Bradley Wiggins must beat the Hour Record if he attempts it this summer because failure would tarnish his palmarès, says Eddy Merckx.
“If you’re nobody and you don’t beat it, there’s no problem, but if Wiggins attacks the Hour Record, he has to beat it,” Merckx told Cycling Weekly.
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“It was the same way with me because I’d already won the Tour de France two or three times, the Tour of Italy, the classics and things like that. The journalists in Mexico thought I couldn’t beat it. I knew that I had to if I went for it. I also felt that my career wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t break the Hour Record.”
Merckx dominated cycling through the 1960s and 1970s and won all three Grand Tours and every major classic. He is regarded as cycling’s greatest cyclist ever.
He rode 49.431 kilometres in Mexico City in 1972 when he attempted, and broke, the Hour Record that had been held by greats such as Fausto Coppi and Jacques Anquetil. That record became cycling’s benchmark when in 2000 the governing body changed the rules to limit positions and bikes that cyclists could use.
After a rule change in May 2014 that allowed pursuit-style bikes, cyclists began planning and attempting the record again. German Jens Voigt marked his retirement with a ride of 51.110 kilometres. Austrian Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) went next and set the current record of 51.852.
Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts), however, finished around 500 metres short in his attempt on Saturday in Melbourne. That is something Wiggins cannot afford, said Merckx.
“Wiggins should break it, though. For sure,” Merckx continued.
“I agree [he will set an untouchable record]. I think 55 kilometres is too much. It is too much in one hour, even for Wiggins, who’s an exceptional athlete.”
Wiggins will reportedly attempt the Hour Record in June in the Lee Valley Velodrome used for the 2012 London Olympics. The track runs for 250 metres.
“If I was going to do the hour record again today then I’d do it in a closed velodrome, but on a track like in Moscow, a track that’s 333 metres,” added Merckx. “The bigger the track the better it is for pushing through the curves.”