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The year of the hour record

Little did Voigt know that the pistol fired to finish his 60 minutes of agony was a starter’s gun for many more hour record attempts

2015, the year of the hour record.

It lay dormant for a decade, a decaying relic held by a rider who was caught doping, ridden on a bike frozen in time. It’s no surprise that riders, their sponsors, and the sport as a whole didn’t want to touch the event Eddy Merckx once called “the longest hour.”

That all changed in May. The Athlete’s Hour (colloquially, the Merckx Hour) and Best Human records were thrown to the history books in favor of a single, unified hour record to be performed under modern endurance track regulations — pursuit style bikes are now the weapon of choice.

If any man could rekindle the hour, it was Jens Voigt. With only 49.7km to beat, a record set without any aerodynamic aids, the first top rider to step up under the new rules would effectively set the mark. There was very little chance of failure. Somebody had to be the sacrificial lamb; someone had to be willing to lay down the first modern hour record time. Voigt, winding down a 17-year career, was the perfect man for the job.

The Trek Factory Racing rider sped across 51.11 kilometers in an hour, and the event was so popular that this website saw traffic normally reserved for the final days of the Tour de France.

Little did Voigt know that the pistol fired to finish his 60 minutes of agony was actually a starter’s gun.

Just a month later, IAM Cycling’s Matthias Brändle made his own attempt, beating Voigt’s record, riding 51.852km. That record stands today, but likely won’t for long.

The list of hour record contenders continues to grow. Wednesday morning, BMC’s Rohan Dennis announced that he will make an attempt at the velodrome in Grenchen, Switzerland on February 8, where Voigt rode his way into the record books.

“When I look at my experience on the track and the numbers I have been doing on the track and road, it’s within reach,” Dennis said. “As long as I don’t get too excited at the start and control my nerves, the pacing will take care of itself.”

Dane Alex Rasmussen announced his intention to beat Jens Voigt’s record just a week after the German made his attempt. His intention, at the time of that announcement, was to make an attempt in August, after the Tour of Denmark. Given the firepower set to hit the boards over the next few months, he may want to bring that date back a bit.

Thomas Dekker, who enters 2015 without a pro contract, will ride the hour this spring, though no specific date has been released. He will focus solely on preparing for the hour all winter.

“I’m not afraid of it. I put everything aside in the next few months. I put everything I have into that one hour,” he told Dutch newspaper AD

Alex Dowsett’s Movistar team will likely confirm his planned attempt in London at the end of February on Friday. His attempt will probably happen at the same Revolution Series event that will see Sarah Storey take a crack at the women’s record, on the velodrome built for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Jack Bobridge, the current world record holder in the individual pursuit, will make an attempt in 2015. He stepped down from European racing this year and struck a deal with Australian squad Budget Forklifts, with an eye toward racing the 2016 Olympic Games on the track.

Updated: Bobridge’s Budget Forklifts team announced Thursday morning that he will make his attempt on January 31, making him the first of the next wave of riders to hit the boards.

Bradley Wiggins remains the biggest name to throw his hat in the ring, with an attempt slated for summer 2015.

Of all the contenders, Wiggins, Dowsett, and Bobridge bring the greatest combination of track skills and time trial motors.

Dowsett won a time trial stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, and won the Commonwealth Games time trial in 2014. He’s also a three-time British elite time trial champion.

Bobridge broke a record many thought unbreakable in 2011 when he rode the individual 4km pursuit in 4 minutes 10.534 seconds, beating Chris Boardman’s time of 4 minutes 11.11 seconds.

The class of Wiggins is beyond question. Tour de France champion, world time trial champion, multi-time Olympic medalist, piles of world championship medals on the track, top-ten at Paris-Roubaix — he may be the most widely accomplished male cyclist of his era.

Though BMC’s Taylor Phinney has expressed interest in the record in the past, his recovery from the crash that ended his season at U.S. road nationals in June will likely prevent him from making an attempt in 2015.

“Initially, I was thinking that I would be further along than I am, and that I could have done it this year,” he said. “Maybe it would still be possible after Richmond [worlds], but it’s something we can consider further down the road. I am really happy to see that the hour record is ‘cool’ again. It’s been around a long time in cycling history, and it’s exciting to see everyone going for it.”

Others with similar time trial star power to Wiggins, like Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara, have yet to announce plans.

Cancellara seemed somewhat irked that he has to compare himself to the likes of Brändle and Voigt, rather than Eddy Merckx, as he could have done under the old rules, when VeloNews’ Matthew Beaudin spoke to him last month.

“At the moment when I see all this hour record stuff, it’s just low level. Instead of higher it’s getting lower … but in the end, the UCI set up the rules, and everyone can do it who wants and there’s no limit. When there’s people motivated, they just do it,” he said.

Perhaps comparing himself to Wiggins will be more appealing.