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Some days, Joss Lowden wakes up and wonders what she’s got herself into.
Lowden will be the first woman to take on the world hour record in five years when she sets off for her attempt Thursday, in Grenchen, Switzerland. She is aiming to beat the 48.007 set by Italian rider Vittoria Bussi in September 2018.
Having announced her attempt in June, Lowden has flitted between wondering if she’s mad for doing it — particularly in the midst of a busy block of racing — but she’s also raring to go.
“I have my ups and downs and, oh God am I completely crazy deciding to do it now? What was my logic again? Then other moments of being like gosh, I can’t wait to get Switzerland for the attempt. I have ups and downs but on the whole pretty positive,” Lowden told VeloNews during a call at the world championships in Flanders.
“I have been trying to not find the pressure as a negative and trying to see it as like it’s a positive thing and trying to see as excitement as opposed to stress. It’s hard but it’s what I prepared for and hoping that all comes together in the way that I’ve planned.”
Lowden’s efforts will be broadcast live Thursday evening on TV and a live internet stream. Ideally, she would like to anonymously arrive at a velodrome and have a go, as she did back in February, but her attempt is more than just about her own effort.
There have been six attempts on the men’s hour record since the last women’s attempt, which was Bussi’s successful ride, and Lowden wants to change that.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing it and it’s not that I am this huge, you know, media presence or anything,” Lowden told VeloNews. “Personally, I would rather just creep into a velodrome in my own private time and just do it on my own with no one out there. That would be my dream world record attempt without anyone or anything.
“I know that’s not reality and I know that that’s not going to help women’s cycling. It’s not going to help the hour get the publicity that I think it deserves. It should be a challenge that women want to do in the same way as it is for men. And yeah, of course, if I break the record, I want it to stand, but equally, I want other people to have a go at doing it because I think it’s cool.”
Can she do it again?
Lowden’s ride this week will be the second time in a year that she has tried to beat Bussi’s distance. She made an unofficial attempt at the record at the start of the year, after her partner Dan Bigham — himself a rider as well as a coach for the Danish track team — persuaded her it would be a good idea.
“He sort of ran some numbers and was like this would be really cool thing for you to do,” she said. “I thought it would be fun and then and then in terms of finding the time in the season to do it.”
In her unofficial attempt at the Manchester Velodrome, Lowden shaved over 150 meters off the record to reach a distance of 48.160km. Though she beat it, it doesn’t stand in the record books as it wasn’t an official UCI sanctioned attempt.
In the months since that attempt, Lowden has been working with a number of manufacturers — including clothing manufacturer LeCol — to make sure that she has the latest tech when she goes onto the boards Thursday. In theory, she should go even further than she did last winter, but it’s not just the equipment that’s different for her.
“I’ve just had a totally different run into it. Back in February, I was doing a lot of my training like on my track bike on the turbo with some real long, sustained efforts. I guess I was a lot more sure of what I could do on my track bike,” Lowden said.
“It’s kind of hard to pick the markers like and also now I’m in the height of racing like. I did a block of training at altitude but then haven’t done the same sort of training and it’s been a lot of racing and it’s just it’s difficult to compare.”
One of the biggest challenges with the hour record is making sure that the pacing is correct. Go out too hard and you could blow up, but go out too slowly and you could leave yourself with far too much distance to make up.
Many riders who have attempted the hour record have said that the final 20 minutes are the toughest as the pain begins to really set in. Lowden agrees though it was the final 22 minutes for her.
Her plan is to play it relatively safe, to begin with.
“My style is self-preservation,” Lowden explained. “Basically, not prepare for the worst, but not overcook it. I just want to beat the record. So, I can’t really see that I’m going to go out and do absolutely blinding splits to really push it. I think it’s going to be a lot more conservative, and then to build if I feel good.”