Briton Alex Dowsett will be chasing redemption on November 3rd at 6,000 feet in Aguascalientes, Mexico. His mission? To reclaim the Hour Record that he superbly last broke in 2015, riding 52.937 km within the hour. That record stood for 36 days until Sir Bradley Wiggins stole the show with a 54.526km ride. Since then, the Hour Record has rapidly grown in hype and prestige, more frequently chased by some of the world’s fastest time trial specialists. The current record now sits at 55.089, set by Victor Campenaerts in April, 2019 on the very same track that Dowsett has chosen his reattempt.
Having just come off an extensive road season with Israel Start-Up Nation, Dowsett has the benefit of a full season of road conditioning in his legs with the addition of some specific time trial work. So he will be lining up on the 3rd all guns blazing.
To add, Dowsett has tactfully selected his equipment to ensure he maximises every marginal gain possible on race day. At Factor, we are incredibly excited to have worked closely with Alex to design a special one-off version of the HANZŌ: our brand new time trial bike and the first World Tour time trial bike designed under the new UCI guidelines.
Factor’s CEO, Rob Gitelis, expressed his enthusiasm for this project:
“When we got word of Alex’s plans to reattempt, we were immediately interested in helping him achieve his goal and provide the fastest bike possible to do it on. So, we used the countless hours of work we’d already dedicated to developing the HANZŌ time trial bike, to then shape it into a modified track version, featuring 3D printed titanium chain-stays printed by Silca, amongst other unique features…”
Here, Alex talks us through the motivation behind his reattempt, his preparation, goals, strategy and thoughts on the one-off HANZŌ.
Photography by Sean Hardy Images
With your plans to reattempt disrupted late last year, it’s now been over 6 years since you broke that record in May, 2015. How much do you think has changed in terms of technology used and tactic applied when attempting the record and how will you approach things differently leading into and racing on the day?
Tactics haven’t changed – for the first chunk of the hour I’ll ride as slow as I need to, which is still pretty fast! Having done an attempt and knowing my body, I’ll then make a decision myself earlier than 2015 (5 minutes to go) to adjust my pace, that’s really the only difference around the strategy.
Technology has moved on for sure. For one, the bike is quicker. The bike I used back in 2015 was good, but looking back there were certainly some aspects we could’ve improved on. The HANZŌ for this attempt is much more refined and track ready. The HANZŌ is especially good at low yaw with its ridiculously narrow headtube and innovative front end. I’m a little less restricted by sponsors this time around also, so all the extra bits making up the bike I can optimise. You’ll see this with the drivetrain, tyres and handlebar setup. Skinsuit tech has moved on in leaps and bounds – with Endura we were at the forefront of what was commercially available back in 2015, but it’s progressed since and a notable difference is that I’m allowed to wear overshoes for this attempt, the difference in that isn’t insignificant.
Can you share your thoughts on the one-off HANZŌ you will be riding for the Hour Record?
I’ve got some pretty snazzy kit, I won’t lie. The bike is a track adapted version of the HANZŌ TT bike from Factor. Silca have 3d printed some rear stays and they’ve been bonded into the bike. The HANZŌ is exceptional at low yaw (0-4 degrees) so it’s likely even better placed on the track than the road!
Have you seen how narrow and yet how wide it is?! It’s a genius piece of engineering from Graham Shrive and the team at Factor. It maintains the rigidity of the SLiCK but has improved the aero in leaps and bounds. The wide forks and rear stays separate wheel and fork interaction, which removes the question mark over whether a fast wheel will still be fast when it’s put next to a fork or stay. Then the narrowness of the headtube hasn’t been seen on any bike, and the mono riser is a continuation of the fork, so you couldn’t really get a more direct input and feedback from that road as you do with this. I am a massive fan of the HANZŌ and I didn’t need to use one for the Hour record, I had choices around bike selection but when Rob and Graham said it was feasible, I consulted people far more in tune to aero than I am and they agreed it was the preference for the attempt.
Why did you choose to reattempt in Aguascalientes?
Our primary choice was Manchester – it’s one of the quickest tracks in Europe, however we couldn’t get an answer from them as to when it was available as the venue is having its roof replaced this winter! London is too slow and expensive, so we started looking further afield into Europe, which was a shame as racing in front of a home crowd is quite something. We looked at the other fast tracks in Europe; Berlin, Grenchen, Aigle but then thought if we’re going to go abroad, we may just as well go to the fastest track in the world in Aguascalientes. Mexico is fast because of the altitude. With altitude comes less readily available oxygen however the air density is less and the benefit from that outweighs the negative around the low o2. We’ll still hope for low air pressure on that day, that’s the only variable really – a nice thunderstorm at the same time or just before the attempt would be dreamy!
As you’ve only just come off a big road season with Israel Start-Up Nation, do you think the road racing will benefit come Hour Record day?
The placement of last year’s and this year’s attempts was very planned to capitalise on the road season and the strength that builds. It’s tough to replicate the workload a road race gives you in training. Last year was ideal coming straight off the back of a strong Giro from myself but c’est la vie there. This attempt is well placed after multiple stage races interspersed with plenty of time on the TT bike to keep the position dialled.
How else are you preparing mentally/physically for it?
Mentally I’m trying to stay relaxed. My partner Chanel is organising the attempt so I’m in and amongst it which can be stressful. Getting it together has not been a walk in the park and I’m very grateful to all our sponsors, of which Factor is a major one, for their help…it really wouldn’t be possible without them.
Physically it’s training hard and then timing the taper right. I’ve done a lot less time on the track than the last attempt which makes me a little nervous, but I take solace in whenever I have ridden the track over the last few years I get dialled in within minutes, so I’m just getting the training done out on the roads and will trust the process.
What goes through your head when riding for an hour as fast as you can around a track?
As fast as you can implies I sprint out the blocks and hang on, I promise you I won’t be doing that! I’ll be getting lap feedback every 16 seconds on my pace and will just remain vigilant there, focus on my breathing, aero position and maybe, just maybe, try to enjoy it before the hurt really sets in!
Ultimately, your obvious goal is to break the record – but is there a certain number you’re hoping to hit?
I’d really just like to see what I’m capable of. I’d like to finish the attempt knowing that if there was anything left, it was just a few metres maybe and that I’d executed my effort as well as I could. Basically enough to say “that was it, that was what I can do,” at the end of it all.
How do you pace yourself to try and hit that target during?
Pacing is everything. The first 30 minutes will be riding to a schedule, depending on test runs and in the days before it’ll more than likely be trying to match Victor’s current benchmark. Then at that point, I’ll assess how I’m feeling and adjust my pace accordingly. It’d be great to be able to start accelerating gradually but I’ll make sure I keep a lid on my effort and not go over the edge. Once you enter the pace point where you’re not in control anymore, you haven’t got long until it all falls apart; we’ll call this the ‘shadow realm’ for this attempt I think – the dark side of ones FTP (the average number of watts sustained in an hour).
The team at Factor wish Alex all the best on November the 3rd in Mexico. Sixty minutes of hell awaits and we’re backing him to go all the way.
Follow Alex and his final Hour Record preparations, here: