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A novel idea: Joe Dombrowski’s uphill hour record

The American discusses his idea that would appeal to climbers like himself.

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GIRONA, Spain (VN) — Cannondale – Drapac’s Joe Dombrowski, who is not an aerodynamic man, wants to create an uphill hour record. Why should time trialists have all the fun?

Dombrowski’s idea is simple. Just like the regular hour record, the uphill hour is measured in meters. But rather than measure distance, it is a tally of elevation gain. Succinctly put, the uphill hour record is the maximum elevation gained in one hour, in meters, on a climb of the rider’s choice.

“The craze last year was the hour record, but I might get the record for the slowest hour record,” said Dombrowski, one of Cannondale’s climbers. “I thought it would be cool if we created an uphill hour record, outdoors. It’s how many meters you can climb in an hour.”

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Of course, there is no such thing as an enclosed, 2,000-meter-tall cycling track, so the uphill hour has to take place on regular roads. That means weather, gradient, wind, and road surface all play a part. Dombrowski thinks that just adds to the allure.

“I like the element that it’s not controlled like a track. If you can find a climb that’s better for it, then more power to you,” he said.

“It’s sort of limiting in that you’re probably looking at, for a one-hour, flat-out effort on a perfect climb for it with good wind, good weather, like 1,900 VAM (vertical meters gained per hour) or something, 1,850. That’s a big climb. You have to find a big climb with good wind, good weather.”

Dombrowski is already considering which climb could be used to make his first attempt. If he is targeting 1,900 VAM, or 6,233 feet climbed in one hour, he’ll need a long climb indeed. He’s considering Tenerife, the volcanic climb often used for altitude training, or maybe the Stelvio, though he’s not sure the latter is long enough.

The right climb needs to be long enough and have the right attributes. Steeper gradients offer less wind resistance, allowing for higher VAM figures. “I think steep, with a tailwind, with good pavement, and like 70-degrees Fahrenheit,” he said.

Part of the regular hour record’s resurgence stemmed from the UCI’s decision to open it to the use of regular track bikes, providing an incentive for bike brands to fund the attempts and use them as marketing opportunities. The uphill hour could see similar interest from manufacturers eager to show the world how light their bikes can be without any UCI regulations. There would be no 6.8kg rule, Dombrowski said.

“I think you’d have to be able to ride the bike down, that’s a good rule,” Dombrowski said. “But you could do one brake, a single chainring, maybe just a few gears.”

An uphill hour attempt wouldn’t be the first time Dombrowski has stepped away from traditional road racing. Last year, he raced the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, along with teammate Alex Howes, and the two finished second and sixth, respectively. He may tackle Leadville again this year, but isn’t yet sure. Earlier in 2015, he lent his name to a beer, Dombrewski.

“I want to have a long career as a professional bicycle rider, and part of that is keeping it fun,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how many meters someone could climb in an hour? The thing is, if I do this before anyone else, I will obviously have the record,” he said, grinning.

Want to hear Dombrowski explain the idea with your own ears? Check out this week’s VeloNews Podcast, episode 8, which features an interview with the young American from Cannondale’s team camp in Catalunya, Spain.