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Wiggins hints at taking on ‘Merckx Hour’

Current hour record holder Bradley Wiggins alludes to "Merckx Hour" aspirations in new book

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Bradley Wiggins, who set a new world hour record this summer, has hinted he will take on the elusive “Merckx Hour.”

In a new book released this week, “My Hour,” Wiggins outlined a behind-the-scenes attack on the hour record of 54.526km on June 7 at the Lee Valley VeloPark in London. In excerpts of the book posted on Sky’s website, Wiggins hinted he may take on the Merckx Hour as well.

“Merckx’s Hour was the definitive record. He’s the benchmark,” Wiggins wrote in the book. “I’ve spoken about going for the record again, and I’m toying with going for his distance in an Athlete’s Hour of my own.

“I’m planning on doing some tests with similar kit – a hairnet crash-hat and so on – to see what the numbers are. I might be way off his pace. I might not be able to hold his position and be as aerodynamic, but then Merckx wasn’t aero in the slightest.”

Wiggins’ attempt this summer came in a wave of assaults on the hour record following UCI rule changes in 2014 that allowed bikes that met UCI standards for any endurance event on the track. Eight riders took up the challenge, and of those, five set new marks, with Wiggins’ highly anticipated attempt setting what some consider a definitive new distance.

The so-called Merckx Hour (49.431km set in 1972) retains a mystical hold over the peloton because the Belgian legend was the last to set the hour record without the use of modern innovations, such as disc wheels, aero helmets, carbon-fiber frames, and arm extenders.

Wiggins is a big admirer of Merckx, and said it would be the ultimate challenge to imitate the conditions of the Merckx Hour, and try to beat it.

“You watch him riding it and he’s all over the place. You compare him with Chris [Boardman] doing his Athlete’s Hour and Chris is so aerodynamic with that hunched back. In some ways, that just makes Merckx’s even better,” Wiggins wrote. “He starts so fast. He did the first five kilometres in 5min 55sec, which would have got him a medal in a world pursuit championship at the time; he breaks the 5, 10 and 20km records which Ole Ritter set in a special ride which wasn’t an Hour. And he just grunts it out for an hour with sheer brute force.”

Wiggins did not put a date on a possible attempt, but suggested he would make some tests to see if it’s realistic and feasible. Top on his priority list in 2016 will be a return to the track to try to win another gold medal in team pursuit at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

When contacted by Sportwereld.be, Merckx said, “He can do it. And if he does, I will congratulate him.”

MY HOUR by Bradley Wiggins, published by Yellow Jersey Press, $20.00