By Simon Smythe
Ethan Vernon is to give the Hope HB.TT bike its international debut in the U23 World Championship Time Trial in Flanders, Belgium on Monday.
The 21-year-old Great Britain rider used the original Hope x Lotus track version at the Tokyo Olympics in the team pursuit and has been testing the road prototype since returning home, winning a local time trial - the Coalville Wheelers Hilly 19.8 on August 30 - which he told Cycling Weekly was his first proper effort on it. “My coach told me to do it because it’s the same length as the Worlds TT - 40 minutes, 20 miles.”
Vernon said he was happy with his power in the Coalville Wheelers TT. The bike was was set up to replicate his optimised position on his track bike, but he said he would carry on working on it, testing it back to back with other bikes in the week between the Tour of Britain and the Worlds.
However, Vernon crashed heavily at the Tour of Britain, needing stitches in his right knee, and updated CW to say the bike was “all good” for Monday but that he was still suffering with the knee injury and would “see how I get on over the next 48 hours.”
Vernon’s Hope HB.TT is the only one in existence - it is the prototype that Hope told CW is made from a heavier carbon than the production will use. However, he says, it’s not noticeably heavy: “It’s not like you pick it up and think, ‘oh no’."
And it didn’t disadvantage him in the 800 feet of climbing over 20 miles in the Coalville Wheelers time trial in which he averaged just under 30mph.
“We did that for distance rather than elevation, so hopefully the Worlds will be a bit faster and flatter. And it was only a CTT so it wasn’t like I chose it for a major event.”
Vernon was the first GB rider to test the Hope/Lotus HB.T track bike in 2019 and says he's testing the road version because Hope were looking for feedback from a rider who would be able to compare both bikes.
“When we jumped on the track bike it was mega stiff, pretty fast, and the road version is very similar. On the track, out-of-the gate stiffness is a big thing. I’d say the TT bike is really stiff - I’m not sure how important that is for time trialling really, but it did feel really stiff.”
With its radically wide fork and seatstays, the Hope bike is very distinctive, as Vernon says: “It turned a lot of heads. I got out of the car and everyone came over for photos. It was pretty special. Because I was the first to ride the track bike, to be first to ride the TT bike too - it’s quite nice.”
Vernon is the only British rider in the Worlds U23 time trial; he also rides the U23 road race on Friday September 24 as part of a Great Britain team of five.
Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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