• Merckx in his pomp (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
While our eyes were turned toward the Giro d’Italia the International Cycling Union (UCI) made a significant change to the rules governing the world hour record.
By
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:38 PM

During May, the UCI ditched the old double standards which restricted riders to the equipment used by cycling legend Eddy Merckx when he set the record (49.431) in 1972, or the newer (post 2000) "Best Human Effort" and opened it up to any machine currently meeting endurance track cycling standards.

So as it now stands, the current men's and women's unified holders of the hour record are Czech Ondrej Sosenka (49.7km) and Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (46.065km), with both riders using equipment which meet current regulations.

The redefined standard now opens up a word of possibility for one of cycling's hallowed records, with any serious effort using modern day equipment and training methods certain to set a new benchmark.

"This new rule is part of the modernisation of the UCI Equipment Regulation," said UCI president Brian Cookson in a press release announcing the change.

"Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent.

"This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the Hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans."

The UCI under Cookson is right in bringing clarity to the record. The split was always an anachronistic and muddled response by previous regimes highly resistant to change and technological development. In fact, it was emblematic of everything that was wrong with the UCI at the time. Clearly a lot has changed.

Cycling needs marquee events in order to attract a broader fan base and the hour record is the sport's four minute mile, its 100 metres dash. All it needs now are willing athletes, an opening in the racing calendar and the kind of big money promotion seen in other sports.

But who will be the first rider to bite?

Four-time world road time trial champion Fabian Cancellara is the man most likely after preparing under the old regulations for an attempt either late this year or 2015. However that attempt has now been called off following the UCI decision, with no future date set.

"The whole appeal of the hour record for me is that you are competing against riders from the past," said Cancellara in a team press release.

"I would have loved to race Eddy (Merckx) in the Classics, or in a time trial, but it's not possible. The hour record has this charming side to it that I like a lot. Now it's going to be different.

"I'm not against technological innovation, everyone knows that. It's why I spend so much time testing road bikes with Trek. And it's also why we've invested time and money in developing the best Merckx style bike."

"We had some plans semi-ready but right now we need to think about the whole project again", continues Cancellara. "We will discuss everything within the team and with Trek."

The fact is, Cancellara could still attempt a 'natural' record, but he's right, a full rethink is needed. Now, in all likelihood, the Merckx record will remain a piece of uncontested history. Perhaps fittingly given the stature of the man.

There is of course one other rider who should consider a tilt at the record, one with the best combined road and track record of any of his contemporaries. Bradley Wiggins.

Apparently on the outer at Team Sky despite a strong season deserving of Tour de France selection, a record attempt would be a natural for Wiggins. A new and different mountain to climb for a rider who has just about done it all.

He is a superstar rider with the road and track palmares to match, and would bring an enormous amount of broad celebrity publicity to the hour record, and to cycling.

It would be a win for him, the sport, Sky and the UCI.