Olympic cyclist Evelyn Stevens will attempt to break the world hour record later this month at the recently renovated velodrome at the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The distance traveled in an hour is one of the most hallowed challenges in cycling. But only in the past couple of years — since the sport's governing body, the UCI, modernized and simplified rules for an attempt — has the record received renewed interest from some of the world's best riders.
"While attempting to break the hour record is exciting for me and my career, I'm also proud to help shine a light on women's cycling," said Stevens, who will make her attempt on Feb. 22.
The current record of 46.882 kilometers was set by Australia's Bridie O'Donnell in Adelaide on Jan. 22. She broke the mark of 46.273 set by American rider Molly Shaffer Van Houweling last September.
The previous women's record, set by Dutchwoman Leontien Van Moorsel, had stood since 2003.
"We are thrilled that Evie is attempting to break this very prestigious record here in the United States," said USA Cycling chief executive Derek Boucchard-Hall, who spearheaded the effort to add a dome at the training center to provide American cyclists with a year-round facility. "Having one of our top American athletes chase history under our new Olympic training center velodome will be very special."
Riders have been chasing the hour record for decades. But over time they began to use such extreme bikes that the UCI adopted rules in 2000 to curtail the technology, creating in essence two different records: the hour record or "athlete's record," in which riders were required to use traditional bikes, and the "absolute record," which had fewer limits on equipment.
The rule change was made the records so convoluted that few were willing to attempt it. So in 2014, the UCI backtracked and created the "unified record," allowing riders to once again use modern track bikes with disc wheels and aerodynamic frames.
More than half a dozen riders have taken a shot at the men's record, including former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, who established a new benchmark of 54.526 kilometers last June.
Now, Stevens will try to do the same thing on the women's side.
There is every reason to believe the 32-year-old former investment banker can do it.
Stevens is a two-time time trial national champion who has finished on the podium twice at the world championships. She has also won such prestigious races as La Fleche Wallonne Feminine, and was part of the powerhouse U.S. women's team at the 2012 London Olympics.
"Bridie O'Donnell set a tough mark last month and I'm looking forward tremendously to following this next challenge," UCI president Brian Cookson said. "It is clear that the excitement surrounding the iconic hour record will be just as high in 2016 as it was last year."