>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
Rohan Dennis was joking when he first raised an Hour Record attempt with his new BMC team-mates late last year — but since then he has prepared meticulously ahead of his attempt in Grenchen, Switzerland this Sunday.
Dennis, who embarked on a rare mid-season transfer from Garmin-Sharp to BMC last season, was with colleagues at the team time trial world championships last year when Jens Voigt was building up to a successful bid for the Hour Record.
What started as a facetious comment would soon become a commitment to take on one of cycling’s toughest trials.
“Jens was going for it and obviously the record was 49.7km,” Dennis told Cycling Weekly at the Tour Down Under last month.
“It was at worlds and there was big hype. I shot my mouth off a little bit and said, ‘Oh, I’ll smash Jens! That won’t be even hard! He’ll beat the record but I could beat [his] easily.’
“Now I sort of have to do it.”
Bobridge looked more an old man than a champion athlete after his 51.3km effort last week in Melbourne, which reminded the world how difficult the record really is.
On reflection, Bobridge’s coach Tim Decker suggested an extra week following the end of Tour Down Under may have been more ideal. Dennis, who won overall honours at the first WorldTour event of the season, has that and presumably a bigger budget too.
“The team were asking me if I was serious about it the record and tried to get me to do it straight after worlds, but mentally I had prepared to end my season there so I said no,” Dennis added. “I said if we’re going to do it, we do it after the Tour Down Under.
“I have been told, back when I was a little bit younger, I should try it, because of my time-trials and my track background. I never had any interest because it was either the standard road position or track position, bunch wise or superman position, or some stupid thing like that, back then. Now it has changed and it’s a different ball game.”
Dennis has looked at every aspect of the attempt with dedicated BMC sports science staff to determine a 52.5km target that would surpass Matthias Brandle’s current 51.852 mark.
He, like Bobridge, has a proven track pedigree. The duo represented Australia at multiple world championships and in the team pursuit gold medal final at the 2012 London Olympic Games. This Hour Record attempt, and perhaps another one later in his career, may be the last time you see the tenacious young professional compete on the boards — his road cycling palmares are steadily growing with title and stage victories.
“I’ve broken up the actual hour into 10K or 15-minute efforts for training so I don’t do the full one hour,” Dennis said. “I don’t want to do more than one of these at this point in my career so it’s also to do with the mental aspect of things — you’re not thinking of one big goal, you have little goals along the way. Also, on the road, doing time trial stuff for nationals was part of the preparation, and also preparing for nationals at the same time they sort of helped each other.”
Bobridge emphasised the importance of control after his attempt and it’s a point JLT Condor manager John Herety, who assisted Chris Boardman in his second bid, also supports.
“It was a very, very disciplined approach as you’d expect from Chris. He availed himself of every technology that was available at the time, so it’s no different to what they’re doing now, I suspect,” Herety recalled.
“Watching Jack finish the other day brought back so many memories of what Chris was like. He couldn’t get off the bike as well. It was pretty savage.
“I was surprised that Jack didn’t get it actually, given his pursuit background, but watching him straight away he was pretty erratic,” he continued. “I’ve not followed him in his pursuit that much at world championship level but you can’t be that erratic in an Hour Record attempt. You’ve got to be metronomic in your approach. If you dig too deep too early there is no way to get it back, so I was pretty dubious because Jack set off so quick.
“I think Rohan will probably learn from that. Even if he wasn’t already going to ride at his own pace, he will have certainly seen that it’s not possible to get away with that,” he added.
Dennis in January was confident he could surpass Bobridge’s attempt but was wary of Bradley Wiggins, who will embark on the challenge later this year.
“I honestly think that if Wiggins doesn’t beat one of us young guys it could stand for a long time,” he said.
Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) didn’t, and Alex Dowsett (Movistar) never got the chance with a training crash and consequent broken collarbone ending his campaign for now.
“There could be guys that purely target this for their whole career and could come out and purposefully train for this for two years and make it some stupid time like [Graeme] Obree and Boardman used to back in the day,” Dennis said. “I think Wiggins would be the one you hold your breath and go, ‘Please don’t break it’ — if I have it at that stage anyway. And if he doesn’t come up with a quicker time, speed, whatever, I think it will be pretty hard to go much faster for a while.”