In the most highly anticipated attempt in recent history, time trial powerhouse Filippo Ganna did more than shatter the UCI Hour Record on his first attempt, he smashed the farthest distance ever covered on a bike in the discipline, covering 56.792 kilometers on the velodrome in Grenchen , Switzerland on Saturday evening.
In a super-human, superlative-defying performance, Ganna’s astounding distance covered exceeded the performance of Hour Record legend Chris Boardman, whose 1996 mark of 56,375 was relegated to the archives when the UCI revised the Hour Record regulations in 2014, by over 400 meters , unofficially.
The Briton made that mark using the now-banned ‘superman’ position on a wing-like Lotus bike, but since 2014, the records set on equipment or positions deemed non-standard by the UCI have been dismissed as official Hour Records and a new wave of ‘unified’ records entered the books.
Ganna had the benefits of a €75,000 set-up put together with meticulous and scientific preparation, and a week’s worth of practice where he gave every indication that the 56km mark was well in reach.
The Italian got off to a slower start than the current record holder, his Ineos team’s performance engineer Dan Bigham, who rode 55.548 kilometers on August 19 as a sort of test event for Ganna’s Hour.
Ganna, a two-time world champion in the individual time trial and winner of five time trials in the Giro d’Italia began steadily powering ahead of the Briton’s pace after 15 minutes of riding.
Midway through the hour, the 26-year-old phenom was on pace to cover 55.86 kilometers and the chants of ‘Pippo! Pippo!’ echoed from a group of supporters in the nearly empty venue.
By the 40-minute mark, Ganna began to approach the speed of the ‘best human effort’ record set by Boardman. With 10 minutes still to ride, Ganna’s average speed looked to go well past it into the heart-thumping territory of 57 kilometers per hour.
But the pain of the hour began to bite in the closing minutes and Ganna was forced to back off the rocket-like pace and, wobbling in some of the turns, the Italian’s suffering could be felt through the television signal.
So too could Ganna’s elation when he could finally come out of his tight aero tuck and celebrate with along with the rest of the team who put the attempt together.
To the cheers of the crowd and some microphone feedback that might have mimicked the ear-ringing lactate-flood of the last few laps, Ganna thanked the supporters. “Today, to arrive at this amazing goal is fantastic for me – and I think for all the staff who worked a long time to arrive at this result.”
When asked if the performance was what he expected, Ganna said he woke up in the morning hoping to beat Bigham’s mark by one meter and hinted he may try to pass 57km in the future.
“I think this result is amazing. 56.792 is not bad. I think next time I try it in another part of the season with fresher legs, and we can go higher again, but this result is amazing and now we think to recovery and maybe try to celebrate together.”
“The cutoff arrived in the last five minutes I tried to think it’s like [doing a pursuit], but no, it was completely different. The legs lost all of the energy, I tried to do a 57 but it’s OK.”