A while back, long time Colorado racer, Kevin Nicol, made an attempt to break the hour record on the track. While not successful, Kevin has picked himself back up and reflects on what it took to come to those 60 minutes of cycling.
Kevin training on Erie Velodrome
Kris is so kind to let me rant on his forum at 303 cycling. I promised Kris a review of my Hour Record attempt long ago and my guess is that Kris and everyone else that was curious, -thought I rode 60min only never to be heard from again!
OK, I’ve been riding around in circles off and on for many years. When approaching this project of doing an official attempt on the hour, I thought, no problem, I can hold a line, I can ride a fixed gear, I can go relatively fast. The seed was planted some 7-8years ago by Iñigo San Millan, my boss here at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. Iñigo said, “-Kevin; you must go for the Hour Record!” Again, I thought, “-ok, that sounds cool,” - and that was back when you could use an aero bike.
With due diligence, I studied and watched videos, read all I could find and in particular Michael Hutchinson’s ’06 book “The Hour.” Iñigo’s advice was that I needed to start things in motion a year ahead. He had experience working with Miguel Indurain during his early days as a student intern in Exercise Physiology in Spain. I had some concept as to what a world class athlete was capable of and it is absurd! I’m talking something similar to sitting on the couch watching TV at 50+ KPH. With Hutch’s book I came to understand how crazy hard it is to even try, with the UCI. It is very strict and expensive. I was absolutely demotivated.
Anyway, I’m not getting any younger, and I’m all about doing fun and interesting things on the bike, such as the latest Tandem escapades with Nico Toutenhoofd; we set some tandem records last season. I began getting serious about attempting the hour last fall and started whispering about my intentions to a close circle of friends. First I needed to figure out a bike and where I was going to do this ride. I can tell you during and after the fact, when you put this much into something you want to control every little aspect and make sure you leave nothing to chance, including equipment, training and location. I have never been shy about if I don’t know something, I find someone who does. I discussed every minutia of doing an Hour record with everyone that would give me the time of day and I am honored to have worked with Inigo, Uli Schoberer of SRM power meters, and Colby Pearce of course. I spoke with Chris Schmidt at USOC who was kind enough to wrench for my attempt and he let me know what they use on the World Cup Circuit for Tires and pressures and such.
One thing with the Hour, it can suck you in! You start running with your mind and question all the variables. If I don’t do such and such and I miss the goal by fractions, what then? I studied and became obsessed with everything; this is what you do if you are serious, right? Every nut and bolt was considered, I had a special chain prepped by Jason Smith over at Friction Facts, turns out all the top guys use this service and it saves watts!
Of course with the Hour, we have over 100 years of history and data records. No, this is absolutely not riding around in circles for an hour. This event is very well defined, and as some may know, you either have it or you don’t, there is no second place or almost had it. Inigo has a protocol he uses to define the capabilities, based on field test lactate analysis. We used this to also dial in my position. We had the super science and I felt very confident about things. I am also astounded when with all the recent attempts I hear those stating they rode the track just a few times and slammed it together a couple weeks before-hand. Perhaps they could have done well with more preparation, despite themselves. I did tons of track training, at least 2X/week for two months which probably surpassed my track time over the past ten years combined and might answer why crazy Kevin would strike off on his own at the start of races this season…. I was doing little Hours. Being a full time guy who works for a living with two teenage kids and a hellish commute most every day, I felt pretty darn good about how things were going. But here’s the dirty little secret, I am not a professional cyclist and sometimes life gets in the way with even the best of intentions. Trying to squeeze in work, family and training time, especially on the track when I’m slotting in between weather, National Team training camps, maintenance, and just getting my shit together to ride takes a whack. I had exceptional support not available to most in terms of access to both the Erie and Colorado Springs tracks and I am eternally humbled by this level of support and belief in the dream, thank you Frank Banta, and Doug Emerson in Erie for babysitting me!
Also, some may not know, doing an Hour attempt, unless you ride for Trek or BMC at the World Tour level does not come with a staff of 25. Colby can attest to that. You begin as a one man show putting together an event, officials, timing, dancing ponies. My trade team Natural Grocers (thank you Richard Light for sitting out doing splits for my timing), Pat McDonough who promotes professionally to take care of all the details, I had no idea how complicated this all was, Tom Vinson with USOC, Track Manager in Colorado Springs, Mark Tyson to Motor Pace me around the track till his leg cramped up at 55-60KPH and gale force winds after a day with the National Team. Alvin with Castelli, providing the super-fast speed suits and arriving day of with an assortment of wind shoe covers! This is just a small sampling of
Anyway, the stars appeared to be lining up and this is what needs to happen when you are looking to go 49.4KPH. I was gunning for 50KPH and had the stuff. One other crucial tidbit, clipping along at these velocities is not cut and dry. I can roll all day long at 47.5KPH but as you approach 48, 49 and 50, things change. Your rolling resistance increases, Coefficient of Drag hits you like a brick, go ahead and sit at 60KPH behind a motor and then touch the wind and of course your Lactate levels go from a happy 2.8 mM to 7+mM, definitely not sustainable. In one sense it is not cut and dry but on another plane it is. Ultimately it’s you and the bike.
Can you ride around the track on the Pole lane, with full aero setup, and not float up and add meters to your ride? You only get credit for your laps and not extra wasted distance by riding high. Let me ask this, can you ride low, with your eyes crossed at a velocity that would send you off the road if you were illegally texting? I had one final word of advice, day of, I asked my friend Andy Hampsten, of Giro fame and my idol growing up; how do you handle doing something that seems so big? He in turn asked Eddy Merckx for me. Merckx’s advice, “just go hard as you can and hold on! “In conclusion, I fell short. I could feel my body slipping couple weeks out for whatever reason and the powers that be. To be honest, I did not consider not making it. I knew while out there after 20min it was not to be, but being the Hour, you simply must honor the event and carry on. I was within 1.5s each lap of my schedule after I was forced to throttle down and did not slow or speed up, but over an hour this is a lot. I didn’t go crazy out of the gate nor do anything last minute or feel unwarranted stress. Of course it’s stressful being out there with the spotlight on you and your family. Yes I consider those who held me up there in the stands, my family. I was very proud for even trying and being me, frustrated at the same time. A few may know, but I did go out that next weekend and gave it another go in Erie, on my own, unofficially with about 6 people out there helping. I felt much better, even though Eddy Merckx said it took years off his career, but I’m no Eddy Merckx, far from it. I’ll tell how that came out another time.