Lionel Sanders Smashes Canadian Hour Record

Elite Ironman and Ironman 70.3 triathlete Lionel Sanders made a successful venture outside his lane Friday as he rode a borrowed Canyon SpeedMax in the classic one hour time trial at the Milton Velodrome near Toronto, covering 51.3 kilometers. Sanders broke the previous Canadian National record, set by Ed Veal, by 2.8 kilometers.

Sanders’ effort was notable for several reasons. One, trained for his record ride as a multisporter. He said in the Canyon 360 Podcast last week that he felt he was in shape to set a personal best for the 5k run. Also, he rode his hour in front of no crowd. It was almost dead silent in the velodrome – a reality in a pandemic world – and solo unpaced events are very hard to achieve at this level without a cheering crowd.

Sanders used a quite unconventional gear that mandated a cadence of below 90rpm. That is historically low for hour efforts; a more typical cadence for these efforts is above 100rpm. But Sanders has had very little experience on a velodrome and using a fixed gear, and his Sanders and his coach – David Tilbury-Davis – felt that a cadence more familiar to Sanders would best suit this ride.

Setting an eerily consistent pace of between 17.4 to 17.6 seconds for each 250-meter lap, Sanders found no late speed. ”These bikes need a very precise gearing, and pacing has to be very precise,” said Sanders. “The pain, the sustained strain proved that I set the correct gearing as I found I was not able to push more when I came to the final 10 minutes." Still, his last lap was his fastest, at 17 seconds flat.

Sanders added, "I came to this test with really good legs, and my pacing was right. But when I came to the end I had absolutely nothing left.”

As UCI rules forbid having any data technology on the bike, Sanders’ wife Erin MacDonald held up a white board with current lap totals and time on every lap on the inside of the track. Because every inch higher on the track leads to an uncredited longer distance, Sanders avoided taking a higher line and did not ride up on the 42-degree sloped corners.

Sanders’ distance fell 3.789 kilometers short of the current world record of 55.089 kilometers set by Belgian rider Victor Campenaerts on April 20. Campenaerts’ effort was set at the Aquascalientes Velodrome in Mexico City, which at 7,382 feet altitude provides a faster time. The farthest anyone has gone for an hour on a sea level velodrome since the unified rules came into force are Bradley Wiggins in 2015 at 54.526 kilometers, and Martin Toft Madsen’s 53.975 last year.

It was a “very, very painful experience,” Sanders said after his ride. But, “I enjoy this stuff. I live for this stuff. It felt fantastic to push myself to the limit.”

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