Dan Bigham's usual modus operandi is to produce a devastating ride deploying minimum power and maximum aerodynamics. But his recent individual pursuit gold medal and British record were different, Bigham revealed to Cycling Weekly. This time, it was an increase in power that saw him beat his rivals, using the exact set-up he used when he broke the British Hour record in October. Now, the Ineos Race Engineer says he will shortly be announcing his plan to attack the world Hour record this year.
“It’s the same bike - I changed the rear cog and that’s about it,” says Bigham of the setup he used at the weekend at the British National Track Championships to take a huge four seconds off John Archibald’s British individual pursuit record and win the gold medal.
Not only did Bigham use the same Argon 18 Electron Pro that he rode to British Hour record success, but he also used the same FFWD wheels, Vittoria tubs, Vorteq skinsuit and Kask helmet (though plain coloured versions of the last two since he rode as a British Cycling member rather than as a member of a team).
That's not to say the bike is a house brick, but unusually for Bigham he puts his superior performance down to a step up physiologically. At the start of 2022 he joined Ineos Grenadiers as performance engineer, leaving behind his 'Derbados' track team and he says the job change, in combination with the pandemic, has allowed him to “train consistently, recover consistently and be selfish and focus on myself as a solo rider rather than the collective team ambitions."
"The fact that I’m not trying to run a Track World Cup cycling team any more, which takes up a lot of bandwidth - I’ve made a big step forward on the physiology front."
Bigham explains that since 2020 all his targets were towards the Hour record. “I wouldn’t say the plan to come back for the pursuit was ‘last minute’, but it wasn’t high agenda for me - it was a case of I need to turn up, do a fast time to help stamp my ticket for the Commonwealth Games [in Birmingham this summer]. They’re [Team England] after riders who can double or triple up. In my head I wanted to do the time trial but if I did a good time I thought I’d be able to say, put me in the IP and maybe the team pursuit as well. So I thought John’s record was probably possible but to come back and to do that - it was a bit scary!”
“I wasn’t running a power meter, but give or take I was at about 500 watts and I used to be at 460-470.”
Now I’m third fastest [IP] rider behind Ashton Lambie and Filippo Ganna and it’s the 10th fastest time in history."
World Hour record ambition
Last year Bigham said he just needed an extra seven watts to attack Victor Campenaerts’s world Hour record of 55.089km - does the physiological improvement mean he’s now ready to improve on the 54.723km that he rode?
“Yes, there’s loads going on there, getting it all organised and figured out. It won’t be too long until I can speak about when I’m going to do it and where I’m going to do it and how I’m going to do, but it’s certainly possible and that’s all you ever really need to know. You never go into an Hour record thinking it’s a surefire bet unless you’re Filippo Ganna. But after Friday it’s a bit more possible in my head."
Now that he’s on Ineos’s payroll, could Bigham be using the Pinarello Bolide HR pursuit bike, as used by Ganna and the Olympic team pursuit winning squad?
“That’s also on the to-do list. The WorldTour is quite different from working with track nations [Bigham formerly worked with Denmark], where you’re focusing on a World Championships or an Olympics and you have a big block of interim. Now it’s like there’s a race every day.
“The Hour record stuff is not exactly on the back burner, but the equipment stuff hasn’t kicked off yet - but that will literally be in the next few weeks when we start to look at all the bikes, wheels, all the other options and how we optimise that through Pinarello - obviously the intention being that everything I work and develop and test is to be used by Filippo to really do something big."
The implication is that we could see Bigham break Campenaerts's Hour record as a kind of a dummy run that paves the way for Ganna to put it on the shelf, but Bigham might well be a very hard act for his new team-mate to follow.
Bigham's national individual pursuit-winning setup
Bigham rode a gear of 64x15 or 115.2 inches for the individual pursuit, which is a smaller gear than he used for the Hour record, when he ran 64x14.
“I was running a new WattShop chainring that we’ve just put into production - more details going out this week but basically it’s got a friction modifier in the epoxy matrix that saves a few watts… but I only had a 64t so my choice was a 14 or a 15,” he says.
“I’m definitely a fan of going towards bigger gears and lower cadences and everything that comes with that but I just didn’t have time to test it out so I played safe with what I'm used to do as opposed to what I think the best thing is for me right now. There’s a bit more there in a bigger gear - and I didn’t really expect to go that fast either.”
The smaller gear meant Bigham reached 120rpm on his fastest lap.
There was talk of shorter-pitch chains last year, but for the individual pursuit Bigham stuck with standard half-inch pitch and used an Izumi Kai chain with a WattShop Cratus wax treatment. However, we could see a smaller chain and corresponding chainrings and sprockets next time.
“I still speak quite a bit with New Motion Labs, who have been developing shorter-pitch chains and obviously their Enduo system with dual chain engagement. That’s on the to-do list and WattShop have licensed their tech as well so we’ll be putting those into our chainrings pretty soon.
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