Hour Record attempts are always a unique experience in cycling. Not a race against other cyclists, nor a permanent fixture on the calendar, they are only held only sporadically, when an individual rider wishes to make a challenge. Yet the World Hour Record is one of the ultimate tests in which the world’s best are judged in history.
Ever since 2014, when German rider Jens Voigt closed out his career by setting a new standard, the Vélodrome Suisse in Grenchen has served as the modern-day temple for this race of truth.
When Filippo Ganna announced that he would make his own attempt at this mythic mark, it was clear that he could write a special page in cycling history. After all, the Italian—both a world champion and Olympic gold medallist—is generally considered the best time triallist racing today, and it was clear that he came here with big ambitions.
The mood was relaxed before the 8:00pm start time on Saturday, and after a quick fist bump with former professional Marco Vella, Ganna even set off a couple of minutes early. “Let’s get on with it,” he seemed to say.
On paper 55.548 kilometers was the distance Ganna needed to cover if he wanted to break the record set this summer by Ineos Grenadiers performance engineer Dan Bigham. But if he wanted to really make history, he needed to go much further, perhaps even surpassing the 56.375km mark set by Chris Boardman using the now banned “Superman” position back in 1996.
Starting off cautiously, Ganna soon found his rhythm as his fans cheered him on each and every lap. But each hour record is unique, and on Ganna’s attempt there was no announcer giving regular updates, encouraging his fans or even Ganna himself. Instead, Ganna simply remained focused on the task at hand.
He quickly raced ahead of the pace set by Bigham, a ride that was in many ways used as a test run for Ganna. And as the 60-minutes neared its end, he even closed in on Boardman’s record, finally surpassing it and finishing with a distance of 56.792 kilometers.
“Thank you,” were the first words to come out of his mouth, when he finally caught his breath. After embracing a few members of his inner circle, he looked up to the stands and made his gratitude clear to all of the fans that came to this small Swiss town to encourage him.
“At one point after about 30 minutes I thought maybe 57 kilometers was possible, but a few minutes later I really started having pain in the legs and I said to myself, ‘Filippo, just continue like this, the job is just to arrive.’”
Clearly Ganna did more than just arrive, shattering the previous record by over a kilometre and setting a new all-time standard. Perhaps Ganna will make another run at the Hour Record before the end of his career. Perhaps he will even set his sights on the 57km mark. But that will be for another page in history.