This article was, of course, Neutral Service’s 2017 April Fool’s Day effort… not the most subtle, perhaps! Did you spot the anagrams? More on them at the bottom of the page.
Following a spate of Hour Record attempts over the last three years, some of them successful and some not, a new international team with big money backing from gym chain RoCo FitShack, owned by a mysterious Anglo-German business magnate, has announced plans to make a spectacular assault on the current record towards the end of 2017 – with the intention of an as yet un-named female rider bettering the current men’s record, set at 54.526km by Bradley Wiggins in 2015, by an incredible 15km.
British track cycling technology guru Paul Madel, who holds a PhD in aerodynamics and previously worked with Wiggo and Alex Dowsett during their bids, explains that in order to achieve such impressive figures, the new attempt will rely largely on new technology which, he admits, bends UCI rules.
“The UCI brought in new regulations back in 2014, meaning that future “unified record” attempts would take place utilising bikes permitted under standard track endurance rules,” he says. “Many people saw that as stifling innovation; however, under the old rules anything intended to improve the aerodynamics of the bike were banned – that’s now permitted, and that’s what interests us. Effectively, provided we work within those rules, anything goes.”
The attempt is the brainchild of multi-billionaire businessman and Formula 1 expert Todd von Waelieber, who is believed to have sponsored numerous riders and teams here and in Germany (he holds dual nationality) for more than three decades – but always anonymously, this being the first time he’s allowed his name to be used in connection with a project.
“I’ve worked with a few F1 teams in the past and obviously I was aware of RoCo gyms because of their links to both the F1 and cycling worlds, but I’d never met von Waelieber,” adds Madel. “He was mentioned from time to time in both sports, as this sort of cross between some sort of shadowy godfather figure and an extraordinarily benevolent wealthy uncle… truth be told, I wasn’t sure he really existed, so I was very surprised one morning last summer when he contacted me. I thought it was someone trying to be funny, so I nearly put the phone down on him. Lucky I decided to hear him out!
“Todd told me that he’d developed an interest in the Hour Record when Jens Voigt took it. Most interestingly, he said his company would provide the expertise, and he personally would fund it – with no limits, whatever it cost he would pay. There was just one stipulation: he’s massively into track cycling and has been impressed by the Team GB women at the Olympics, so he insists that the rider is British and female, but he doesn’t want to beat the women’s record – he’s going after Wiggo’s record.”
Madel was invited to the Stuttgart HQ of aeroflichnteck.de, another company owned by von Waelieber, where he found the project was already underway. “I was absolutely amazed by what I saw there,” he says. “They’d actually brought in a lawyer employed by the UCI to look into what they could and couldn’t do – I can’t tell you her name, obviously!. They’d developed some bikes – there were six machines already completed, and tested in wind tunnels, but then I was shown plans for something that completely blew my mind – a bike with an oddly-shaped bulging head tube which contained a high-power laser. The idea was that the laser, powered by a cylindrical battery located where a bike’s top tube would normally be situated, would heat the air directly in front of the rider, thus significantly decreasing its density and therefore air resistance. I doubted such a thing could even be done, and was certain there was no way in hell the UCI would allow it. But that had all been checked out – the UCI wasn’t keen, of course, but it would take at least a year to change the regulations to prevent such a device being used, so Todd simply doubled the project’s funding to ensure the bid could be made in the second half of 2017 rather than next year as was originally planned.”
The attempt is currently pencilled in to take place on the 7th of October at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle just down the road from aeroflichnteck.de’s headquarters in Stuttgart, but Madel says it may be brought forward if the UCI change the rules quicker than expected. If successful, they may also make a second attempt aiming to beat their own record at a British velodrome.
“One thing we can save plenty of time on,” he says, “is that the rider, whoever she is, won’t need to shave her legs before the attempt. The way that thing heats up the air in front of the bike – it’ll singe any exposed hair right off!”
And the anagrams…
Roco FitShack – “a crock of sh*t”
aeroflichnteck.de – “if checked not real”
Paul Madel – “all made up”
Todd von Waelieber – “don’t believe a word”