How they used to train: Ole Ritter’s lead weighted Hour Record training

A look back on some of the unusual ways the Danish rider trained for his successful Hour Record ride in 1968

In 1968 Ole Ritter of Denmark set the World Hour Record that the great Eddy Merckx broke in 1972.

Ritter was a very good time trialist and also a great innovator. When he set his Hour Record he used all the latest equipment, including one of the first versions of the modern skinsuit.

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>>> How they used to train: Eddy Merckx’s chain gang

He started racing at 18, and he won a lot because in those days a lot of Danish road races were run as time trials. Even in bunched races Ritter’s natural inclination as to clear off on his own. He was a natural time triallist.

His first coach, Helge Strombaek helped Ritter refine his ability. “He taught me to breathe slowly and deeply, in and out, and breathing deep and rhythmically like that is very important in a time trial,” Ritter says.

Ole Ritter by Chris Auld 23

Ole Ritter (Chris Auld)

As a professional he became even dedicated to making the perfect time trial effort, doing special training before any time trial or a record attempt.

Ritter would put lead shot in his drinks bottles, lead weights on his pedals, and even wore a lead-weighted diver’s belt when he was doing specific time trial efforts; all to build up his strength.

But training just to be strong isn’t enough, and Ritter knew that too. It’s important to do efforts at the speed required to win a time trial as well, so the body adapts to the effort required.

Ritter would train behind a scooter or a car, being paced at the correct speed. He refined his approach even more for the Hour Record.

Watch: How to pace a long time trial

“Before the Hour Record I trained on the road every morning,” Ritter says, “then on the track in the afternoon.

“But after my warm up on the track, I only ever rode at the pace I needed to break the record. I would do as many laps as I could at record pace.

“If some days I could only ride 18 laps at record speed, then I stopped at 18 laps. You have to train at record speed.”