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The Hour Record – Bigham has another go!

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There have been five attempts on the current Hour Record that is held by Victor Campanaerts. Most recently, late last year Alex Dowsett had a go in aid of his charity ‘Little Bleeders’. The attempt was unsuccessful but a new challenger has emerged. British time trialist, INEOS Grenadiers race engineer and all round ‘aero god’, Dan Bigham. He has decided to have a go after his successful attempt at the British Hour Record held by Bradley Wiggins in late 2021. 


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What is the hour record?

The world hour record is very simple – the aim is to ride as far as you possibly can around a velodrome in an hour. As this is an event governed by the UCI (cycling’s global governing body based in Switzerland, where the record attempt is due to take place), there is a series of extremely complicated rules that must be navigated including equipment, timing and anti-doping (a rider has to be part of their ‘biological passport’ system to make an official attempt). The record currently stands at 55.089km and is held by Belgian rider, Victor Campanaerts (who is well worth subscribing to on Youtube). These days, the hour record isn’t just a test of brute force. It requires meticulous planning around aerodynamics, nutrition and pacing. If you’d like to learn more about the physics of the hour record – I wrote about it here.  

Who is Dan Bigham?

Those of you who follow the British time trial scene closely will likely have an idea of who Dan Bigham is, following his success in domestic time trials over the past couple of years. He studied aero-engineering at university and initially went into Formula 1 as an aero-engineer. After realising it wasn’t for him, he started doing various aero-related side hustles to go along with racing. He’s launched the brand ‘Wattshop’ who make aero components for time trialists and track cyclists. He was also a founding member and rider/manager of the HUUB Wattbike track team – a team so successful in the four kilometre team pursuit on the track that the UCI de-facto banned trade teams. Now, he works as a ‘race engineer’ for INEOS Grenadiers cycling team. This job has allowed him some excellent stability allowing his preparation to be excellent. Dan is currently the British hour record holder, riding 54.723km, breaking Sir Bradley Wiggins’ record last year.

Photo Credit: James Huntly

Where is Dan’s attempt happening? 

The hour record attempt will be taking place in the Swiss town of Grenchen, which is around 500m above sea level. The altitude of an hour record attempt is important. This is because, as you move from sea level to altitude, the density of air decreases. This means that a rider requires less power to move at any given speed (as they have to push less air out of the way while they ride). This is a blessing and a curse for a cyclist completing a world hour record attempt, however. This is because at altitude there is also less oxygen in the air – with studies showing VO2 max decreasing linearly with altitude between three and eight hundred metres. This means even at the relatively low (the current record was set at 1900m) altitude of Grenchen’s velodrome, Dan will face a slight power reduction. Usually, the trade-off is in favour of the rider’s speed however, which is why attempts rarely take place at sea level. 

When is the attempt taking place?

The record is taking place on Friday the 19th of August. It is available to stream on the INEOS Grenadier’s YouTube channel and will last for… an hour. 

Why would anyone want to ride in 250m circles for an hour? 

There’s a number of reasons anyone might make an hour record attempt. They might simply enjoy hurting themselves. More likely, they are doing it for the prestige. Some incredible names have been world hour record holder over the years. These include Eddy Merckx, Bradley Wiggins, Rohan Dennis and many more. Dan Bigham’s own fiancé, professional rider Joss Lowden, was the women’s world hour record holder until quite recently. While I’d imagine Joss was far too graceful for any “you only have a national record” chat in the Bigham-Lowden household, I’d expect seeing his partner do such a great ride in 2021 provided an excellent source of motivation for this attempt. If the internet is correct, however, the velodrome slot being used for Bigham’s attempt was originally intended for Grenadier and Italian world time trial champion, Filippo (Pippo) Ganna. The team and Ganna decided to postpone his attempt due to the reported after effects of a tough Tour de France. Given the free slot, support of the team and good form (Bigham recently caught his minute man at the Commonwealth Games time trial before going full send into a barrier) – I suppose Dan thought, why not? 

Will he do it?

In my opinion, yes! Bigham recently said he only needed to find an extra seven (check) watts in order to break the mark set by Campanaerts. This is less than a one percent improvement from his attempt on the national record and by all accounts his preparation going into this has been much better than his previous prep. I don’t think there’s much of a question of if he will break the record, but by how much? Previously, I have predicted 55.3km and I will stick to my guns. Now is the perfect time to break the record, as it’s likely that Ganna will put it completely out of touch in the relatively near future, with rumours surfacing that he’s ridden at 57kph for half an hour. If he manages that speed he would put over two kilometers into ‘top form’ Bradley Wiggins, which is going to be hard to beat. Dan’s attempt will serve as a test run for Ganna’s, which will also be supported by INEOS Grenadiers. Whatever he manages, you can watch Dan’s attempt by clicking on this link. The live feed is free to watch and personally, I can’t wait!


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