The King of the Hour

Behind the scenes of a work of art, the origin of modern cycling

On January 23rd, 1984, a 33-year-old champion, who someone had thought was at the end of his career, entered the Centro Deportivo Olimpico in Mexico City, determined to make history. 

Record Ora 23 gennaio 1984
Francesco Moser, a star of world cycling who, with 273 road victories as a professional. He is still today the Italian cyclist with the most successes who won various stages of the Giro and the Tour, three editions of the Paris-Roubaix, two Tirreno-Adriatico and two world titles, on the road and on the track. The Hour was his dream, the way he had chosen to become a legend. 

To prepare himself in the best possible way, he relied on science, nutrition, and technology. He had at his disposal a team of specialists, Equipe Enervit, put together by Paolo Sorbini, president of Enervit and the first to conceive the record. He conceived this team to break down the “wall” built by Eddie Merckx on the threshold of 50 km/h. It seemed like an impossible task. When the lucid madness of a brilliant mind and the heart of a super athlete come together, even walls can fall.

As the champion recalls, “He hinted the idea to me during the 1983 Giro d’Italia, we talked about it again in a meeting at the end of the stage race. Paolo Sorbini believed in it and his enthusiasm convinced me.”

For months, Francesco followed the nutritional and training plan developed by Equipe Enervit. The team led by Enrico Arcelli included, among others, Aldo Sassi (athletic trainer), Ferruccio Ferrario (TestEquipe), and Antonio Dal Monte (lenticular wheels and bike position).

Equipe Enervit 1984
In December, Moser had moved to Mexico with his entire family for the delicate acclimatization phase, a key factor, underestimated eleven years earlier by Merckx. Many innovations were put in place:  the TestEquipe, the first true wrist heart rate monitor; a bike frame that favored stability and rigidity over weight were developed; the legendary lenticular wheels were created to better cut through the wind, and a special "bullhorn" handlebar was made that forced the champion into the most aerodynamic position. All this was also made possible by the excellent work of Cicli Moser. 

Bici Record Moser 1984
By monitoring data acquired on a powerful Olivetti computer and cross-referencing critical speed, heart rate, and aerobic power threshold, the exact moment when athletes begin to fatigue was identified. For the first time in cycling history, the Conconi test was applied.
Finally, the role of carbohydrates and protein in supporting athletic performance was studied. It seems incredible, but until a few years earlier, the pre-race breakfast consisted of large steaks, and the rules of stage races expressly prohibited riders from being refueled during the race. This was also because it was believed that drinking would “cut the legs” even of the strongest cyclist.

On January 19th, only a training session was scheduled, but after the warm-up, the Enervit Team realized that the champion, who was waiting for the arrival of a large group of fans from Italy, had the right pace. The input was given to continue to force and the wall fell. Record at a speed of 50.808 km/h. But the fans could not be betrayed: Moser decided to try again, this time to overcome himself.

On the morning of January 23, at an altitude of 2777 meters, the temperature was 20° and the humidity was 50%: perfect conditions.  
Francesco began to push the “big gear” of 56×15 and let his legs flow, maintaining a rhythm that nothing seemed to be able to disturb. The stopwatch marked the new record: 51.151 km/h. The crowd went wild. The revolution was complete.

The Hour Record of January 23th, 1984 marked the birth of modern cycling. Enervit and Moser demonstrated that the bicycle is not just a mechanical tool, but can become a work of art, the result of innovation and research. The innovations of that time are still, after 40 years, extremely valid and modern and have fueled, and still fuel today, incredible emotions.

The Italian champion was the first to exceed the limit of 50 kilometers and, above all, to make fans all over the world dream.

Francesco Moser became the King of the Hour and will be so forever.