British cyclist Alex Dowsett smashed the world hour record by completing 52.937 kilometres at the Manchester Velodrome in a perfectly-paced performance on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Team Movistar rider, who suffers from the rare blood condition haemophilia, improved the mark of 52.491km set by Australia’s Rohan Dennis in February by 446 metres.
Dowsett rarely strayed from his pre-set target of covering 250-metre laps in 17.1 seconds, preserving enough energy to increase his pace over the final 10 minutes and set a new mark by nearly two full laps of the track.
“I wish everyone hadn’t told me it was going to be so hard,” said a tearful Dowsett afterwards. “I was expecting ‘horrific’ and it was just ‘terrible’!
“I think I had more in me, it’s difficult to know. The first 30 minutes was easy, at least compared to what I expected. I just had to stay disciplined and, sure enough, the last 10 minutes were a bit ‘grippy’.”
It is the fourth time the record has been broken since September 2014, and it may not stand for long.
Dowsett’s fellow Briton Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner and four-time Olympic gold-medallist, is scheduled to make an attempt on the record in London on June 7.
Dowsett hit the headlines in 2013 when he won one stage at the Giro d’Italia, as well as a third consecutive title at the British Time-trial Championships.
Despite being diagnosed with haemophilia, which impairs the body’s ability to clot blood, he had dreamed of breaking the world hour record from an early age.
– Cookson congratulations –
Dowsett’s ride was visualised alongside that of Dennis on the Velodrome scoreboard, meaning that the crowd could see the Essex-based rider gaining ground on his virtual rival in the closing stages.
Dowsett eventually ‘caught up’ with Dennis on lap 179 of the near-212 he eventually completed and in the closing 10 minutes he raised his pace considerably to surge beyond the old mark.
“I’m not very good at changing pace,” said Dowsett, who received guidance over his pacing in the form of hand signals from his friend, bike shop owner Steve Collins.
“So I wanted to ride at a pace behind the record. At halfway I knew I had a lot left in the tank and got a bit excited and posted some quick times, but Steve calmed me down.
“The last five minutes was all the crowd inspiring me, with the noise they were making.”
First set in 1893, the hour record has gained new credibility in the past year since world governing body the UCI laid down strict rules about the technology and position a rider is allowed to use.
“Alex has done an incredible job,” said UCI president Brian Cookson on the organisation’s website.
“This is great publicity for our event and for other riders who wish to follow in Alex’s footsteps. Let’s see what Bradley can do now.”
Asked if he would consider another attempt on the record, a grinning Dowsett replied: “Maybe after June 7.”