There has been a lot of talk, and great deal more speculation, recently about The Hour; cycling’s supposed Blue Riband event, which has lain dormant for a few years, bogged down by anachronistic rules and the weight of history. The record has been bettered once since Chris Boardman’s definitive ride of 2000, but by such a large margin (and by a rider with more doping positives than wins on his palmares) that there is a tangible level of discomfort to be felt when it is discussed. Cycling is well versed in the arts of cynicism these days and the general feeling is that The Hour is in need of new life and a new, credible record holder.
Fabian Cancellara’s claim last month that he will make an attempt on The Hour in 2014 potentially supplies both those needs. His talent and credibility are enough to appease even the most strident of cynics that his is a name worthy of the event and it’s undoubtedly glittering history. More intriguingly perhaps, his confirmation of an attempt at this stage in the season is creating ripples of interest across the sport, with other big names quickly being linked to making a challenge next year. The record has traditionally seen flurries of attempts followed by years of inactivity so the hope (and, in some quarters, the expectation) is that Cancellara will kickstart a new cycle of competition. Bradley Wiggins and World Time Trial champion Tony Martin are the two names at the head of everyone’s fantasy Battle for the Hour. Each has the capability and the stature required but do either have Cancellara’s cojones to publicly commit to an attempt at this early stage?
Photo by Luis Barbosa
It was the BFI’s Bicycle Film Festival last week and The Armstrong Lie is hitting the screens next month so it seems like a good time for a Jersey Pocket Podium for cycling films:
3rd spot: Breaking Away – Peter Yates – 1979.
Capturing the exotic appeal of Continental road racing (as seen through the eyes of a young American) Breaking Away warmly mixes the key teenage obsessions of idols, girls and friendships.
2nd spot: Belleville Rendezvous / The Triplets of Belleville – Sylvain Chomet – 2003.
Wonderfully eccentric in terms of plot and vision, Chomet’s animated extravaganza about a kidnapped Tour de France star remains burned on the retinas long after the film finishes.
1st spot: A Sunday in Hell. 1976. Jorgen Leth.
Merckx, Moser and De Vlaeminck do battle in the Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic but the pavé of Northern France is the real star of this exceptional documentary.
A seasonal cold is keeping me pretty much off the bike this weekend so here’s another book review for you..
Racing against the clock in any form of time trial is a Race of Truth. How far? How fast? Nothing else matters. Time trialling on the track is an even purer Test. Stripped bare of all the issues of weather, terrain and surface it reduces the contest to just Man and Machine. And there is no greater test of Man and Machine than The Hour – a increasingly mythologised undertaking that pits each new challenger against the greats of the sport who have held the record through the decades. Michael Hutchinson, in his 2007 book (Yellow Jersey Press. £8.99) detailing his own own attempt at the record notes that, in this way, he able to race against Coppi, even from beyond the grave.