It may have been harder and hotter than Matthias Brändle expected, but he still set a new Hour Record
Stated baldly, the distance that Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) covered, 51.852km, does scant justice to the excitement and drama involved. That’s always the way – it was just the same six weeks earlier when Voigt set the record that Brändle broke.
Brändle added a relatively modest 750 metres to Voigt’s distance, riding on the shorter-than-standard 200m track at the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.
As with Voigt, Brändle set off strongly. He was not only strong; he was disciplined. As he reeled off 69-second kilometre after 69-second kilometre, on a solid 52.1kph average speed, the record almost began to look like a foregone conclusion. Even Brändle himself admitted afterwards, “At half way I thought I’d got it, I thought I would break the record for sure.”
But then: “It got hard. I had no choice but to slow down. I had to try to recover. I was beginning to get cramps. From about 30 minutes to about 45 was very difficult.”
His advantage over Voigt started to slip, from over 70 seconds, down into the mid-50s. There were concerned faces among his team in the track centre. A implosion in an Hour ride always starts slowly. They admitted later they’d been quite worried – he’d never faltered like this in his longer training rides.
“But after 45 minutes I started to get my rhythm back,” he said. “The closer I got to the end, the easier it became.”
For all that, he never really got back to the consistency of his first 30 minutes. He looked in some distress, and his line on the track grew increasingly ragged. Unlike Voigt, he couldn’t produce a storming rally in the last ten minutes. But he had enough left. “By 50 minutes, I knew that unless something big happened, I was going to do it.”
Was it harder than he expected? “Yes. It was much hotter than it was when we did the big training rides, and I didn’t expect that. I couldn’t have anything to drink, and that made it even harder. But I also felt the crowd, and I knew I was being watched every second of every lap.”
The high probability of his record coming under attack in the coming months didn’t faze him. “I’m on the list, that’s what I wanted. I’m there with some big riders, and now it’s the other guys who have to attack the record. And I’m fine with that. I’ve done what I wanted. I’ll go on holiday, and then get ready for next year.”
UCI President Brian Cookson, who, if he’d wanted to, could have watched the attempt through the window in his office that looks over the track, said, “This is exactly what we wanted from the record. We had an older rider, a retiring rider, who set a mark. Now we have a younger rider stepping up and breaking it. Matthias may even come back to the record some day, when he’s older and stronger. Today it was close, but it was enough, and it was great to have the record here, at the UCI’s own track.”
It’s clear that the UCI is delighted with its rejuvenated Hour record. And clearly the large and very, very noisy crowd that lined the track agreed. The question now is: who goes next? Because one thing’s for sure, and that is that we’re not finished with this record yet.