Records are there to be broken, at least that’s what Dutch rider Jeffrey Hoogland thought a little while ago when he set himself the ambitious target of beating the remarkable one-kilometre world record that has been owned by François Pervis for almost 10 years.
– By Rob Arnold (photos @JeffreyHoogland, via X)
For years it seemed that the magic mark for the 1,000m time trial on the track was one minute. It was in 1995 that Australia’s Shane Kelly won the world title and also established a world record of 1:00.613. At that point, the talk of track cycling was about when the ‘kilo’ would be raced in less than a minute.
Eventually it happened. At altitude, on an open-air velodrome in Mexico in 2001, Arnaud Tournant – the Frenchman who skimmed a fraction of a second off Kelly’s record in June 2000 (posting 1:00.148) – eclipsed the minute mark.
Tournant, the four-time world champion in the 1,000m time trial (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001), set a time of 58:875. Again, it was done at altitude. Again, that world record was posted racing on an open-air velodrome. And again, the talk in track cycling was about what would come next.
Eventually, after over 10 years of waiting, conditions were perfect for a fast time at what was a remarkable World Cup event on the now-famous Aguascalientes velodrome in Mexico. The first rider to break Tournant’s world record on 7 December 2013 was the German powerhouse, Maximillian Levy, who tore around the 250m track four times to post 57.949.
Better was yet to come at that World Cup in 2013 when cycling world records were falling at a surprising rate. The last rider to start the highly specific and brutal race against the clock in Mexico was the reigning world champion at the time, François Pervis.
Before the men’s kilo was contested, Anna Meares had posted a new world record in the women’s equivalent, two laps of the track for the 500m time trial. It took her 32.836 to cover the distance and when she looked up to see the time, the focus soon turned to what would come from Pervis and others specialists in the ‘kilo’.
“Given how quick the times were at the previous World Cup there, everyone was pretty excited to go,” said Meares about the air of expectation that lingered around the track in Mexico. “Some riders targeted that round more than others – Pervis in particular, he trained for the Aguascalientes kilo.”
Levy proved that conditions were fast, breaking Tournant’s world record but it was Pervis who obliterated the world record set by the German only minutes earlier. With a fast start (17.671 seconds for the first 250 metres) followed by two sub-13sec laps (12.418 and 12.732 for laps two and three, respectively) the Frenchman arrived at the finish line in an incredible 56.303!
The world record was broken and Pervis’ name was destined to remain at the top of the kilo timing list for many years to come. At the time it seemed implausible that conditions would ever be so good again, and unlikely that his record would be beaten.
Interest in the kilo is no longer quite what it was up until 2004 when the event was last part of the Olympic program. It was in Athens that Sir Chris Hoy posted 1:00.711 to beat Tournant (1:00.896) to claim the gold medal. And then the IOC swapped the short time trial to make way for another cycling event, BMX, which would make its Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008.
Still, despite losing some of its gloss, those who understand track cycling know that the kilo (and the 500m TT) are beautiful races: rapid battles, one individual after another bursting out of the start gate and competing against the clock to see who is fastest. It’s fantastic to watch but brutal for the competitor who requires a rare mix of abilities: power combined with the ability to hold form when the body insists it should be shutting down…
It is common for riders to look like they are going to post a good time only to suffer a meltdown in the closing lap and dawdle home wishing they could suck more oxygen into their lungs.
Track cycling has been struggling for relevance of late but it always gets a little more attention when there’s an Olympic Games coming up. The opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics is now only 268 days away and, going on tradition, we’ll soon start seeing fixed gear bikes in myriad funky configurations emerge as riders put in their bids for gold medals and glory.
There are 12 gold medals up for grabs at the 2024 Games in Paris, with the men’s and women’s programs now including the team sprint, sprint, keirin, team pursuit, omnium and Madison… but no kilometre TT (or 500m TT). Still, the beauty of this race with a long history remains and there are some who understand that owning the world record is a conquest worth fighting for.
Hoogland’s bid for glory
Earlier this year the scene was set for an ambitious attack on François Pervis’ magic mark. Jeffrey Hoogland of the Netherlands has won the kilo at the world championships four times (2018 in 59.517; 2021 in 58.746; 2022 in 58.294; and in Glasgow in August this year when he beat Matthew Glaetzer with another outstanding time of 57.971).
If he could go so quick on the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow, imagine what could be done on a warm day at altitude on the track at Aguascalientes! Maybe the seed for an attempt at the world record was planted then, although we can assume Hoogland has been eyeing off 56.303 for some time now.
The 30-year-old Dutchman has consistently raced sub-minute kilo time trials and in Mexico on the last day of October 2023, he had a crack at the world record just as Tournant had done many years earlier – not in a race but as part of a concerted bid to set the fastest time ever ridden.
Only a few hours ago, the moment for Hoogland to put himself to the test arrived. He was at the velodrome in Aguascalientes with one thing in mind: breaking the world record.
It wasn’t a record attempt that earned a lot of coverage in the cycling media but given that track cycling rarely earns a mention – even on cycling-specific sites – it wasn’t surprising. But again, those who understand this sport realise that racing a fast time in the kilo is absolutely worthy of headlines.
When he finished his attempt and the clock stopped at 55.433 his job was done. His race was over. The record is broken. And Hoogland has every reason to feel satisfied with his amazing effort.
From a standing start, Hoogland sped around the track four times quickly getting up to speed and finishing off the effort with an average speed of 65.45km/h! The world record is his and it’ll take a bold man to try and take it off him.
When it came time to share the news of his achievement with the world, Hoogland did so with a smile and only three English words: “I did it.” His social media post also included an emoji of a rocket. Yep, he did do it. And it is a supersonic effort!
– By Rob Arnold