Photo of the week: Hometown hero

Summary

As Victor Campenaerts passed Sir Bradley Wiggins’ world record for the velodrome hour ride, crowds across Belgium went wild

‘Sheer willpower’

Friends, family and fans of cyclist Victor Campenaerts jumped from their seats, cheered and wept tears of joy earlier this week at Café Mombasa in Antwerp. Campenaerts’ local, the bar hosted a screening of his attempt to break the velodrome world hour record.

When Campenaerts broke – handily – the existing record at Aguascalientes Bicentenary Velodrome in Mexico, the crowd could not contain itself. Not since Eddy Merckx in 1972 has a Belgian held the title.

The velodrome hour record is simple: Ride as many kilometres as you can in one hour. It’s not a race; cyclists ride it alone in the absence of competitors or fans.

Campenaerts rode 55.089 kilometres, breaking UK cyclist Bradley Wiggins’ record  from 2015 by nearly half a kilometre. “Halfway through, I felt that my starting pace was a little too optimistic,” said Campenaerts after the ride. “An hour has no secrets and hits back hard. I found another rhythm and at the end I was able to accelerate out of sheer willpower.”

Illustrious event

The hour record stands out as one of the most prestigious in the cycling circuit, though few riders attempt it. Just nine cyclists have tried over the last four years to beat Wiggins’ record.

The rules for the ride changed in 2014 to unify the types of bicycles and sportswear, bringing to an end two categories, one for bicycles comparable to Merckx’s (he held the record for 12 years) and one for later bikes with more modern technologies. Still, Campenaerts now holds the second-longest record in the history of the event, a remarkable achievement for the UCI regulation bicycles.

Eddy Merckx was one of the tens of thousands across Belgium to watch the record attempt live on TV. “It's an incredible achievement to go over 55 kilometres,” he told VTM. “I take my hat off to Victor, as I know what it feels like to ride like that for an hour.”

And Wiggins sent one simple tweet: “Chapeau Victor, my man.”

Photo: Arnout Bracke