Can Alex Dowsett retake the hour record?


28.10.21 at 11:18 am

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Yellow Jersey are very proud to be supporting the record attempt, and over the next week we’ll be sharing Alex’s journey.

Alex Dowsett announced earlier this month that he will be attempting the coveted UCI World Hour Record. If successful, he will be the second hour record holder of 2021, joining fellow Brit Joss Lowden who recently took a big chunk out of the women’s hour record.

Alex has taken the hour record in the past, holding it for 36 days in 2016 before losing the title to Sir Bradley Wiggins. Since then there’s been a number of attempts on the men’s hour record, with Victor Campanaerts the only successful rider. Victor beat Wiggins’ mark by over 500m, setting the bar at 55.089km.

This new attempt will take place in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and is in aid of Little Bleeders – Dowsett’s haemophilia charity, a rare blood clotting disorder he was born with.

When will it be?

Originally scheduled for 2020 but cancelled as Alex caught Covid, this attempt will take place on the third of November 2021. It will be streamed live on the BBC and there will be a pre-attempt introductory show on Alex’s YouTube channel.

With the Manchester velodrome closed for refurbishment, Alex has moved his attempt to the Aguascalientes in Mexico, meaning he will have to rely on Mexican spirit rather than a home crowd. This might not be such a bad thing, however. The Agustin velodrome is at altitude, potentially offering some advantages to Dowsett as the air is thinner, providing less drag force on the bike.

What is the hour record?

The hour record is a very simple event – the aim is to ride a bike as far around a velodrome as possible in one hour. In typical cycling fashion, there has been a lot of bickering regarding what constitutes a valid attempt, with various records being set and then discounted over the last few decades.

The first recognised hour record was set by a man named Henri Desgrange – who was also the organiser of the first Tour de France. He set the bar at 35.325km in 1893. Since then, there’s been a deluge of cycling hall of famers attempting the hour record – from Fausto Coppi dodging allied bombs in Milan to Merckx in 1972.

How does one prepare for this?

In recent years Aguascalientes has become the fashionable location for hour record attempts due to it being, in Dowsett’s words, “the fastest track in the world”. The velodrome is at 1887m of altitude and was used for the most recent successful attempt on the men’s record by Campanaerts in April 2019.

Dowsett is a professional cyclist and rides for World Tour outfit Israel Start-up Nation alongside titans of cycling Chris Froome and recently retired Andre Greipel. He is a world-class rider in his own right with two grand tour stage victories to his name.

Alex recently did a block of racing which included the Tour of Britain and The British Time Trial Championships. Cyclists often race their way into fitness, and Alex is using the strength built from this racing block to be in the best possible shape for his attempt.

Aerodynamic Preparations

Dowsett will be in a custom skinsuit made by British brand Vorteq. He’s been seen in the custom overshoes this year too. The custom skinsuit and overshoes combo will set you back a couple of thousand. The skinsuit is “custom to Alex and the aero environment in the velodrome” and they “use a 3D scan then drape a skinsuit on him” according to Vorteq aero expert, Ellis Pullinger. There’s more about the aerodynamic set-up that Alex is using in our physics of the hour record blog post.

The hour record

We asked Alex about some of the custom kit he will be using. “The skinsuit and overshoes are the only bespoke items, they are optimised for the air density, speed and to fit me.  If the suit were to be used for a sea level attempt it wouldn’t be so effective, or even if for example Ashton Lambie had used an Ashton sized version of my suit for his IP world record in Aguascalientes with the 6kph speed difference it would require a different suit.”

“The bike is a standard size, albeit a track version of the TT bike. The handlebars are Aerocoach Ascalon’s which aren’t custom.  The downside I feel with some custom stuff is once it’s made that’s it, if it’s wrong then you have to live with it and you can’t achieve perfect symmetry, which on a handlebar I like. ”

“It’s a bit like being fitted for custom insoles, when you stand on the necessary device to make the insoles; firstly you’re standing, which is different to riding, and secondly, the minute someone tells you to stand normally, that’s the moment you forget how to stand”.

Little Bleeders

Alex is making this attempt in aid of Little Bleeders, a charity Dowsett created in 2016 which aims to, “introduce safe sport and activity to young haemophiliacs with a mission to support and empower families to make good choices that promote physical activity and overall well-being.”

As a rare disease, there are approximately 3,000 young people in the UK living with haemophilia. Many young people face barriers to participating in sports and physical activity, but Alex’s career in cycling proves that haemophilia need not be a life-limiting condition.

Kate Burt, chief executive of The Haemophilia Society said, “We are proud to be partnering with Little Bleeders in this exciting and challenging record attempt which will showcase the quality of life you can enjoy with haemophilia and inspire our community. The society and the community we support wish Alex the best of luck.”.

Yellow Jersey are proud to be supporting Alex’s hour record attempt and look forward to following his journey over the next week.

Our Ultimate Bicycle Insurance covers all forms of cycling racing, including track racing worldwide.

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