‘The Hour’ has fascinated me ever since I got into the sport of cycling back in 1970; in those days the holder since 1968 was Danish super stylish ‘chronoman,’ Ole Ritter with 48.653 kilometres.
Then in 1972 the incomparable Eddy Merckx raised the bar to 49.431 kilometres, a record that would stand for a decade and more until Francesco Moser took it to 51.151 kilometres in 1984, albeit with disc wheels conferring a huge difference in terms of aerodynamic advantage.
After that it all gets a tad complex; if you want clarification on the evolution of the record from then until now, have a look at this piece I wrote earlier to clarify things; ‘The Evolution of the Impossible Hour‘.
When we conducted this interview Dan Bigham had just broken the World Hour Record – but since then Italian giant, ‘Pippo’ Ganna has rendered Dan to ‘ex-world Hour record holder’ with his 56.792 kilometres.
Nonetheless it’s still an interesting conversation with the man who was actually one of the architects of Ganna’s ride in his technical role with INEOS.
When Dan rode 54.723 kilometres to beat Bradley Wiggins former world but still British best distance of 54.526 kilometres last year, just some 366 metres shy of Victor Campenaerts world best of 55.089 kilometres it was apparent that the world record was no pipe dream for the Englishman.
And so it has proved, with Dan setting a stunning new worlds best of 55.548 on the Grenchen boards in Switzerland, eclipsing even Toni Rominger’s 55.291 metres set in Bordeaux in 1994 with Dr. Michele Ferrari trackside and leaving Victor Campenaerts 2019 record two laps shy.
We caught up with Dan a week or two after the hype had subsided.
Coppi, Anquetil, Merckx, Indurain, Wiggins – Bigham, has it sunk in yet?
“It’s not until I have conversations like this that the enormity of it begins to sink in.
“There was all the science that went before it; but when it’s executed, yes, it feels pretty damn cool!
“When you organise your attempt, in effect what you’re saying is; ‘I think I’m better than everyone else!’
“But it’s so much easier if you’ve done it already in training, which I had, in many rider’s previous attempts it’s been about ‘feel’ – whilst with my attempt science played a much bigger part.”
What about THAT position?
“I do a lot of stretching as part of my gym work but thanks to the time I spent living with John Archibald – who I used to see spending so much time on his time trial bike on the turbo trainer, he lived on it – in our HUUB track team days I spend a lot of time on the TT bike on the turbo; three, four, five hours, you just get on with it, get used to it and come to a point where you prefer to ride in that position.”
“Only one, the ride was nigh on flawless but I had one wobble just before half distance when I realised that I had to ride the second half faster than the first – the enormity of that hit me.
“I felt that it might slip away but I had to say to myself; ‘No, Dan!’
“I was getting checks from Jonny Wale trackside every lap with five minute updates and to see myself coming back at then going ahead of Victor Campenaerts schedule felt good, a better pace strategy than riding to a ‘flat’ schedule, I think.”
“It’s a prototype track version of the Bolide time trial frame, already a pretty cool bike, the track version was ridden to Olympic gold in the team pursuit final by the Italian team.
“I can’t tell you all of the really cool detail stuff, that will come at the official launch of the machine but suffice to say that it has a super-narrow ‘Q factor’ – 62mm front drop outs and 82 mm rear and was designed as a ‘system’ in conjunction with the wheels, which came from Princeton Carbon.
“No manufacturer manufactures a carbon clincher track specific disc, the wheels were designed from scratch to go with the frame and apart from the narrow ‘Q factor’ the rear disc is asymmetric with the hubs having larger than usual bearings.
“I used a WattShop 170 mm Cratus aero crank, Izumi chain, Muc-Off optimisation and CeramicSpeed bottom bracket.
“Cockpit was MOST Custom 3D basebar and extensions.
“The only things that I carried forward from my British hour were my Kask helmet, Speedplay pedals and Izumi KAI chain, everything else was new.”
“Yes, it’s the first time the Hour record has been set on them; albeit I believe the German ladies team pursuit squad rode them at the Olympics.
“I was on 25mm Continental GP5000 TT tyre but when they’re installed measure about 27mm; there’s little difference between running tubeless and latex tubes but whichever, it gives you a meaningful advantage over traditional tubular tyres.
“They’re aero and are more forgiving than a tubular to ride.”
“I used Bioracer’s Katana suit that was developed by Bioracer and Ineos, Kask Mistral helmet and Nimbl EXPECT shoes.”
What was the gear?
“WattShop Cratus aero cranks with a chainring of 64 teeth x WattShop Cratus 14 tooth cog, that’s 123.4” in ‘old money.’
“I set out to match my time trial cadence at around 95 rpm, nothing says you have to have a higher cadence on the track, I find that cadence gives me good control and helps me hold my line.
“Riding on a stationary bike in a lab is one thing, actually trying to hold a good line on a velodrome is another.”
What about nutrition and hydration?
“I lost 2.3 kilos during the ride; my fuelling for the seven days running into the record was planned by the INEOS nutritionists, my last intake was around 150 grams of carbs.”
How about cooling?
“I warmed up in an air conditioned room, lots of ice, slush puppies and hands and wrists in ice.”
UCI ‘hoops’ to negotiate?
“There are so many but we knew what to expect after Jos’s successful attempt.
“There’s ‘whereabouts,’ an international commissaire, national commissaire, timekeepers, travel, accommodation…
“It’s a big logistical overhead, being with INEOS eased that load of course but I think if the UCI made it a bit simpler that would encourage more attempts.”
“That’s a $64,000 question!
“I can’t think of anything other than moving it forward three days to when the I would have enjoyed lower air pressure, that would have given me another 100 metres.
“But the warm-up, and the execution were all good; I’d made the mistakes in training!”
Eddy Merckx said; ‘a once in a lifetime effort?’
“No, I’d do another.
“I think Eddy was reflecting on the fact that it was his first and only effort.”
Post ride celebrations?
“There’s a great microbrewery in Grenchen called ‘Granicum,’ so that’s where we headed!”
How’s you and Jos living in Andorra treating you both?
“We’re loving life up there, I spend a lot of time on the bike with Jos and the training benefits become apparent when you return to sea level – and it’s much quieter up there, less hustle and bustle.”
Will you be trackside for Pippo Ganna’s Hour bid at Grenchen on October 8th?
“No, Jos and I get married that weekend!”
The Dan Bigham ‘to do’ list?
“To be in the GB team for the Paris Olympic Team Pursuit would be nice…”
With thanks to Dan for always having time for VeloVeritas and wishing Jos and Dan every happiness in their life together.