Ironman star Lionel Sanders has set a new Canadian hour record on the track, covering 51.304km to beat the country’s previous best by 2.8km.

Sanders, who currently sits fourth in the PTO world rankings, decided to take on Ed Veal’s Canadian record earlier this year after COVID-19 cancelled most pro triathlon events.

“That was a very, very painful experience,” said Sanders afterwards “but it was great, I mean, I enjoy this stuff, I live for this stuff.”

The successful attempt took place in the Milton Velodrome near Toronto and is all the more impressive considering that Sanders has only been on the track a handful of times, he had no crowd support and he’s also been training to run a 5km person best, which he posted just days before his hour ride, setting a new time of 14:34.

The bike

Sanders set the new record on a Canyon Speedmax, which is the TT/triathlon bike that’s won the last five editions of the Ironman World Championships in Kona under both Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange.

This specially adapted bike originally was originally made for Alex Dowsett’s 2017 hour record attempt. The Canadian chose a gear range of 61t up front – on a Vision Metron aero crankset – and a 13t cog at the rear.

Lionel Sanders - Hour Record Bike
Sanders’ Canyon SpeedMax bike was originally created for Alex Dowsett’s hour record (Photo: Lionel Sanders YouTube)

This was to best accommodate his self-selected cadence of around 87rpm, far lower than the 100rpm traditionally chosen for hour attempts. The bike also featured a pair of HED Volo disc wheels wrapped in Vittoria Pista Graphene 2.0 tubulars pumped to a bulging 170psi.

Pacing

Despite no on-board data being allowed under UCI regulations, Sanders paced the event with exceptional consistency, hitting each 250m lap at around 17.5 seconds. Sanders’ only feedback on his performance was his wife Erin showing a whiteboard of total distance covered on each lap.

“For me, I can only work in kilometres,” he said. “[it] is absolutely meaningless to me to know what a 250m is! Ks on the other hand I understand, that’s why I just wanted a running kilometres from Erin.

Lionel Sanders complete hour record
Sanders’ victory fist-pump upon setting the new record. (Photo: Lionel Sanders YouTube)

Speaking afterwards, he said: “I thought maybe I’d be able to push the final 10 minutes and there was absolutely nothing left – there was no way for me to increase the speed any more.

“I think that’s a mark actually that I had my pacing right because there was nothing more I could give so I paced it, I think, as well as I possibly could.”

Previous record-holder Veale was on-site and swiftly admitted that he wouldn’t be able to reach such a distance at a sea-level velodrome. Meanwhile, Sanders himself expressed interest in making another attempt at altitude as world hour record holder Victor Campanaerts’ 55.089 did in Mexico city earlier this year.

Lionel Sanders Hour Record Certificate
Sanders’ wife Erin handed him the official UCI certificate confirming his record distance. (Photo: Lionel Sanders YouTube)

“It was quite fun and I would like to do it again. I would also like to go try at altitude and see what the differences are at altitude…that’s a project maybe for another off season.”

Method to the madness

With the hour record in the bag and that new 5km PB of 14:34, Sanders feels he’s ready to take on the first-ever PTO Championship, due to be held this December at Challenge Daytona.

“There was always a method to the madness,” he said. “So I know going up against the ITU guys there’s absolutely no way to compete with these guys if you don’t have very good top-end speed. So I tried to break my 5k PB, which I knew to have any shot I would have to run fast.

“Daytona speedway is literally like the same as this but not these tight corners, so it will be the same experience, just with 50 other guys out there.”

Summing up the day, Sanders commented: “It was a great experience and if you take anything from it, I hope you go out and challenge yourself with something fun that gets you outside your comfort zone because it’s quite a fun experience on the other side.”

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