Double-header attempts on para-cycling UCI Hour Records timed by Tissot

Two Belgian para-cyclists will attempt to set new official UCI Hour Records timed by Tissot in back-to-back efforts on Saturday 16 July.

Ewoud Vromant, who competes in the C2 classification, and tandem (WB) rider Griet Hoet with her sighted pilot Anneleen Monsieur, will take on the challenges at the Grenchen Velodrome, Switzerland, where riders such as Jens Voigt, Rohan Dennis and recently Ellen van Dijk have taken UCI Hour Records timed by Tissot.

The idea for a coordinated set of attempts has been in germination for some time, but the team has been patient in selecting the right opportunity, as Coach Remko Meeusen explains: “The idea grew separately within the minds of the riders. But it was Ewoud Vromant who took the lead in proposing this as an event to do during the Covid-19 pandemic, as all the other races were cancelled. Together with our National Federation they came up with a plan to attack the UCI World Hour Record timed by Tissot together in their separate classes.”

However, because of the strict protocols surrounding Covid-19, and then the delayed Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games taking priority, it has become a summer 2022 event.

The team enjoy the idea of the unique focus on a double attempt, and while they acknowledge the logistical efficiency of the double-header, they also understand the additional challenges para-cyclists face compared to able bodied riders.

“Riding one hour – able bodied or disabled bodied – is similar according to the intensity of riding,” continues Meeusen. “But with that come extra challenges. For example the stoker on a tandem doesn’t experience a lot of windflow as the pilot sits in front of her, so we have to create and optimise a good pre-cooling strategy. Meanwhile, as an amputee, Ewoud, has a huge amount of pressure on his arms, shoulder and neck in comparison with able-bodied riders, as he always has to balance more, compared to riders with two legs.”

Ewoud Vromant: “Aiming for 45km”

“I've always been fascinated by the World Hour Record,” Vromant tells us. “I remember, when I was a child, the records of Indurain, Rominger, Obree and Boardman. In Belgium we have a great tradition as well for hour records with Merckx and more recently Campenaerts. So when I heard that the UCI Hour Record time by Tissot also exists for para-cycling, I started dreaming of making an attempt myself.

“The current (C2) record was set by Ireland’s Colin Lynch. He was a specialist in time trial and individual pursuit, and I admired him when I started in para-cycling. He set a very sharp record [43.133km in Manchester, GBR, 2016], but several tests during the past three years have shown that I should be able to break it. I aim to ride at least 45km.

“My main goals this year are the UCI World Championships on road and track, so we scheduled this attempt one month before. We’ve prepared by doing long interval training, and after the attempt we will continue with shorter interval training specifically for the UCI Worlds.”

Griet Hoet: “Big ambitions for 2022!”

Griet Hoet and Anneleen Monsieur aim to beat the WB 2005 mark of 42.930km set by Lindy Hou and Tolrrasa Gallagher in Sydney, Australia.

“A UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot feels like something really special,” says Hoet. “Not that many people are so crazy to ride one hour as hard as they can on track. I think it will be nice to be one of them.

“The idea grew over the last few years. There was Covid-19 and we tried to organise it, but we didn't get a go. Anyway, after the Paralympics we put the challenge back on our bucket list!

“In March we went to Grenchen to check the track, so then the preparation started. The UCI World Cup in Ostend and the European Championships were perfect moments to check our shape, then afterwards we trained hard in Gent specifically for the record. It's important to train your bike position as well. We've never sat in that position that long, so for sure that's an extra challenge!

“For us, this record is a main goal. After that we will take a short break, and start preparation for the UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships. So a perfect plan, and big ambitions for 2022!”

How the athletes feel about the double attempt

“In 2019 we spoke for the first time about this UCI Hour Record timed by Tissot, and in the summer of 2019 we did the first 30-minute tests together,” says Vromant. “It felt very natural to combine the attempts. Since the beginning it has been a common project – we transformed this very individual event into a group event!”

“It definitely motivates us,” agrees Hoet. “For the last five years, we’ve trained together; we know each other very well, so we support each other. I hope we can all succeed and make it an unforgettable day in our lives!”

A third attempt, by Diederick Schelfhout (second from left in photo) in the C3 sport class has had to be cancelled due to a positive Covid-19 test.

Brief explanation of para-cycling sport classes

  • C – Cyclist: conventional bike with adaptations if necessary

  • T – Tricycle: three-wheeled bike

  • B – Visually impaired: tandem bicycle ridden with sighted pilot

  • H – Handbike

Each group is divided into different sport classes (1 to 5), with the lower the number indicating greater impairment.