If you don’t follow professional cycling you probably know about the Tour de France and Lance Armstrong and that’s about it.
But before the Tour became the pinnacle of cycling accomplishment there was another goal that top top cyclists aimed for: the Hour Record. Its hard enough to prove yourself the best cyclist by riding 200KM a day for three weeks over varying terrain. But what about just riding a banked velodrome as fast as you possibly can for an hour to see how far you can go? If you’re a good time-trial cyclist some of the skills overlap, but in general its an entirely different thing requiring different training, a different bike and different skills. And you don’t have a team to help you get there. There’s only a few bike riders in history who have both won the major tours and broken the Hour Record.
There are rumors that Lance Armstrong, instead of going for another Tour de France this year, will attempt the Hour Record. This would be a Really Big Deal in cycling. The New York Times has a great article that explains the history and importance of the Hour (and the controversy over which Hour Record should be contested: the one with a super aerodynamic bike and riding position, or one with a traditional bike, the so-called “athlete’s hour”). You’ll need a login or bugmenot to read it.