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Filippo Ganna puts the UCI World Hour Record into untouchable territory

Not only did he break the UCI World Hour Record, but he unified the Hour by exceeding Chris Boardman's 1996 'superman' benchmark.

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Filippo Ganna has broken – nay smashed – the UCI World Hour Record. The Italian set a phenomenal distance of 56.792 km, bettering the effort of his Ineos Grenadiers colleague Dan Bigham who set the 55.548 km benchmark in August.

Ganna was a picture of composure before he mounted his 3D-printed super-bike to begin his Hour Record attempt. A champion team pursuiter, he came out of the blocks pretty hard, but settled into the effort over the next few laps, letting the deficit droop into territory that might look irretrievable to the layman. However, that was all part of the plan, i.e. the first phase of the Hour represented the last portion of his warm-up. Just as Bigham’s record was phase one of the Ganna project.

With the temperature in the velodrome a reported 27˚C (at the start) – for good reason – it was important for Ganna to keep his core body temp under control, which influenced the pacing strategy. And that really came clear after the first 15 minutes had elapsed, Ganna’s deficit to Bigham tumbling and the graphic going green just five minutes later.

The next target was Bigham’s average speed, which Ganna exceeded a few minutes before the halfway point. It looked like he was on track for something approaching the elusive 57 km mark. And he just kept. Getting. Faster.

Only a disaster, like a crash or overheating, could possibly rob Ganna of his goal, so with the only question being ‘by how much?’, attention turned to another storyline. In 1996, Chris Boardman set the “best human effort” of 56.375 km in the now banned ‘superman position’, and Ganna himself had tried to distance himself from the idea of that being a realistic goal. But as he entered the final quarter-hour, it looked eminently doable.

As the small crowd created ever more atmosphere in the stifling velodrome, Ganna became a little more ragged in the last 10 minutes, but he just needed to hold on.

And hold on he did. The last few minutes were clearly especially hard work, many a UCI-crucial pad knocked off the cote d’azur, but the Italian kept on track and, inevitably, he smashed the records of both Bigham and Boardman, unifying the Hour Record with definitively the “best human effort” ever produced.

“Today to arrive at this amazing goal is fantastic for me, and for all the staff who have worked for a long time to arrive at this result,” Ganna said in the minutes between finishing his effort and the record being ratified. “This morning I thought [I wanted] to break the record by one metre. But in the end I said I wanted to do more. I think this result is amazing, [to beat Boardman’s] 56.375 is not bad.”

That he’s broken the UCI bench mark by such a margin, and pushed Boardman into second place too, seems to confirm what many assumed: a Ganna record would be untouchable. But there is one man who could certainly challenge, and that’s Ganna himself.

“I think next time I will try in another part of the season with more fresh legs and we can go more high again.”

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