Putting the hour record into perspective how does an amateur compare cyclingtips gas prices under a dollar


Admit it. You’ve wondered how you would compare when stacked up against the pros. Most of us will never have the chance to find out, but the hour record offers up a unique opportunity for the bold and the brave to see how they compare to those at the top-level of the sport. The beautiful thing about the hour record is that it’s a race of truth with a controlled set of variables affecting the outcome.

Cycling is unlike most other sports in that you can visually see the talent at work, and the hour record is one of the most torturous challenges to that talent. Eddy Merckx famously described his world hour record: “It’s very, very hard. I couldn’t walk for a few days after I did it. That’s how hard it is.”

Local Melbournian Nick Bensley wanted to find out for himself what it was like to attempt a World Hour Record. To put Nick’s abilities into context, he’s an accomplished racer at the club and national level and does well at the individual time trial. He came in 13th at the Australian National ITT championships (2:57 behind Richie Porte over 40.9km and only six seconds behind Drapac’s Will Clarke who previously rode at the WorldTour level). Nick can hold an average of 380 watts for more than an hour.

Nick isn’t fooling himself nor is he trying to get attention from this. Nick’s friends describe him as “a quiet achiever with very loud achievements.” Knowing Nick, I was surprised to see him doing this. When put up to this by his local club Melbourne Cycling League, he thought it was just going to be him and a few mates who were going to find out about this. He’s in good form on the road bike but had no idea of what to expect on the track. Before his attempt

Nick spoke about his preparation on the track: “Two weeks ago I thought I’m relatively good at sitting on the ergo at one set power, which I thought was the key to success for the hour record. Then I got on the track and I had no idea that when you’re going 50km/hr on the banking how hard it pushes you into the saddle and into the arm rests. It’s unbelievable. So it’s not flat power production. If you try to pedal hard through the corners you have these massive power spikes to maintain your speed which you’re not really aware of.

“I can do 380 watts for an hour, but I can’t go anywhere near his distance. I’m six kilos heavier. I’m bigger. My bike has been cobbled together. I’ve never been to a wind tunnel … I won’t be anywhere near as aero as someone like Dennis,” Nick explained.

“I’m confident at being able to produce the power, but I’ve spent so little time on the track that I’m not unconsciously competent at riding on the black line. When I TT, I’ll put my head down and I probably do my best when my head is off in another world. But in this I’m just concentrating on not crashing or launching myself into orbit when I hit the banks. That concerns me a lot.”

“I’ve been under the pump at work and I managed to get to DISC – once for 45 minutes and once for an hour,” admitted Nick. “And I’ve probably done 50 laps total. I never had the final bike or wheels so I don’t know what power equates to what pacing. This is not the way I like to do things. I have no idea.

Nick added: “I’ll be riding a 55×13. Everyone tells me I’m doing the wrong thing. I’m told that I need to be doing 105rpm. I can’t do that. Whenever I TT, no matter what course I always end up with an average of 82rpm. Everyone says to go 55×14, but at the speed I want to do I should end up averaging 93rpm in the end. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. But some people have told me that I’ll lose 10 or 20 watts because of the berms.”

“The most efficient way is just flat power production the whole way, no doubt – in terms of human physiology. But mentally, negative splits are the way to go. I think the important thing is not to go too hard in the first five, 10, 20 minutes,” Nick predicted.

Jack Bobridge said that he hoped to produce 380 watts during his attempt last month, which is what Nick achieved after his effort. We don’t know what power output Jack did (he wasn’t using a powermeter), but what this does show is that there is far more to this equation than wattage alone.

“It got easier every lap. It meant there was one less lap to do. It was the middle 20 [minutes] where I really struggled. I went way too hard at the start and I didn’t listen to Stu [Mckenzie]. Classic mistake. It just felt so easy at the start.

“I felt I could have held that pace on the road, because you’re able to get a bit of recovery. That effort felt like it could have been sustainable on the road, but this type of effort gives you absolutely no rest. No opportunity to coast on a downhill…it’s just not sustainable over an hour.”

“I didn’t understand how much I’d fade on the track compared to the road. It gets harder and harder to stay on top of the gear. I was glad I chose the gear I had (55×13). If I had chosen a bigger gear that everyone told me to I wouldn’t have been able to keep up my cadence.”

Another untold problem with long track events is that riders cannot drink during the effort. This is because water spilled on the track can be dangerous. Nick said: “The feeling in my mouth was f&^%ing horrible. It was like glue the whole time.”

Nick’s distance may have seemed surprisingly close to recent record attempts, and was only nine percent off of Rohan Dennis’ world hour record. However, there are years of coaching, training miles, determination, and favourable genes that make up that nine percent difference.