Definitive account of Sir Bradley Wiggins' hour record lets us into the mind of one of Britain's greatest cyclists
Sir Bradley Wiggins is an enigma. One of British cycling’s biggest stars on one hand, but an unpredictable, reluctant hero on the other.
Chris Boardman eludes to those enigmatic traits in the introduction to Wiggins’ new book, My Hour, written in conjunction with journalist William Fotheringham, who also worked with Wiggins on his autobiography, My Time.
Sir Brad, he says, is ‘a bundle of contradictions’ but one thing he isn’t, Boardman adds, is boring, which is why the both the cycling world and wider public public took him to heart and why, for one hour on June 7, we were transfixed by his successful attempt to break the UCI hour record.
My Hour is the inside story of that attempt, the ‘how to’ guide if you like – but written for students of cycling by one of its keenest pupils.
While My Time offered the insider account of Wiggins’ Tour de France win, My Hour goes back inside the mind of one of Britain’s greatest cyclists.
Wiggins talks of the build-up to the attempt, what inspired him, the measures he took, the training he underwent and the ins and outs of track cycling, all interspersed with his recollections of how the event unfolded.
Such a layout ensures the book flows nicely, a smooth journey through the hour – like Wiggins’ attempt itself – with the various extracts on former record holders, serving to prevent it becoming monotonous.
It is an insight into Wiggins’ mindset, and he speaks as candidly as ever about the past, the attempt, and what he hopes for in future – Team Wiggins at the Tour de France in a few years’ time, with Mark Cavendish, among the more outlandish ambitions.
Also interspersed are high-quality images of Wiggins’ setup, his machine and his attempt and some great infographics detailing the history of the hour and the science behind the attempt.
For those with a keen interest in the tech and science of the sport, this is a great guide on everything Wiggins and his team had to consider for the record.
London, for example, was the perfect venue for the occasion Wiggins wanted – on the site of the former Eastway Circuit he rode as a kid, and with a sell-out home crowd through the doors – but he had to sacrifice the faster track at Manchester, or riding at altitude at Mexico City, to get that.
Abnormally low air pressure on the day also counted against him, meaning his ultimate target – Tony Rominger’s 55.291km, second to Boardman in the ‘best human effort’ category after the UCI’s rule change – was ultimately out of reach.
Then there’s the ‘how to’ guide – or how to if you boast the track background, engine and time-trialling pedigree of a legend like Wiggins.
The key, he said – as Jack Bobridge found to his cost when he failed to break the record earlier in 2015 – is pacing, pacing, pacing.
Wiggins could have paid the price too if he hadn’t had that in mind after flying out of the blocks, admitting it took all of his experience to ease off and get into his rhythm of 16.2-16.4 second lap times.
Then you need experience on the track. Lance Armstrong couldn’t do it, Wiggins says, because of his pedalling style; Tony Martin’s tendency to shift position would also work against him, Eddy Merckx told Wiggins.
That experience allows you to cope with the banking of the track – squeeze the pedals on the banking, ease off on the straight, and repeat ad infinitum.
The book is not just about how to ride the hour, of course, it is how Wiggins rode the hour – and the insight into his mindset is as fascinating as ever.
Here is where you are reminded of how Wiggins – while on top of the world in many aspects of his cycling career – is still as much a cycling fan as the rest of us.
His idea to break the training up into 12-minute blocks was actually based on how Miguel Indurain set his hour record, and Wiggins discovered it after delving into his archive of cycling magazines.
As for the build-up to the event, cyclists in Regent’s Park were treated to the sight of one of Britain’s finest ever cyclists riding laps alongside them as he kept the legs ticking over.
The extracts on the previous record holders, each labelled ‘hero’, is another insight into Wiggins’ view of the cycling world, past and present.
And it’s not a copy and paste Wikipedia job on who they are, it’s who Wiggins perceives them to be. It’s how he came to know of Francesco Moser, Fausto Coppi, Graeme Obree, Merckx, Boardman, Indurain et al, and how their records and achievements inspired him.
We also get to know how Wiggins coped with the mental side of the hour – breaking it up into his seven-minute ‘platforms of hope’, with the chapters of the book aptly named ‘seven minutes’, ‘17 minutes’ and so on.
He also talks of tricking his mind while riding on the track; “There’s only 25 minutes to go now…ten minutes from now there’s going to be 15 minutes to go…how will you feel then?”
There is also the answer to the burning question many have of Wiggins’ career – why he rarely defends his titles.
Tour de France 2012, UCI World Time Trial Championship 2014, UCI Hour Record – ticked off, now on to the next thing. It is the chase, Wiggins says, that inspires him and gets the best out of him.
Finally, Wiggins looks to the future, with the 2016 Rio Olympics first on the agenda, but there are other ambitions in there – the future of Team Wiggins, for one, and also the hope he can compete in the madison at the World Championships with Mark Cavendish again, bidding to replicate their 2008 success.
For a book based around just one hour of Wiggins’ fabled career, it’s an incredibly detailed account, and also adds a great depth to what we already know of Britain’s ‘knight on a bike’. It’s a well-written story which avoids the repetition an account of the hour could easily fall into, and will appeal to both fans of cycling and students of the sport – fitting, given Wiggins is one of the biggest of both of those.
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