Dame Sarah Storey currently holds a whopping 72 world records. She is also the most decorated paralympian in history. At the end of February Storey will be the first woman in over a decade to attempt the Hour Record which as its name suggest is an attempt to cover the largest distance on the track in an hour.
We were lucky enough to catch up with the rider who is currently in Club Le Santa on her final training camp before she heads back to the UK ahead of her hour record attempt on 28 February.
It is funny because the hour record was never something I intended to attempt. It certainly wasn’t going to be something I would put myself forward for. But I received an invitation from Revolution as they were after a woman to beat the record and they thought I was the perfect candidate.
I have got the engine that it takes to do this record. I just need everything to come together on that one day and actually pull the rabbit out of the hat.
Athletes are not particularly good at sharing secrets so it is not a massive issue [that few women have done it before her]. You are not going to find athletes who will tell you how to break the 3km pursuit record, you are not going to find that someone shares their information on how they went quicker over the flying 200m as a sprinter. Everyone keeps their cards close to their chest regardless of what event it is.
We know how to get me fit as a person but we spend time separately based on the event itself. You need to be very much a diesel which I am but I am also a bit of a turbo, I can produce a reasonable peak power and a reasonable sprint too so we have to nullify those aspects of my physiology to make sure I don’t do any damage while I am fresh in the first ten minutes.
When I raced in the Glasgow Revolution, I got out of the saddle and the kick I would perhaps normally have used, just wasn’t there and I was like “Hang on a minute". Those things are frustrating at that race but are positive signs for the bigger picture so you just have to take the event and break it down to the point that you don’t really need the advice of other people.
The mental aspect is probably one of the aspects that I have least considered. How an individual will cope with the monotony and going around following that one black line for 60 minutes. You can be very good in your own thoughts, you can be a very solitary athlete. I am quite well known for being good on my own. I do most of my training on my own, I am not a sociable trainer, I don’t seek training rides with other people very often. It goes back to my days as a swimmer. In swimming there was no way I could talk to anyone, I had my head in water.
People are not really aware of how much the core and upper body contribute to your position on the bike. The core strength drives the bike around the bends, you won’t be steering. And the upper body will be fixed in that aero position keeping the body nice and still. So all those things require stabilisation from your muscles and it’s that that is difficult to train for.
The current record is 184 ¼ laps so we have been training for more than that. The pace I have set is for more than that, so we just have to decide our strategy in the next couple of weeks and how information will be delivered to me.
Conditions on the day will also make a difference. Everyone needs to prey for bad weather. Air pressure will go very low in very bad weather and that creates a different environment as it is thinner air so it is easier to ride through. You could potentially have a bigger gear and potentially go faster. So there are things that can happen that you have to be reactive to on the day of the event.
I think it is different for women than it is for the men, potentially because our races are a lot shorter. Men frequently get 55km time trials in stage races so they are frequently in a time trial position under pressure for around an hour while fatigued in the middle of a stage race. So that gives them the ability to know what it’s like to do the hour. With the female time trials, if you look at our national championships last year, we only had 13 miles, it was half the distance of the men’s. We rarely get time trials above 25km in length so it is quite difficult to know you have to confidence to do it.
It calls into questions the campaign the women have had over the past few years, certainly Emma Pooley has spoken about this before she retired, of increasing women’s racing in distance so that they have something a little more equal to the men. If women’s racing becomes longer they may feel they have the physical attributes for a challenge like this.
I am most nervous about being able to finish it [the hour record]. You can train, you can be in the right place. Trying to emulate what the last 15-20 minutes are going to be like is really difficult without causing too much fatigue. If you do the actual hour it needs to be far enough away from the event to recover from it and want to do it again. It is the unknown of how your body will react after all those laps when you really need to dig in and push deep. You know you have to hold position, hold the black line, there is not swinging up team pursuit style, there are no roundabouts like a time trial, it is literally that one position.
The unknown will create those butterflies. But if you know you are going to do something it wouldn’t be an exciting challenge to do. Part of the event is the unknown.
The hour will be the start of an incredibly exciting year. I have the World Championships on the track for paracycling four weeks later and then the time trial and road racing season starts. We will fit in a quick holiday so I last the season. Then we have a big season on the road as a team. The Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team has 12 riders, four of those will be at the World Track Championships in Paris, so we have a lot of riders with big ambitions so we have a big plan which includes the Women’s Tour and the National Championships and some other international and domestic races.
Dame Sarah Storey will attempt to break the world hour record at round 5 of the Revolution Series at the Lee Valley VeloPark on 28 February. Sarah’s attempt at the prestigious hour record is part of a full weekend of elite racing over 27/28 February, with tickets ranging from £10 to £45 and are available to buy at cyclingrevolution.com or by calling 0844 854 2016.