Will the Real Hour Record Ever Fall?

I want to preface this by saying that I have mass respect for Evelyn Stevens and what she accomplished Saturday. I in no way intend to diminish the great effort put in by Stevens and those around her. The Hour Record is no easy feat, and I want to extend my greatest admiration and congratulations to Evelyn and all who were involved in bringing the record to the United States.

That being said, the UCI Hour Record only takes into account attempts made under the UCI’s guidelines, the holders of which are Evelyn Stevens and Sir Bradley Wiggins. There is, however, another record that hasn’t been bested in almost two decades. Despite the recent surge in interest around the Hour Record, thanks to Jens Voigt’s 2014 successful attempt, no one has beaten the records set during the ‘superman’ era.

In 1996, Chris Boardman set a record of 56.375 km (35.030 mi) with his arms extended far out in front him, a technique pioneered by Graeme Obree. Both Boardman and Obree battled for the record throughout the early 1990s, but in 1997, the UCI decided to create two different Hour Records. The first of which is the UCI Hour Record, which must be completed on a Merckx style bike and no aerodynamic equipment. The other record would be dubbed Best Human Effort or UCI ‘Absolute’ Record, encompassing all the wonders aerodynamics can benefit to a rider.

In 2014, the UCI reversed its decision and created the UCI Unified Hour Record. This record would allow riders to use modern endurance track pursuit bikes, although still outlawing the ‘superman’ position as well as various other positions and equipment. Technically speaking, Chris Boardman’s Hour Record in 1996 is the official UCI Hour Record, but the UCI decided that Andrej Sosenka’s record in 2005 of 49.700 km (30.882 mi) is the record to beat.

Jens Voigt broke the Hour Record in 2014, setting off a new generation of interest in the event. Matthias Brändle, Rohan Dennis, Alex Dowsett, and Sir Bradley Wiggins have all found success on the track. Even with Wiggins’s distance of 54.526 km (33.881 mi), Boardman’s record still stands by almost two kilometers. Fabian Cancellara has expressed interest in an attempt, as have Tony Martin and Taylor Phinney, all three of whom hope to topple the 20 year old record.

As for women, all records between 1986 and 1996 were relegated to Best Human Effort. After the 1997 rule change, Leontien van Moorsel broke the UCI Hour Record in 2003 with a distance of 46.065 km (28.623 mi). In the past calendar year, four women have attempted the new Unified Hour Record, three of whom have found success. Jeannie Longo still has the women’s record at 48.159 km (29.925 mi), despite Steven’s impressive ride of 47.980 km (29.813 mi), less than 200m shy of ‘Absolute’ victory.

The question on the women’s side is not if, but when the record will fall. However, on the men’s side, the elusive record still remains off in the distance. Wiggins has brought the record closer, but it is still well over a kilometer shy of Boardman. That distance seems even further when you take into account the great names that have all fallen short of the ‘Absolute’ record. It begs the question if the record will ever be conquered, but let me know your thoughts on the distance and who you believe can beat the record. Also, give a shout out to the great Evelyn Stevens on her major accomplishment!