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Merckx says Voigt’s hour record will prompt other attempts

Belgian champion believes that Voigt will be the first of many big names attempting the hour record in the coming years

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MILAN (VN) — Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx believes that Jens Voigt’s hour record attempt Thursday in Switzerland will clear the way for more stars to follow.

Merckx, who won five editions of the Tour de France and broke the hour record in 1972, told Belgium’s Sporza TV, “With Voigt doing it, others will follow.”

Germany’s Voigt will attempt the record Thursday, 19:00 local time or 1:00 p.m. EDT, in his black and white Trek Factory Racing kit at the Vélodrome Suisse in Grenchen. Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) are preparing for next week’s world championships in Ponferrada, Spain, but will likely be following the live stream from Grenchen.

To see Merckx set the hour record of 49.431 kilometers in Mexico City, you can watch this video. The current record to beat is Ondrej Sosenka’s 49.700-kilometer mark. After Voigt tries, Merckx said that three-time world champion time trialist Tony Martin could be next to line up for the hour.

“Right now, I think Martin would be the one,” explained Merckx. “Wiggins has more experience on the velodrome’s curves, but I see Martin as more of the time trialist to do it. Though Sir Wiggins and Cancellara, of course, are no ordinary customers.”

All three riders have said that they are interested in attempting breaking cycling’s blue riband event. Cancellara, Voigt’s Trek teammate, was ready to do so this year but put the project on the back burner when cycling’s governing body changed the rules to allow pursuit-style track bikes. It is believed that Voigt’s attempt today could be a dry run of the materials and methods that Cancellara would use if he does schedule an attempt.

Wiggins explained that he wants to incorporate the hour record into his run at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Next year, he is backing off from stage racing and focusing on the classics and more track events, the hour record could fit in to his 2015 plans.

“If I pencil it in, it will be in late June because of the good weather. It leads on from Paris-Roubaix and the training for that,” the English 2012 Tour de France winner told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in August before Voigt’s hour announcement.

“I hope that I can pave the way for the next person, whether it’s Fabian [Cancellara] or Tony [Martin]. I’d like to rejuvenate it, re-establish a mark for everyone to attempt.”

Martin said that he “has the hour record in mind” but his Omega Pharma team added that it has to fit in with his other objectives in the season, like the Tour and worlds. Merckx explained that it is a race that all major cyclists should compete in before retiring.

“I would have regretted it if I hadn’t done [it],” Merckx said. “It is something prestigious, you race to yourself. My career would not have been complete without it.”