The Longest Hour

“Here it’s not possible to ease up, to change gears or the rhythm. The hour record demands a total effort, permanent and intense, one that’s not possible to compare to any other. I will never try it again.”

—Eddy Merckx

Elsewhere, there was a full house and debates over air pressure. But here, the only air pressure that mattered was that in the tires. Eric Sheagly flatted in his attempt on the track hour record at Portland’s Alpenrose Velodrome, 40 minutes in. He was a few seconds off the elite record at that point and may have beaten it, if not for the charms of the outdoor concrete track.

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One can only do so much.

Junior Peter Newlands enjoyed a different fate, riding a track-best of 38.442km. Towards the end of the hour spectators fanned out along the edges of velodrome, spaced every 15 metres or so. They stood there in order to spot where Newlands was on the track at exactly one hour, but what they amounted to was an unending cheering section for the young rider.

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When it was finished, he lay on his back in the shaded infield grass, taking time before he tried to do anything other than recover. Twenty minutes later he went back to being a normal kid, checking his phone, blending back into his teammates, as if the longest hour had hardly happened at all.

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