Sunday, October 17, 2021
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Colby Pearce – Chats about his Hour Record Experiences; “Everything Hurts!”


Colby Pearce
Colby Pearce.

It’s all very well for us at VeloVeritas to pontificate about The Jensie and Hour Records but what about the thoughts of a man who knows the pain of The Hour at first hand ?

Former United States hour record holder Colby Pearce – who last year attempted to take the record back and also set the standard for the US “Athlete’s Hour” – is a good man to talk to.

Pearce is a very experienced track rider having World Cup wins to his credit and has ridden on the Euro Six Day circuit.

He’s a highly respected coach – he was with Garmin on le Tour and at the Worlds TTT in Ponferrada, not to mention being an expert on bike fit.

What inspired you to go for the record last year – twice!

“I was trying to take back the US Hour record, which I obtained in 1995 (50.191km full aero, Lotus bike, rear disc, etc).

“Norm Alvis took it in 1997 (51.505KM on a GT superbike).

“The Athlete’s Record, I did that one just to set the distance for the USA Cycling record books, nobody had established it.

“That ride did not go very well, the bike was not right and it really impacted my ride, but I could have ridden 24km and I would have had the ‘record’.”

Colby Pearce
Colby sets off on his Hour of Pain last year. Photo©Colby Pearce

You must have learned a lot from your 1995 record ride?


“I did a lot of training for it and testing in Colorado Springs before that ride and Jonathan Vaughters and I both had SRM’s so we were looking at power data, cadence, HR and all that.

“JV helped me out a lot with that ride, he was there giving me splits for it.”

How do you train for The Hour?

“Lots of 20 and 30 min sub TT and TT pace efforts.

“5 min VO2’s.

“Lots of time in aero bars… and lots of left turns, ideally!

“You have to be technically proficient at staying low in the corners, in aero bars, while going flat out and not seeing straight.”

Colby Pearce
Colby in the tuck on the famous Lotus monocoque. Photo©Colby Pearce

What was that Lotus like to ride?

“It was not the lightest bike out there but even by today’s standards, it is quite aero, so it rolled very well.

“Back in ’95 it was light years ahead of most other bikes.

It had these cool road/ track interchangeable dropouts so I was using it for road TT’s as well.”

Tell us about the 2013 bikes.

“The aero bike: Felt TK-1 with Mavic comete/ 5 spoke, Vittoria pista CL 22 tires, SMP chrono saddle, 3T brezza nano bars (extremely narrow), custom carbon arm pads, Speedplay pedals and a 54×13 on a Friction Facts treated chain, Bont chrono shoes, Giro selector helmet, Panache Cyclewear speedsuit.

“Standard bike: Nobilette steel round tube frame, Wolber profil 20 rims (yeah Ebay!) with 16 spokes F/R, Vittoria gold CL 18mm tires, SMP Dynamic saddle, custom 30cm wide carbon drop bars, Speedplay pedals, Friction Facts chain, 52×13, Bont chrono shoes, Panache Cyclewear speedsuit.

What hurts first and what hurts most in The Hour?

“Everything hurts.

“The last 20 minutes you are on another planet.

“For the standard bike, my arms were killing me. I did not have time to test the bike enough before the attempt. Things were really chaotic after the Boulder floods, which came about two and a half weeks before the attempt.

“I almost bagged the whole project but I had already put months of work into it.”

Colby Pearce
Colby knows all about pain on the bike. Here, at the Copenhagen Six with Leon Van Bon, neck and neck.
Photo©Ed Hood

Can I ask you about wattages for the rides?

“I did not have a power meter on but my estimate for the aero ride is 315-330w average.

“For the athlete’s record I am sure it was quite a bit less than that.”

Some say that the Moser record should never have been ratified – primarily on the grounds of his riding disc wheels – what’s your opinion?

“No way, that bike was super-cool and pushed the envelope!

“Those pictures are still iconic to this day.”

Colby Pearce
Francesco Moser in Mexico City, 1984.

Shouldn’t the UCI have set Moser’s distance as the ‘yardstick’ for the new record?

“That could be argued.

“They probably did not want to disrespect the efforts Boardman and Sosenka did by making them completely invalid.

“That’s just conjecture on my part but if they went back to Moser, it makes everything after that irrelevant, as though they never happened.

“On the other hand they have done that to everyone faster than Obree now, anyway.

“They have made a mess of the whole thing but this is a good step.”

Rominger’s 55 k on a pretty standard machine is impressive …

“Yeah …”

If you were the UCI how would you have handled the Hour Record?

“The “athletes record” would have never existed.

“To this day people still don’t know what the hell it is. Nobody wants to see anybody riding around for an hour on drop bars and spoked wheels.

“I can say this, because I did it!”

What can we expect from Wiggins/Bobridge/Cancellara/Martin?

“It will start at 52 and go up, depending on when and where.

“But it will be a while before anyone rides 56.375km in one hour.

“That ride was on the moon – Taylor Phinney can barely do that speed for more that 5km!

“It was unbelievably fast.”

Tell us about your role at Garmin, please.

“I have been working with Robby Ketchell in Sports Science.

“I have taken a lot of body fat measurements and looked at a lot of power files this season. I have run training camps, written training for riders, and consulted them on their training programs. Its been a huge learning experience.

“I have been coaching for years but seeing the riders at this level, first hand, is irreplaceable.

“I have had the chance to work beside and with names like Wegelius, Klier, Hunter, Millar, Hesjedal… the list is enormous.

“Robby Ketchell has been great to work for and I have learned a lot with his guidance.”

Colby Pearce
Colby (L) celebrates reaching Paris after a hard three weeks this summer. Photo©Colby Pearce

Who was your tip for the Worlds Elite Road race?

“I only saw the TTT course first hand, so I knew as much as anyone reading reviews on the predictions for the road race but I thought Valverde was a good bet, assuming he could come around Alex Howes, who has been breathing fire lately.”

Will there be any more Colby Pearce hour rides – vets maybe?

“Not in the near future after three Grand Tours with the team this season!

“Now that Boulder Valley Velodrome is open, we will see what 2015 holds – its a firm ‘maybe’.”

With thanks to Colby for his time – definitely one of the ‘good guys.’

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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