Ian (lovingboth) wrote,

A tale of one bet

Another special offer tempted me to open a new Paddy Power account. I'd quite like a certain striker to start scoring, but in the meantime I get some more free bets...

... one of which has gone on Bradley Wiggins failing to set a new cycling Hour Record in 2015 at odds of 7/2.

The Hour Record is possibly the simplest track event: you start cycling round a track, and if you have gone at least a metre further than the current record an hour later, you set a new record.

It's also one of the toughest and most controversial ones. One controversy from the 1930s affects cycling to this day. In Paris, on 18th August 1914 Oscar Egg set a record of 44km 247m (I find it amazing that this was after the start of the First World War, France had been invaded and several German armies were marching on the city - I wonder how much his Swiss nationality affected his willingness to do this there and then!)

This record stood until July 1933 when Francis Faure did 45km 55m, again in Paris. He used a recumbent bicycle to do this. Someone using an upright safety bike did 44km 588m in August, then Marcel Berthet - a three times previous record holder, it was his record that Egg had beaten - did 49km 990m in November.. on a recumbent. So in 1934, the UCI banned recumbents*. This is why most cyclists still ride Victorian-style safety bikes rather than anything better.

The most worshipped Hour Record was set by the greatest ever cyclist, Eddy Merckx, at altitude in Mexico City on 25th October 1972. He did 49km 431m - less than Berthet had done almost forty years earlier. When people started to beat that using bikes that were UCI-legal but not the classic design, the UCI decided that they needed to split the record: the 'Hour Record' for Merckx-style bikes without aerodynamic helmets, disc wheels, triathlon bars or monocoque frames, and the 'Best Human Effort' one for ones that could be ridden in a track event but weren't as 'pure' (slow) as St Eddy's. They then banned several riding positions pioneered by Graeme Obree - no more 'praying mantis' tucking your arms under your body or having them straight out front, like Superman.

It took until 2000 for anyone to beat the Merckx record, when Chris Boardman did 49km 441m - ten metres more, for a 0.02% improvement. Five years later, Ondřej Sosenka did 49km 700m... but was probably doping. At this point, the Best Human Effort record was 56km 375m by Chris Boardman in 1996.

This year, the UCI has decided this is a bit silly, so they've just re-amended the rules to unify the two categories. Any track-legal bike can now be used... but they have restored the silliness by declaring that the record to beat is Sosenka's, not Boardman's Best Human Effort one.

So someone is highly likely to beat the Hour Record. Using a modern upright, you can go much further than you can on a Merckx upright... but will Wiggins be first? At least one other great time-trialist is looking at an attempt and he could do a ride that Wiggins will find it hard to beat. Injury and illness is another factor.

So while I think that a fit Wiggins could - I nearly said 'easily', but this is one of the really tough records - do more than 49km 700m, I think the odds of 1-6 for him getting the record in 2015 are way too low. On the other hand, although 7/2 means there is a very hefty profit margin for the bookmakers, it seems much better value for money.

* Berthet's record became the 'human powered' record - riden on anything, so long as it's human powered - its current hour record was done at a speed that can't be done on an upright for more than about 200m.

This entry was originally posted at http://lovingboth.dreamwidth.org/527871.html, because despite having a permanent account, I have had enough of LJ's current owners trying to be evil. Please comment there using OpenID - comment count unavailable have and if you have an LJ account, you can use it for your OpenID account. Or just join Dreamwidth! It only took a couple of minutes to copy all my entries here to there.

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