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Lotus and Chris Boardman’s Hour Record Broken After 26 Years

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Image for article titled Lotus and Chris Boardman's Hour Record Broken After 26 Years

Photo: INEOS Grenadiers / Sean Hardy

Anyone who has followed professional baseball over the last few months knows that records can be contentious. Measures of achievement can be disputed, and marks as simple as an asterisk in the official record book can be debated for decades. Alongside the single-season home run record, the hour record in cycling is one of the most cherished and controversial in sports.

The general concept is simple, how far can someone travel on a bicycle alone on a track for an hour? In 1996, Britain’s Chris Boardman set the UCI Absolute Hour Record by riding 56.375 kilometers (35.023 miles) on a Lotus-built carbon monocoque bicycle. Boardman shattered the previous record by over a kilometer. However, regulation changes made in response led many to believe that Boardman’s record would never be broken. Last Saturday, that record was finally broken.

Filippo Ganna celebrating his successful hour record attempt

Filippo Ganna celebrating his successful hour record attempt
Photo: Valentin Flauraud / AFP (Getty Images)

Filippo Ganna, the 2020 and 2021 UCI Road Time-Trial World Champion, rode 56.792 kilometers (35.289 miles) at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland. It was obviously a team effort with Ganna supported by his UCI World Tour team, INEOS Grenadiers. Ganna and his performance engineer Dan Bigham focused on minimizing the drag coefficient of Ganna and his bike, a Pinarello Bolide F HR 3D. The Pinarello was 3D-printed with a scandium-aluminum-magnesium alloy and is the first 3D-printed aerobike to be compliant with the Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling’s governing body.

Pinarello Bolide F HR 3D

Pinarello Bolide F HR 3D
Image: INEOS Grenadiers / Pinarello

With the drag-efficient setup, Dan Bigham was able to break the UCI Official Hour Record himself. In August, Bigham rode 55.548 kilometers (34.516 miles) on the same velodrome in Switzerland. This is where I should clarify that Boardman’s mark wasn’t the official record and hasn’t been since 1997.

Chris Boardman riding a Lotus 108 at 1992 Olympics

Chris Boardman riding a Lotus 108 at 1992 Olympics
Photo: David Cannon (Getty Images)

The UCI effectively split the record book into two sides in 1997: The official record which banned the technological and aerodynamic advances since the 1970s and the absolute (or best human effort) record which allowed modern equipment. The record book remained split until 2014 when the UCI allowed modern equipment legal in track pursuit events to be eligible, but decreed that Boardman’s 1996 effort would not be recognized as the record. Cyclists have broken the record seven times since unification, but Filippo Ganna was the first to beat Boardman and truly unify the record on the track.

LIVE – Filippo Ganna (ITA) | Tissot UCI Hour Record Attempt

While Ganna broke the record, he believes he can go further in an hour and wants to go again. According to CyclingNews, he said: “I think this result is amazing. 56.792 is not bad. I think next time I try it in another part of the season with fresher legs, and we can go higher again, but this result is amazing and now we think to recovery and maybe try to celebrate together. The cutoff arrived in the last five minutes I tried to think it’s like [doing a pursuit], but no, it was completely different. The legs lost all of the energy, I tried to do a 57 but it’s OK.”

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