New Club Hour Record
Tuesday 11th October

Nic Stagg has achieved an ambition he has nursed all this year - to break the Hounslow and District Wheelers Hour Track Record. In doing so he showed that the Hour Record’s reputation for difficulty is fully justified.

The old record, set in 1969, was 24.723 miles. This target looked easy for a rider who this year has rarely dropped below an average speed of 27 mph in conventional time trials on the road. However, although it may seem that since there are no hills to climb on a track a high speed should be easier to achieve, in practice this does not appear to be the case. In addition it was decided that in order to break the old record the rider should follow the recent UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale the world governing body) practice and use an ‘athlete’s’ bike: that is a conventional track bike with dropped handlebars and wire spoked wheels, making no concessions to aerodynamics.

The attempt was made on 29th September 2011 on the banked track at Palmer Park, Reading - almost the last day of summer as it turned out. The afternoon was hot with air pressure fairly high at 1220, but with a light wind.

There was tension in the air as the 1.30 pm start time approached. None of the dozen or so supporters and officials had any direct experience of this record. We knew the old distance would be passed on the eighty sixth lap, and therefore that consistent 41 second laps should just create a new mark. No one knew whether this would be easily attainable or not.

Nic started confidently, pushing his 92” (52 x 15) gear with apparent ease and recording just under 40 seconds per lap. However by half distance his gear was beginning to look a little high and he was slipping to 42 seconds; the outcome was starting to look doubtful. Even without his own watch the exhortations of the onlookers meant that the rider could not have been unaware of the situation. The watchers privately thought it unlikely that the rider would be able to raise his game over the last 20 minutes, but they were wrong and Nic completed his last circuit in 37.7 seconds. He had run out of time on his eighty sixth lap, so success or failure was on a knife edge.

It took several minutes for the time keeper to calculate the result, but eventually the answer came: we have a new record of 24.775 miles, an improvement of 0.052 of a mile, or to you and me, about 90 yards. Chris Boardman, the first to attempt the Athlete’s Hour in the year 2000 improved Merkx’s 1972 record by just 10 yards.

Nic had put in a tremendous effort over the last few laps to make up lost ground and his pain after the finish showed this clearly. Like almost all Hour recordmen Nic was sure he had just finished the hardest ride of his career.

Chris Lovibond