I came across an unsurprising insight into the role that engineering plays in the cycling world hour record. Here's a quote from a recent Science News mag piece titled "Breaking The Speed Limit", which explores studies done to extract the role of better engineering in these records, and to quantify that role. The only thing different in the quote here on the blog is that I have directly linked to these studies for your reference.
"The cycling hour record — the distance an athlete can pedal in one hour on a flat track — steadily rose in the 1980s and 1990s as riders began to use new high-tech gear and streamlined riding positions to improve their aerodynamics. In 1999, University of Tennessee researchers used a model that accounted for adjustments in bicycle design, riding position and other modifications. Writing in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the team reported that about 60 percent of the world records in the previous two decades of cycling were due to better engineering. In 2000, cycling leaders essentially locked the sport in a time machine, declaring that cycling equipment and position had to be similar to designs used to set the hour cycling record in 1972 — an effort, Neptune wrote this summer, “to prevent the hour record from becoming influenced more by technology than by the athletes.” Records set between 1972 and 2000 are still on the books, but in a category called “best hour performance.”
The above graph was originally shown in the paper "The Influence of Muscle Physiology and Advanced Technology on Sports Performance". It was compiled by Neptune et al and appeared in the 2009 edition of The Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering. Richard Neptune is an associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.
Looking at the way Fabian Cancellara has been performing lately, if he mounts a specially made bike and gives this event a try in the Superman position, one wouldn't be too far in guessing that he'd run away with UCI's Best Human Effort record. The question is, will he try?
RELATED RESOURCES :
Recumbent Blog : Cycling Hour Record Time Chart With Recumbents Included
Fabian Cancellara Thinks About Attempting Hour Record
* * *