This Day in Sports History: May 11, 1893

On May 11, 1893, Henri Desgrange set the world’s 1st bicycle world record, traveling 35.325 km (21.95 miles) an hour.

The Hour record, back then refereed to as the ‘athletes hour,’ is the record for the longest distance cycled in one hour on a bicycle from a stationary start, and is one of the most prestigious records in cycling.

Desgrange, who is credited with founding the Tour de France, his record was the first to be officially recognized by the International Cycling Association (ICU) which is the the predecessor to the modern day Union Cyclist Internationale (UCI).

Over the years there has been controversy regarding record times as equipment has drastically changed. In 1972 Eddy Merckx set a new Hour record at 49.431 km (30.715 mi), a race that he claimed to be “the hardest ride I have ever done.” Then it 1984, another new record would be set by Francesco Moser at 51.151 km (31.784 mi) using disc wheels and a skin suit which helped with aerodynamics.

Controversy peaked in the 90s, which lead to the UCI establishing two separate records in 1997. The first record was the Hour record which only allowed the use of traditional equipment, and then the other record was known as the Best Human Effort record, which would allow the use of modern technologies. As a result, all of the records after Merckx, were moved to the Best Human Effort record books.

In 1996, British cyclist, Chris Boardman, set an Hour record at 56.375 km (35.030 mi). With the reclassification in ’97, his record was then considered a Best Human Effort record. In 2000, Boardman attempted the Hour record on a traditional bike and broke Merckx’s record by 10 meters at 49.441 km (30.721 mi).

Today, cyclists attempt the Unified Hour record created by the UCI in 2014 that merged the two classifications together, and standardized equipment that fell inline with Olympic track cycling standards.