Will Filippo Ganna break the Hour Record? He'll obliterate it, and will beat Boardman's 'superman' distance too, says our aero expert

The Italian has the aerodynamics and the power - and could do 57km on Saturday if atmospheric conditions are right

Filippo Ganna in an individual pursuit on the track
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Saturday October 8 at 8pm CEST, Filippo Ganna is going to attack the men’s UCI Hour Record and, if we are being honest, we all want to see something outrageous. 

Dan Bigham cranked out 55.548km last month at the same velodrome as Ganna will be doing his attempt in - Grenchen in Switzerland. I think Ganna is going to put the record on the shelf for a while, and if atmospheric conditions are right, he will be in the region of 57 kilometres. 

I think that Ganna will surpass the ‘Best Human Effort’ mark set by Chris Boardman in 1996 of 56.375km, using the 'superman' position that the UCI now deems illegal. 

An awful lot has been made of this attempt in the past year or so. It seems like the ink has only just dried on my last speculative piece on Bigham’s attempt where I underestimated how far he’d ride (sorry Dan). 

The fact that the world’s most notorious aero nerd has been so involved in this attempt makes me quite confident in Ganna’s ability to break the record. Up until this year, the big Italian was the best time triallist on the planet. On his day, he probably still is. He also has some excellent track pedigree as the former holder of the individual pursuit world record as well as winning a large number of world, European and Olympic medals in endurance events on the track. 

Finally, rumours did circulate in early 2021 that Ganna had ridden at 57kph for 30 minutes on a ‘slower’ velodrome in Italy, before all the technological advancements were in place for his current Hour Record attempt.

What tech will Ganna use?

The technology that has gone into this Hour Record is astounding, especially when you consider how simple a track bike actually is. We know that the technology works too, which is one of the reasons that Dan Bigham’s ride was so big! 

It’s worth remembering too, Dan Bigham made himself extremely aerodynamic for this attempt - an impressive feat in itself. Ganna won’t be as aero as Dan because he’s massive (for a professional cyclist). This means he will have to put out significantly more power for the same speed, and even more to go faster. The rumours are that Ganna has about 460W at his disposal for the Hour. 

The 3D-printed Pinarello

The Pinarello Bolide F HR 3D is a £D printed time trial bike

(Image credit: Pinarello)

In the week of the attempt, Pinarello dropped their new bike and it has a few interesting features. The bike is named the Bolide F HR 3D. The bike is 3D printed, allowing Pinarello to create new shapes to those that they’ve previously been able to manufacture with carbon fibre techniques. This is very useful as the shape of an object changes how it interacts with the wind, and access to more aero shapes make for a faster bike. Dan Bigham rode a prototype version of the F HR 3D to his Hour Record. 

UCI rule changes have aided the development of this frame too, with the constraint that the length and width ratio of equipment not being able to exceed 3:1 now removed. This means airfoil tubes are now deeper than before. Interestingly, the fork and seat stays have remained close to the wheel - the opposite to recent trends from Cadex and Hope of making these wider.

The Princeton CarbonWorks wheels

The Bolide F HR is a 3D printed time trial bike made by Pinarello

(Image credit: Pinarello )

Ganna will be on a set of Princeton CarbonWorks track specials. The wheels will set you back more than $8,000 and are new this year. Aero data for these wheels are hard to come by, but I would imagine that they’ve been tested by Ineos in the run up to the attempt.

The skinsuit, overshoes and helmet  

Ganna is measured for his custom TdF skinsuit

(Image credit: Bioracer)

When Dan Bigham did his attempt he wore a custom Bioracer Katana skinsuit, a suit that Ganna also will be wearing for his attempt. The skinsuit will be paired with Bioracer Epic overshoes and a (probably rather large) Kask Mistral helmet. 

The reason large helmets are used is because more air can be displaced around the shoulders - an aero optimised helmet is more aero than bare shoulders. Larger helmets mean we can engineer a larger proportion of airflow. Expect Ganna to turn up looking like he’s ready to defend the death star.  

The drivetrain

Dan Bigham's chainring and Muc-Off chain treatment

(Image credit: Muc-Off)

Ganna’s chain and chainring have allegedly gone through 17 hours of work to save around 1.5W over a regular, decent track chainring. He will be using ‘Ludicrous AF’ lube from Muc-Off and a Wattshop Cratus chainring. The chainring and chain are treated multiple times over a 17-hour period - a process that Muc-Off developed from testing on the track and in the lab.

The power and aero stuff

We know that it’s been reported that Ganna can hit 460W for an hour. These are numbers we’ve not seen from an Hour Record attempt in quite some time - as a result, the question becomes one of ‘how aero can he get?’. With Bigham’s CdA reportedly around the 0.15 mark, which is an obscenely low number, Ganna has his work cut out. 

To have a think about this, it’s worth doing a little physics. To oversimplify things, let’s imagine a rider going along a straight road, instead of round a velodrome, moving at a steady speed of 57kph. The force on this rider can be calculated by simply multiplying the power and the speed. As our rider isn’t accelerating, we also know the force in the other direction is equal to this, as we are moving at a constant speed. 

If we put some numbers in we can work out that the air is, providing our rider is doing 460W. From this, we can fudge our model a little to see what kind of difference conditions will make on Ganna’s speed for given powers and various conditions. With this, we can take a good guess at what it'll take Ganna to hit that 57km mark.

So, how far will he go? 

Well, I wrote a bit of code to work out how he might do. I figured out how many watts Dan Bigham lost to rolling resistance and through his drivetrain and assumed Ganna’s losses to be the same because he’s on the same equipment. 

This is likely a slight underestimate as Ganna is bigger than Dan Bigham and probably will be going faster. In any sense, my model yielded Ganna needing 455W (with the variations in weather and such taken into account) for 57kph. 

I underestimated Bigham and I won’t be making that mistake twice. I think Ganna will exceed 57km in his attempt and will put the record to bed for some time. 

What will it take to beat Ganna? Well, the same watts while being more aero on a faster day would do it, but the preparation would have to be equally meticulous. The aero gains are the game changer here. Ganna isn’t the first big bloke to be able to pump out 460W for an hour and he won’t be the last either. 

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