Alex Dowsett Hour Record Recap

Alex put on one heck of a ride and a great show for us, but sadly fell short by 534 meters or just over 2 laps. 


As always, Xavier Disley at Aerocoach has a beautiful scatterplot of the lap times for us to do some analysis (if you don’t follow Xavier on Twitter, go there right now and do it!):


Hour Record Scatter Plot



In the first 5 minutes, the pacing strategy was clear, he was planning to ‘hold the line’ right at the existing record with a plan of negative splitting in the last few minutes to push beyond.  This is a solid strategy from a mental perspective, but in practice has proven to be incredibly difficult as even the fittest athletes begin to fall apart in the last few minutes.


To break the record he needed to hold somewhere in the 355-360 watt range (accounting for actual distance ridden, not measured distance).  He managed the opening laps adrenaline rush quite well with only one clear outlier lap at 56.9 kph. 


It is hard to state how critical these initial ‘too fast’ laps can be as the rider needs to stay just below their lactate threshold, even a lap or too above that threshold can cause significant problems (and pain and suffering) for the rest of the attempt. 


I calculate ~410 watts for that 56.9 and those 4 ~56.0kph laps would have him pushing 388-390 watts.  Hard to estimate the damage done here, but would have loved to see him start slower. 


If we look at the wiggins pacing he only had 2 overly hot laps bumping against 56kph, a much more measured opening which led to a much greater consistency, as Disley points out, the Wiggins record is a tale of two halves with the first running about 10w higher than the second and the typical fade in the final 10 minutes.


Scatter Plot Final 10 Minute Fade

Dowsett on the other hand is a tale of thirds.  An overly hot first third, a very well paced but declining middle third and a final falling apart third that was rather difficult to watch.


It is hard to put words to just how much pain these athletes go through in these attempts and Dowsett deserves much credit for suffering on despite it being quite clear past the halfway point of the attempt that it was out of reach.


Ultimately, I think Alex’s attempt suffered from going out a bit hard combined with him just running out of gas.  Perhaps he wasn’t as fully acclimatized as he had hoped? 


It’s also notable that along with his wife and only 2 others, he was responsible for putting this entire event together, all the logistics, communications, equipment, all of it.  Anybody who has ever put on an event understands just how much work and stress are associated with just getting the event to the finish line.  Was it possibly just too much to be the event creator, manager, and logistician as well as ‘the talent’? 


In the end, he came up short, but succeeded in inspiring us with his bravery and humility.  He also raised more than $10,000 for Little Bleeders, his charity supporting (and no doubt inspiring) kids with hemophilia.  If you’re feeling inspired, please take a minute to learn about Little Bleeders and maybe even make a donation.


  • Richard Barrick

    Wow that’s some good stuff right there, thanks for the info gathering and sharing.

  • Tom

    Very good analysis. Yes, it was hard to watch him come apart in the last third. I believe gearing had something to do with this performance. He was geared almost 10% higher than Campanearts. I stand to be corrected, but believe Alex ran with 61-13 while Victor ran a 60-14. This translates to lower RPMs that affects the system. It could be that he just didn’t have the watts that day. But my sense is that he was pushing too big a gear at speed and this caused his body to come apart, resulting in the tragic 52 minute standup and corresponding speed drop-off. We’ll probably never know but it appeared like his body was screaming at him to quit and he came within an eyelash of quitting but somehow he kept going. What a battle that must have been. Much respect for putting it all on the line. Lines from Kipling’s poem “If” comes to mind: "If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing left in you Except the will which says to them “Hold On!”

  • David Lilja

    Great effort Alex. Remember to remain proud of your result even though the attempt failed to gain a new record. You still finished 29 metres ahead of Bradley Wiggins successful record attempt. An astounding outcome for a ‘failed’ record attempt, it was not a failure by any stretch. I believe that you may have learned and achieved enough to one day try for a third time and succeed again.

    Can we agree that articles about such events could always include the word ‘attempt’ in the heading unless they are about a successful record attainment? Seems fairer to all when language is more accurately used such as your usual written or spoken wording Josh, which is usually as precise as your data driven conclusions can be.

  • Bob

    A fascinating insight into Alex’s attempt. At least he was brave enough to have a go and put it all on the line. He’s up there with the Greats of the Hour Record simply for doing that. Chapeau!

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