Ballycastle rider John Madden has set a new national Masters’ record for the hour on the Manchester velodrome and has come very close to breaking the elite record.
Veteran Madden stopped the clock at 45.7km, completing 183 laps of the track in England where the World Masters Track Championships were taking place.
Madden, a former international triathlete turned record-breaking time trial rider, has thrown down a gauntlet to others as his new Masters record is the first time any Irish rider has set such a record for the over 40s.
And with that section of racing booming in Ireland, his ride on Sunday morning will hopefully get others thinking about going even further.
However, while Madden’s performance was a formidable one for a rider of any age, the quality of his hour is really underlined when one considers he is just a couple of weeks short of his 51st birthday.
Despite having turned 50 years last October, he is an athlete who has shown no signs of slowing down and he went into his effort today with the Irish elite hour record firmly and realistically in his sights.
Former international rider and Rás winner Tommy Evans holds the national record for the hour. He set a marker of 46.166km back in 1999.
Madden came to within 466 metres of claiming the record set by Evans, who was in his 20s and had won the Rás three years earlier.
As the clocked ticked in Manchester, by fifteen minutes in, John was ahead of the target set by the Irish Cycling body. By 30 minutes he was averaging 45.3 kilometres an hour i.e. he was 200 metres up on Tommy Evans’s target.
By 40 minutes he was still there, by 45 he had started to slide off a fraction, by 50 minutes the 46.3 became 46.1.
With 8 minutes to go, John was losing a few fractions of a second every lap and soon he was below 46.1 but in the high 45’s. At that stage the Irish Elite record was not going to happen. But what do true champions do? Do they give up? No, they Dig Deep and they summon up new reservoirs of courage to get it done, to take it to the finish line.
John had only 3 laps to go. He said later, every minute felt like an hour, but he was going to bring it home. As Rudyard Kipling famously wrote, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything in it and – which is more - you will be a Man, my son!”.
John brought it home, setting a new Irish vets’ record. There were tears on the track, tears in the stands and tears in the commentary booth too. John not only filled 60 seconds worth of distance run, but 60 minutes’ worth as well. Everything hurt and as he finally brought his bike to a standstill, his body was awash with lactic acid and he had well and truly opened the Hurt Locker.
When asked about how tough his record attempt was John commented: “On a scale of one to ten I would reckon about twelve!
“I was on Irish elite record pace with 12 minutes to go but the effort it takes to hold 30mph in the closing stages is hard to describe in words.
“There is a photo of me after and I look like I have aged 30 years. My coach said I was ashen and my lips were blue afterwards. I can honestly say I have never suffered so much in any event and I have been racing for over 25 years in triathlon, marathon and cycling.”
With the determination, experience and talent John has shown over his years of competing surely this won’t be his final attempt on the record?
“Would I attempt the elite record again? To come up 367m short or approximately just over one lap of the track was tough to take. “On reflection I have to be happy with my Irish masters record. I do not think I would try again for the Irish elite record, there are too many variables including air pressure, velodrome temperature etc etc, but I reckon the world masters record when I reach 55 years of age might be within my range!”
John is the current Irish record holder for veterans at all of the main TT distances. His 10 mile record stands at 19mins 17secs while his 25 mile vets’ marker is 49:41.
His Irish vets’ record of the 50 mile event is 1:45:19 and for the 100 mile test is 3:37:36.
He took the silver medal in the Masters 50 race at the National Road Championships in Omagh in June. And last year he also broke the Derry-Belfast record that stood for 50 years since being set by legendary Morris Foster MBE back in 1964.