Coronavirus lockdown and the subsequent lack of racing has seen both professionals and amateurs continue to seek competitive endeavours, albeit more individual, socially distanced pursuits.
Everesting, both real-life and virtual, has experienced a significant rise in popularity, with records tumbling across the board and well-known figures such as Phil Gaimon and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann having a go.
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Ascendeding the 8,848m of Mount Everest, however, isn’t the easiest challenge and although many will have had more time on their hands than ever before, ten hours going uphill on a bike seems a particularly cruel and less than enjoyable past-time.
Thankfully, there’s a new kid on the block, the Garden Hour Record.
Devised by Conor Dunne, the former professional created a velodrome at his mother-in-law’s farm to see how far he could ride on grass in an hour.
“This time last year I was preparing for the Giro, now I’m digging holes on a farm,” Dunne says while constructing the course in the video on the Global Cycling Network’s YouTube channel.
With the grass mown and a digger used to create dirt-banking in the turns, Dunne was ready to set what would be the fastest-ever Garden Hour Record by virtue of being the first person to ever attempt it.
With his homemade velodrome totalling between 60-80m in length on either straight, the 28-year-old was completing a lap every 12 seconds, not ideal for receiving or drinking bottles or looking anywhere else but straight in front of him.
By the end of the hour, having reached a maximum speed of 24.3km/h at one point, Dunne had managed a total distance of 16.3km. Not a bad effort, the Irishman himself saying he was happy with it given the conditions, but also nowhere near Victor Campenaerts’ Hour Record of 55.089km.
With new challenges come new challengers, and word of a new record travelled quickly from Ireland to the continent.
Bas Tietema previously rode on the Continental circuit for An Post Chain Reaction and BEAT Cycling Club but nowadays makes YouTube videos that include making pizza with Elia Viviani or handing Peter Sagan cans of Coca-Cola at the Tour de France.
Enlisting the help of former BMX world champion Niek Kimmann, the Dutch duo were ready to lay claim to the newest record in cycling.
As with all records, knowledge and gains are built on the missteps of previous attempts. The velodrome constructed by Tietema and Kimmann was much bigger and closer to the size of a real velodrome, with wider corners and longer straights, allowing for higher speeds than Dunne’s comparatively small course.
These improvements ultimately proved crucial and after some encouragement via video link from Campenaerts himself, Tietema attempted the challenge first and set a new record of 18.2km.
Kimmann then became the first rider to break the 20km barrier, setting the current record of 20.1km.
However, Tietema thinks his course could have been enhanced further, telling Cycling Weekly: “We made the whole course, the whole velodrome, in eight or nine hours so the corners were still pretty soft, so when we went into them it was super hard to take them correctly.
“I think when you build a velodrome a few days earlier and then do the attempt three days later that will help a lot as the corners would be really hard and then you can go full speed into the corner and the same speed as on the straight.
“If you have the time and the possibility to dry out the corners that will help a lot. Also, if you can cut the grass short it will help you save you a lot of energy.”
Despite being one of the more accessible challenges to set up and complete in cycling, it’s by no means a walk in the park, or in this case, your garden.
“The garden hour record was pretty tough actually, it was harder than I expected, the corners were pretty tough, the straights as well because the grass was really bumpy, it was not that easy,” Tietema said. “The first few minutes I felt okay but afterwards it was really, really tough. It was a small course so we had to do lots of laps.”
So what does the future hold for the Garden Hour Record? Will it become a new fascination of the lockdown-bound rider to whom the concept of Everesting doesn’t really appeal? And what are the limits of the record, how far could it be possible to ride in an hour within the confines of your garden?
“It won’t be easy to break the record, it’s [currently] more than 20km/h so that’s pretty fast,” Tietema says. “But there are guys in the WorldTour peloton…like if Mathieu van der Poel or Wout Van Aert went for it and had the right equipment, it will be possible to break the record but it won’t be easy.
“I think someone like Van der Poel could do more than 30km in an hour…if he has good straights and good corners it would be possible. I think it’s possible to go faster than 30km/h if everything is right.”
Well, there we have it. Mathieu and Wout, you’re up.