting on the change UCI President, Brian Cookson said:

“This new rule is part of the modernisation of the UCI Equipment Regulation. Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent. 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.”

Now all that remains to be seen is which rider will be first to step up to the plate, and what bike they will be riding.

18 user comments

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Which then opens the book on sosenka's doping record.....

All Campag

posted by Flying Scot [670 posts]
15th May 2014 - 18:54

22 Likes

That's sad and dumb. There still was a "use an aero pursuit bike" hour record before, and there was no impediment to Wiggins, Cancellara pursuing that record.

Before there was a choice, Merckx or the less restricted record. Now they've gotten rid of the Merckx, and now it seems there's no (official) choice.

Sad.

posted by Paul J [675 posts]
15th May 2014 - 21:10

18 Likes

Merckx's record was beyond the lifetime of many (such as myself), why should everything be compared to something that happened 42 years ago? It's bananas!

I'd much rather see contemporary machinery, that is permitted by the UCI in current competition being used, rather than athletes having to build a bike specifically to match the technology that existed in 1972.

Hutch wrote how difficult it was to achieve this retro-engineering, citing that the athlete hour rules were more restrictive than those around for Merckx, indeed his bike wouldn't have been able to be used under the athletes hour rules as it was too light.

Twitter: @velosam

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posted by SamShaw [281 posts]
15th May 2014 - 22:19

16 Likes

Wiggo was interviewed today by I think GCN before stage 5 of the tour of California. The interviewer asked him about this rule change and he said he didn't know about it. When she told him the detail he replied 'that changes everything' with a real positive indication that the change was good and would interest him.

Given his itt performance earlier in the week I for one would love to watch him smash the record - and then let battle commence!

Jonteam

posted by teamjon [22 posts]
15th May 2014 - 22:54

12 Likes

It seems sensible to me.

The idea of effectively choosing an arbitrary bicycle at an arbitrary date and naming it the 'Definitive Bicycle For All Eternity' seems a bit... backward.

It seems to make as much sense as demanding all riders use a Penny Farthing, or any other ancestor of the modern bicycle. The evolution of the bicycle is as much a part of the history of cyclesport as the people, and at no point in that history has the bicycle been a fixed thing.

Unlike many other sports, cycling doesn't have some idealistic notion to conform to; running, swimming, jumping, etc., remain fundamentally the same* if the athletes are left naked and equipmentless (if maybe a bit more risqué). Cycling depends completely on the bicycle, which has yet to receive a perennial, absolute definition. It seems pretty futile to pluck one out there air and declare it good for all time. And the idea of Trek spending millions of dollars to create a super-ultra-good-but-not-THAT-good bicycle seems to undermine the whole thing altogether. It may as well get undermined officially and with some fireworks thrown in.

Anyway, I think it's a 'nice idea' too, but I don't think it can hope to survive in such a fast evolving, technology-driven sport.

*Admittedly, they've had their own equipment problems (I've especially heard about swimming), but so long as all the current competitors are on a level playing field, no-one seems too concerned about comparing themselves against history

posted by Quince [204 posts]
15th May 2014 - 23:42

12 Likes

teamjon wrote:
Wiggo was interviewed today by I think GCN before stage 5 of the tour of California. The interviewer asked him about this rule change and he said he didn't know about it. When she told him the detail he replied 'that changes everything' with a real positive indication that the change was good and would interest him.

Given his itt performance earlier in the week I for one would love to watch him smash the record - and then let battle commence!

Thanks for the heads up, it seems to be on cyclingnewstv; I've found the link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLK78Lpz1d0

I'm not sure if the two people are quite on the same wavelength, but it was fun to watch.

posted by Quince [204 posts]
15th May 2014 - 23:45

9 Likes

Order is, sort of, restored! However for Sosenkas record to be the one to beat is oxymoronic, seeing as it is slower than the absolute record, which was recorded with equipment that was within the rules at the time. Unfortunately the rule makers have now obliterated the most hotly contested period of 'The Hour' to nothing more than an irrelevant footnote, whilst awarding the honour of the fastest to a man who under 'Lance-rules' should be stripped of his time....

Bizarre.

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [212 posts]
16th May 2014 - 4:46

7 Likes

Just specify a maximum mass for the bicycle, that it has two wheels, no fairings and no electronics or assisted gear shifting etc. everything on it must be human powered. Then we may see some innovation and records smashed...

posted by Paul_C [257 posts]
16th May 2014 - 7:12

8 Likes

'assisted gear shifting '

track bike FAIL

posted by andyp [1070 posts]
16th May 2014 - 7:59

6 Likes

How would you define a fairing?

posted by CarlosFerreiro [65 posts]
16th May 2014 - 8:40

4 Likes

posted by mckechan [198 posts]
16th May 2014 - 9:28

8 Likes

CarlosFerreiro wrote:
How would you define a fairing?

Anything that diverts air around the rider or draggy components of the bike like chains/gears/cranks

(think along the lines of those full fairings you see on motorbikes that are intended to cut drag and keep the rider dry.

posted by Paul_C [257 posts]
16th May 2014 - 10:11

6 Likes

So handlebars are fairings?

posted by CarlosFerreiro [65 posts]
16th May 2014 - 10:49

6 Likes

About time. I thought the UCI were going to ban all road wins over the last 25 years because they weren't on a 7 speed hub

The 2000 ruling stunk of UCI stupidity. Its like saying Merckx's attempt would not be valid had the original record been set on a penny farthing.

It needs to be within the rulings of the day. its human evolution, human en devour and science.....pushing the boundaries of man and machine....this is the point of the record.

Actually, when you think of it, the 2000 ruling defines the UCI, of the last 15 years. Blinkered, narrow minded with no vision of the future. Well done Cookson for turning the tide.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [393 posts]
16th May 2014 - 11:28

8 Likes

CarlosFerreiro wrote:
So handlebars are fairings?

And the front forks. And the head tube. Everything that has air flowing over it is an aerodynamic device to some extent.

While I'd be happy with a 'Merckx record' and a 'unlimited' record, the fact is that modern tyres, lubricants, frame stiffness, understanding of heat effects, clothing etc make the comparison extremely dodgy.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [956 posts]
16th May 2014 - 12:03

3 Likes

Gizmo_ wrote:
CarlosFerreiro wrote:
So handlebars are fairings?

And the front forks. And the head tube. Everything that has air flowing over it is an aerodynamic device to some extent.

Yup. And so you define necessary structures, and put limits on the sizes and shapes, and riders positions etc etc and in just a few cycles you have something like the current UCI rules. Wink

posted by CarlosFerreiro [65 posts]
16th May 2014 - 12:11

6 Likes

Jeez! Can someone proof read an article before it's published?

posted by Jonomc [23 posts]
16th May 2014 - 21:14

4 Likes

CarlosFerreiro wrote:
So handlebars are fairings?

aah, Carlos! The memories of the NikB 'furore' on TTF...
Wink

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [212 posts]
18th May 2014 - 8:01

2 Likes