Cycling-One hour from glory, Britain's Lowden focused on record

FILE PHOTO-British rider Joss Lowden poses for a photo at the Wales National Velodrome in Newport, Britain, September 7, 2021. Courtesy of Tom Griffiths/Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - British cyclist Joss Lowden will fix her eyes on the black line in a Swiss velodrome on Thursday and prepare to ride through the pain barrier in pursuit of the women's Hour world record.

The 33-year-old's audacious attempt to break Italian Vittoria Bussi's current record of 48.007km set at altitude in Mexico in 2018 will require Lowden to complete a minimum of 192 laps of the track in Grenchen near Bern.

Pedalling at full gas for 60 minutes is one of the most daunting challenges in cycling and was once described by former male world Hour record holder Chris Boardman as "on the line between maximum effort and unconsciousness".

But Lowden, who finished eighth in the UCI road world championships time trial last week in Flanders, sounded confident ahead of her attempt, especially having gone past Bussi's mark in a practice run in February.

In fact her biggest concern is that her record attempt has suddenly captured the imagination of the public and it will be beamed live by broadcaster Eurosport.

"I'm certainly nervous because my ideal way of doing anything is to slip in quietly under the radar, like when I did the practice attempt in February," Lowden, who rides on the road for pro-tour cycling team Drops-Le Col, told Reuters on Tuesday.

"That was my dream situation, rock up on a regular day and just do it. But this has got a bit of media attention and that creates many more nerves.

"Things went really well in the practice run so hopefully I can take comfort from that and it should be doable this time."


One huge advantage, said Lowden, is that her boyfriend is Dan Bigham -- a world class cyclist and a self-confessed aerodynamics geek whose input helped the Danish men's team rip up the team pursuit textbook.

Former British champion Bigham, who formed the successful HUUB Wattbike team and who runs WattShop, a cutting edge bike components company, has thrown himself into Lowden's attempt, crunching the physiological and aerodynamical numbers.

Modestly, Lowden says her role in the attempt is the 'easy' bit.

"Dan's been a massive part of it and I would say more significant than my part which might sound ridiculous," she said. "But I'm serious. If you look at the Hour attempt it's two major elements; the power that goes in and then the waste of energy that goes out, the aerodynamic drag.

"Dan is responsible for all of those elements apart from the Le Col skin suit. The (handlebar) extensions, the cranks, all the bits and pieces he has designed himself.

"He puts in all the numbers and presses Go and says this is what you will do, I just have to pedal and execute it."

Lowden said that on a good day, or even a normal day, Bussi's record should be within her physical capabilities.

But the mental battle will be the toughest.

"When I did my practice run, for 35 minutes it was really quite straightforward because you are on a threshold and you are comfortable, then you hit a point where it really hurts and it's a mental battle," she added.

"After the worlds and a full road racing season I'm perhaps not so fresh, so I will hit that point sooner. Physiologically I should be able to do it, but mentally it's going to be hard."

While Lowden would prefer to have kept her bid under the radar -- she knows breaking it will be something to celebrate and will help put women's cycling on the map as she is only the seventh woman to attempt it since 2014.

"If I am successful I will look back afterwards and be really pleased that it had the air time it deserves," she said.

"Because if it was anyone else I would want to watch it. A woman having a go at the Hour record is pretty cool and it should be covered in the same way as the men's record."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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