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Mystique of racing Merckx is gone, says Cancellara

After last week’s announcement that the rules for the Hour Record are to change, Fabian Cancellara’s camp has announced that the proposed attempt by the Swiss time trial specialist is on hold.

There seem to be two reasons for Cancellara and the Trek Factory Racing team’s unexpected attack of cold feet. According to a team statement, the bike development and training effort so far has been focused on breaking the ‘athlete’s Hour’, under the rules that have held sway since 2000.

That record was held by Ondřej Sosenka at 49.7km, set in 2005, but the ride Cancellara wanted to compare himself against was Eddy Merckx’s 1972 record.

He said: “The whole appeal of the Hour Record for me is that you are competing against riders from the past. I would have loved to race Eddy (Merckx) in the Classics, or in a time trial, but it’s not possible. The Hour Record has this charming side to it that I like a lot.

“Now it’s going to be different. I’m not against technological innovation, everyone knows that. It’s why I spend so much time testing road bikes with Trek. And it’s also why we’ve invested time and money in developing the best Merckx style bike.”

“We had some plans semi-ready but right now we need to think about the whole project again”, added Cancellara. “We will discuss everything within the team and with Trek.”

If the change in the romance of the Hour, from a virtual contest with Eddy Merckx to something more modern is one reason for Cancellara to put his attempt on the back burner, a more concrete reason is implied in the statement that Trek was developing a Merckx-style bike for Canellara’s attempt.

Under current UCI rules, anything you race has to be available for sale, either at the time, or within nice months. In 1972 Eddy Merckx rode a one-off Colnago track bike, tweaked and tuned to be as light as possible. You can’t do that now, so Trek must have been developing a bike that was not only as competitive as possible for the record attempt, but that could be sold through bikes shops afterwards.

But now, riders will be able to use endurance track bikes — in effect, pursuit bikes — not just the drop handlebar old school track bikes of the Merckx era. Unfortunately Trek doesn’t have anything like that in its range either, and it will probably be considerably harder to develop a UCI-legal aero pursuit bike than the old-school round-tubed track machine of the previous rules.

Team general manager Luca Guercilena said: “At this point we need to assess the situation. We’ve invested many ressources, both human and financial, to prepare for an attempt and we need to evaluate in which way, if any, we proceed. We are satisfied that the UCI has now stipulated clear regulations about the Hour Record, as there was already some speculation about it, but we need to examine what it means for our project, which so far has been focused on breaking the Merckx record.”

Those of us who were paying attention when Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree turned the Hour Record into their own personal battleground in the 1990s will no doubt be disappointed that we’re not going to see a rider of Cancellara’s calibre smash the Sosenka record sometime soon. But the anticipation is going to make it all the more exciting when it finally happens.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

18 comments

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

...or within nice months...

Within NINE months maybe?

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Quince [382 posts] 2 years ago
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mad_scot_rider wrote:
Quote:

...or within nice months...

Within NINE months maybe?

No, no; the time period doesn't matter. So long as everyone agrees that they've had a pleasant time in that particular month, that's when they must release the bike.

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miffed [162 posts] 2 years ago
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If he's certain how good he is he could still do it with the old rules, I'd be suprised if there was anything that prevented round tubes and dropped handlebars

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ryanmerrett [4 posts] 2 years ago
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Surely just replicate the Merckx bike and do it outside of UCI rules if it is for the "mystique" of racing the cannibal  19

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Gkam84 [9092 posts] 2 years ago
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The UCI rules about being for sale have been around for a long time.

If you have £25k you can get yourself a Team GB track bike....

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Frazzler [6 posts] 2 years ago
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How much development is really required from Trek to develop a bike from 1972? As someone else pointed out they could still do it under the old rules if it really is for the romance of trouncing The Cannibal.

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J90 [367 posts] 2 years ago
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Shame, Cancellara would've smashed Merckx's record.

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Jacob [40 posts] 2 years ago
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What a load of tosh... Jump on a 1972 bike a try and beat the record. Case closed. Don't try and come up with excuses. Like others have said, if it's for no other reason than to prove to yourself that you could have beaten him if you were around at that time then just shut up and ride. I use to think that it could be cool to see him try but this is just getting boring now.

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cyclotripper [33 posts] 2 years ago
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Yep... Do it on whatever bike you want... Don't worry about the UCI.

The concept the bike should be in production is daft...

The pity is... Cancellara is probably past his best....

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Grizzerly [339 posts] 2 years ago
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Does this mean that the Boardman & Obree records will be re-instated? Also, maybe, that Sosenka's 'flywheel' back wheel should be available in the shops?

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sean1 [177 posts] 2 years ago
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Cancellera could still have a go at the 'Athletes' record and compare himself to Merckx.

Maybe Fabian is getting cold feet and the UCI rules give him a convenient excuse.

Just goes to show what an amazing effort Boardman's record is.

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glynr36 [637 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

The UCI rules about being for sale have been around for a long time.

If you have £25k you can get yourself a Team GB track bike....

I think Trek might have viewed his attempt as a decent marketing strategy for sales on the bike.

Trek exist to sell bikes and make money, it's a vested interest for them to be able to sell the bike.
Team GB exist to win medals.

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andyp [1473 posts] 2 years ago
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'Does this mean that the Boardman & Obree records will be re-instated?'

No. positions too extreme to be counted.

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Markus [50 posts] 2 years ago
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The rules have not changed yet. Do it now!

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Skylark [162 posts] 2 years ago
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So many things have changed since 1972. The fret over bikes is only part of the story. If we consider the pace of evolution of technology (Sports included) then future records are bound to be broken due to refinements in the entire process. So wherein lies the point? Measure power generation and total energy expenditure within said hour? Future power meters are bound to be even more precise. You get the subliminal picture.

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DaSy [704 posts] 2 years ago
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I welcome any rider with a shred of credibility, and I put Cancellara firmly in that bracket, to take the Hour Record crown from the unbelievable and highly dubious Sosenka.

The UCI should have left the rules alone in the first place, and let technology take its course. The Obree and Boardman rides should have stood, as Eddy was certainly using better tech than Fausto Coppi, it's all part of the progression.

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ChairRDRF [316 posts] 2 years ago
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seanbolton wrote:

Cancellera could still have a go at the 'Athletes' record and compare himself to Merckx.

Maybe Fabian is getting cold feet and the UCI rules give him a convenient excuse.

Just goes to show what an amazing effort Boardman's record is.

Exactly. And Sosenka should "fess up" on the tAhlete's record as he never did anything apart from it and had form on doping.

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CarlosFerreiro [112 posts] 2 years ago
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andyp wrote:

'Does this mean that the Boardman & Obree records will be re-instated?'

No. positions too extreme to be counted.

I understand the intention to be that all previous records will remain "counting" as legal under the rules that were in place at the time. So all the records up to 1996 stands as legal under the "open" rules, Boardman and Sosenka stand as legal under the "athletes" rules and future records will stand as legal under the "pursuit" rules. With the Sosenka record is set as the starting "distance to beat" for the new rules.