I finished reading Michael Hutchinson’s “The Hour”, which gained him the award for “Best New Writer” at the 2007 “British Sports Book Awards”. The book mainly covers the first of his two (unsuccessful) hour record attempts.
What is the “Hour record”?
The “Hour Record” is the record for the longest distance cycled in one hour on a bicycle from a stationary start. Now it’s also called the UCI Unified Hour Record, UCI is cycling’s governing body – the Union Cycliste Internationale. Sometimes it’s erroneously called the “one-hour record”.
“Here is a simple question. How far can you ride a bicycle in one hour? No assistance, no pace-makers. A rider alone on a track, with only the time elapsed and the distance covered to occupy his mind. The very purest of physical efforts. This is the World Hour Record, and it took over my life.”Michael Hutchinson, “The Hour”
The book is the story of Hutchinson’s first hour-record attempt, but it also gives a lot of historical information about the subject, covering all records in history. Hutchinson intertwines the tale of the obsession and effort involved in preparing for his attempt on the hour record with a witty and interesting history of professional cycling, particularly past hour record attempts.
Especially, the sections about Chris Boardman and Graeme Obree are very interesting and sometimes funny (if you watched “The Flying Scotsman”, you should be familiar with Obree’s story but Hutchinson narrating more than the movie).
As of August 2015, the book scores 4.4 out of 5 on Amazon. I think it deserves that high score. A book telling a story about failing to break the hour record didn’t exactly sound like a riveting read but believe me, I’ve read a lot of books about cycling, and this is definitely one of the better ones.
It is so informative, so entertaining, and well written. One can fully understand what is the Hour Record, why it matters, and can learn its history by reading the book, even if s/he knows nothing of the subject and in general, cycling. It also gives a lot of insight into time-trial and hour-record racing from a professional’s point of view.
Long story short, “The Hour” is the story of how a man who became a professional athlete by accident embarked on a quest for sporting immortality.
About the author
Michael Hutchinson (born 20 November 1973 in Northern Ireland) is a British racing cyclist and writer who has represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland at events including the Commonwealth Games. Having acquired a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in International Human Rights from Fitzwilliam College, Hutchinson spent a year researching and teaching Law at the University of Sussex before resolving to pursue a career as a writer. In late 2006, he started writing for Cycling Weekly.
He is the individual time trial specialist. As of August 2015, he holds the competition record for 30 miles and is a previous holder of the 10, 25, 50, and 100-mile records.
He has won British titles at every distance from 10 miles to 100 miles and is a two-time winner of the 12-hour championships. He has also won the British 4,000-meter track individual pursuit title.