Ironman triathlete Lionel Sanders sets Canadian record for distance cycled in an hour

Triathlete Lionel Sanders has broken the Canadian cycling hour record. The 32-year-old Ironman triathlete from Windsor, Ont., rode 51.304 kilometres in 60 minutes at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre velodrome in Milton, Ont.

Windsor athlete establishes new mark at velodrome in Milton, Ont.

Lionel Sanders is seen competing in a triathlon in Quebec in August 2019. Sanders set a Canadian record by cyling 51.304 kilometres in one hour on Friday. (Al Bello/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Lionel Sanders struck a blow for triathletes in the elite cycling ranks by breaking the Canadian hour record.

The Ironman triathlete from Windsor, Ont., rode 51.304 kilometres in 60 minutes Friday at the Mattamy National Cycling Centre velodrome in Milton, Ont.

Track cyclist Ed Veal held the previous record of 48.587 km set in the same velodrome in 2017.

"My glutes are fried," Sanders told The Canadian Press from his car en route back to Windsor. "They don't work anymore."

The world record of 55.089 km was set in 2019 by Belgian pro cyclist Victor Campenaerts, who is currently competing in the Giro d'Italia stage race.

"I know my position in the hierarchy, but I hope that the cyclists appreciate that triathlon cycling has come a long way," Sanders said.

"We're not completely at the level that the single-sport athletes are, but we're not that far off."

The 32-year-old averaged 17.194 seconds per lap over 205 on a solo ride in a nearly empty building. The event was streamed live on YouTube.

Sanders is an ultra-endurance athlete, competing in Ironman triathlons that include a 3.8-kilometre swim followed by a 180k bike and a marathon run.

He claimed the men's ITU world long-distance triathlon championship and also placed second in the world Ironman championship in Kona, Hawaii, in 2017.

The cycling record was a test of his top-end bike speed, over a relatively short distance for him, in an unfamiliar environment.

Sanders trained on the Milton velodrome just half a dozen times before Friday's assault on the record.

"Learning the velodrome on a very tight timeline, it was expensive to do the training, five hundred dollars every time I went there to do a two-hour session there," he said.

"I didn't have an infinite bank account to do this so it was purely a passion project."

Preparing for December triathlon

Less than a week before achieving the cycling record, Sanders ran a personal-best 5,000-metre time of fourteen minutes 34 seconds on the track.

He's preparing for a middle-distance triathlon Dec. 5 at Florida's Daytona Speedway.

"I'm a triathlete and that's what pays the bills and what motivates me," Sanders said. "I'm doing a race in December and it's going to probably be one of the greatest fields ever assembled for a middle-distance race at the Daytona Speedway.

"I have to be really fast on the bike and really fast on the run to have any shot, so I needed to get my bike and run levels up to at the very least a level I'd never been to."

After the world governing body of cycling (UCI) standardized rules and regulations around pursuit of the hour record in 2014, Jens Voigt of Germany set a world record of 51.11 km that year.

"My goal list was break the Canadian record and I thought that it would be cool to be the first Canadian guy over 50 [kilometres]," Sanders said.

"And then there's Jens Voigt, who is one of my cycling heroes. He's the guy who coined the phase 'shut up legs.' My goal was to go further than Jens went."

Veal, who finished fourth in team pursuit with Canada's track cycling team in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, was on site at the velodrome providing streaming analysis Friday.

"It was an honour to hold the record," Veal said on YouTube. "I'm glad it's in his hands.

"He did go pretty fast. That's out of my reach here in Milton, I've got to be honest. I've done my own math calculations. I'm not doing 51 three in Milton. So that's that's how impressive that mark is."

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