Jensie’s Hour

The Jens Voigt Retirement Publicity Tour has been cranking along at full gas all season, just like the man himself, and his latest headline-grabbing move is a shot at the Hour record.

Credit to Jensie, there’s been plenty of chat about having a go from big names *cough Cancellara cough* but nothing has materialised. At least Jens is following through with his attempt.

Of course, on the velodrome there’s nowhere to hide – you’re either good enough or you’re not. There’s no tactics, teamwork or treacherous conditions to blame. It’s all down to the rider, on the day. Just you against history.

Pretty scary.

The UCI’s decision to change the regulations and allow modern track bikes was ostensibly the reason for Cancellara to cancel, but it does mean that riders making the attempt have all the advantages of modern equipment to help them.

The Hour has a complicated history.

The UCI Hour record is Ondřej Sosenka’s 49.7km, set in Moscow in 2005, on a bike strictly regulated to match that used by Eddy Merckx in 1972.

The UCI’s “Best Human Effort” record is held by Chris Boardman, at 56.375km, set in Manchester in 1996, on a carbon monocoque frame in a position that has since been outlawed.

The UCI has recently decided that Sosenka’s record is the ‘true’ record, but that it will no longer restrict bike design, other than requiring that the bike conforms to the current UCI track regulations.

That means carbon monocoques, aero tube profiles, pursuit bars and tuck positions, disc wheels and aero helmets. These huge technical advantages mean Sosenka’s record looks like a certain casualty.

Boardman’s record doesn’t count, because the ‘Superman’ position he used is not legal under current UCI regulations.

With new equipment allowed, the first rider to attempt the record stands a pretty good chance of getting it, even if it just sets a modern mark for everyone else to aim at.

For his part, Jens is not wasting any time preparing – he’s making his attempt on September 18th, in Grenchen, Switzerland. He’s already in training on the track.

Tickets can be purchased.

It will be televised.

Presumably his sponsor Trek will be knocking up a custom track rig (as far as I can tell the American company doesn’t currently market a track bike), and he won’t be going down the Graeme Obree route of building his own bike out of spare parts.

UPDATE: Jens will be riding a custom Trek – basically a modified time trial bike with 120mm rear-facing track ends and a sweet paint job.

Grenchen sits at at altitude of around 450m above sea level, not exactly high altitude like Mexico City or Aguascalientes, where several world records were set at the World Cup meet in late 2013.

So it’s a short preparation, he’s not a renowned time trialist, and his attempt is not at altitude.

I think it’s fair to say that any mark he sets will be an enticing target for the likes of Cancellara, Tony Martin, Bradley Wiggins or even a younger rider like Taylor Phinney, Tom Dumoulin or Rohan Dennis. Hopefully it’s the first in a string of attempts that really take the record forward.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing what one of cycling’s most popular characters can do on his way out of the sport, and it’s fantastic to have The Hour back on the agenda. It’s been too long.

Go Jens!

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