What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Profile: Ondrej Sosenka

Whilst the rest of the cycling press seems to be totally under-whelmed by ‘unknown’ Ondrej Sosenka breaking Chris Boardman’s ‘Athletes Hour’ record, I seem to remember another guy breaking the hour record out of the blue. Boy from down Ayrshire way – what was his name again?

Ondrй Sosenka is from the Czech Republic, he is 29, born 09.12.1975. He is a BIG man, 2 metres tall, weighing 82 kilos. He is in his second season with Italian, Continental professional outfit Acqua & Sapone. This is his fifth season as a professional. He was with CCC Polsat for two seasons previous to this and was a team-mate of Irishman Dave McCann at CCC-MAT in 2001. In a world where demand for pro contracts far outstrips supply – he is far from unheralded – as I read in one description.

His palmares too contradicts this description – Tour of Poland 2001 and 2004; Peace Race 2002; Tour of Slovakia 2003; Czech road champion 2004 and Czech time trial champion 5 times. Lest it be thought these are ‘soft’ results, he had to beat men like Jan Svorada, Jan Hruska and Tomas Konecny to win those titles. This year he has won the time trial stages of the Unica Tour in Austria and the Tour of Belgium – beating Tom Boonen to do so.

Ondrej works on his form while the derny-man works on his tan.

Sosenka prepared fastidiously for his attempt, which took place on the Krylatskoye indoor track in Moscow. The big 333 metre track suited the giant Czech. His track training, which included a lot of motor-paced work, was at the Dusika Halle in Vienna and the Trebesin track at Prague. Criticism has been levelled at his timing for the bid – a direct clash with the Tour de France. Sosenka’s reply is that the attempt fitted in to his condition and not the reverse – the time was right, he felt good so he prepared and went.

There were approximately 40 people in the velodrome at the time of the attempt – unlike Boardman’s bid where a packed house willed him on. His final distance was 49.700 against Boardman’s 49.441 and Merckx’s 49.431. By any measure – a ride! Boardman’s record-breaking effort only bettered Merckx’s by a mere 20 meters, whereas Sosenka put 289 meters into Boardman!

The bike he used was a Dedacciai-carbon Moser weighing 9.8 kilos. However, much of his preparatory training was on a Czech-built, steel Kovarik. The Moser will be auctioned for charity in the future. The frame had a level top tube and showed little head-tube meaning that the ‘fly-through’ on the seat-tube was massive, perhaps some 18”. An FSA seat pillar topped the ‘fly-through’ and carried a Selle Italia saddle.

For his speed work, Ondrej trained in Russian traffic.

At 2 metres tall, Sosenka rides 190 mm cranks supplied by Free Spirit, carbon but with an alloy spider carrying a 54 tooth Gebhardt 1/8” chain ring driving a 13 tooth sprocket – the same ratio as Boardman. With the long cranks the bracket had to be high, jacking the seat height even higher. Look Keo pedals secured his feet. The wheels had 32 spoke Shimano DA hubs, aero spokes and Vuelta rims shod with Vittoria tubulars.

[Tech Ed note: At 9.8 Kg, that’s a 21+ pound bike. The skinny is that there is a bit more to the wheels used in this effort than meets the eye here. An extremely heavy rear wheel would provide a sizable advantage over past riders as once it is spun up to speed, holding pace becomes far easier.]

Given Sosenka’s build, it would have been impossible to get him into a flat back position with a conventional stem set-up whilst staying within the UCI regulations. The FSA extension (with handlebars by the same company) was hard down on the head-race and was not overly long (Boardman rode a 16 cm. extension on his ride) so that Sosenka rode with virtually straight, vertical arms, looking for all-the-world like a Reg Harris-era sprinter.

Feeling the need for speed before the Hour attempt.

One point of confusion for your scribe here is that Sosenka’s forks were of the threadless, hiddenset type. When I spoke to Graeme Obree recently he said that the bike he had built for his planned Athlete’s hour bid had to be fitted with an ‘old-style’ threaded headset to comply with UCI regulations. I checked back photos of Boardman’s 2000 Look and his Cinelli extension was threadless.

Like Boardman, Sosenka used a ‘hard-hat’ type helmet, but of the non-aero style. Also like Boardman he did not use track mitts. In contrast to Boardman he did not ride over-shoes for reasons I can’t quite figure, as the aerodynamic advantages are significant over virtually any distance, especially 60 minutes at nearly 50 km/h.

For whatever reason, Ondrej Sosenka forgot the one thing that Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman didn’t – hype and publicity. Sosenka rode to the new record with absolutely no fanfare, one could hazard a guess that nobody save for his team, friends, and family knew about it. It is not surprising then that it has gotten little publicity, if any. If Sosenka never does get quite the recognition he deserves – he is, at least for now, the new owner of the ‘Athletes Record,’ and that’s something even Lance wouldn’t go after.

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