New military cycling world hour record for RAF engineer

Justyn Cannon during his record attempt at Newport Velodrome Justyn Cannon during his record attempt at Newport Velodrome

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At a time of year when many people's New Year resolutions are slipping and the gym membership is starting to look a little ambitious, Rhondda's Justyn Cannon attacked a world record as part of his continuing efforts to keep his weight down.

Start Quote

I was praying for a puncture or my chain to snap just so it could be over!”

End Quote Justyn Cannon

The 39-year-old RAF avionics engineer based at the Ministry of Defence in Bristol made an attempt on cycling's military hour record at Newport Velodrome on Monday.

The aim is simply to ride a bicycle as far as possible in one hour.

Belgium's Eddy Merckx declared it the hardest ride he'd ever done after his record-breaking ride in 1972.

Justyn seemed to agree with him after his own record attempt, declaring: "That was horrible, absolutely horrible. It just messes with your mind.

"Lap number one is horrible, as you're stressed about getting on schedule. Then each lap after that is horrible."

To break the existing record of 46.595km set by Paul Dotchin in 2000, he needed to ride more than 186 laps of the 250m track in the allotted time, which is a lot of "horrible".

"The last ten minutes are excruciating. I was praying for a puncture or my chain to snap just so it could be over," he said.

Despite making his attempt first thing on a cold February morning, a small crowd emerged just as Justyn was deep into his effort.

Cycling's hour records

Sign with Justyn's record in Newport Velodrome
  • 47.220km: The new world military hour record set by Justyn Cannon, beating the previous distance of 46.595km
  • 49.700km: UCI (International Cycling Union) Hour Record set by Ondřej Sosenka on a 'standard' bicycle with no aerodynamic aids
  • 56.375km: Chris Boardman's record for the UCI Best Human Effort, where aerodynamic aids are permitted
  • 24.25km: 102-year-old Frenchman Robert Marchand beat his own age-category record in January 2014

Unsure whether to shout or stay quiet for fear of disturbing his concentration, the atmosphere was initially low-key for a world record attempt.

It was looking very close as to whether he would manage to break the record, which, given the sacrifice and amount of training he has put in, would have been a big disappointment.

"I've been a proper grouch for the last month because of how hard the training is," Justyn said.

"I train three times a day, including doing two hours on Christmas Day.

"I get home from work and have my indoor trainer set up in the front room so I can jump straight on it without being distracted by food or the internet. Then I eat at 8:30pm and I'm in bed by 9pm."

As the clock ticked closer to 60 minutes, the spectators, led by Justyn's animated dad, started cheering him on, as it looked like it could go either way.

Despite the physical preparation he has clearly put in, he revealed how relaxed he was about planning his timing schedule and equipment checks, which is somewhat refreshing in a climate where the pursuit of "marginal gains" has been been blamed for removing some of the romance of the sport.

"I was gluing my tyres on yesterday and haven't ridden this bike on the track before. My girlfriend wrote my schedule last night. I just rocked up and winged it," he said.

After a pause for the various timekeepers to consult with each other, the record was confirmed. He had covered 47.220km.

Speaking afterwards he said; "My hips are wrecked, my glutes are shot."

After enduring such an effort, would he do it again?

"Never again. Well, not for a few weeks."

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