Derby student sets sights on iconic cycling challenge

23 November 2020

A University of Derby student is planning to take on one of elite cycling’s toughest challenges with a ride in the city next year.

Karl Baillie will aim to complete the furthest distance he can in just one hour at the Derby Arena velodrome. A date for event should be confirmed following the Arena's use as a coronavirus vaccination centre during 2021. 

The world record, which was previously held by Team GB Olympic great Sir Bradley Wiggins, currently stands at 55km. There is no current British student record, but Karl, who is a Team Derby sports scholar at the University, is not setting himself a specific distance target.

The focus will instead be on performance excellence, and assisting Karl to achieve that will be classmates from his MSc Applied Sport and Exercise Science course, who will be advising him on nutrition, psychology and other key elements of his preparation.

Karl said: “This is a really exciting challenge for me, and it is great to be able to involve my fellow postgraduate students at Derby in putting together a programme which can help me reach the furthest distance I can within the hour, riding at the highest constant speed throughout. The quality of my preparation will be vital to ensure that my performance will be optimised.

The one-hour ride has been an iconic milestone in cycling for more than a century, but it has also been a controversial one, with the governing body, the UCI, reclassifying a number of attempts to set the record due to the type of bike and riding techniques used.

Karl, 23, who has been cycling competitively since he was 13, has begun his training on the roads around his home in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and in the University’s state-of-the-art Human Performance Unit, a dedicated space based at the £10.8m Sports Centre which is focused on providing sport science and coach development to enhance sporting performance for individuals and teams.

The HPU was also used by Derby endurance cyclist Leigh Timmis to prepare for his record-breaking trans-Europe ride in 2018.

Karl added: “It is fantastic to have such a superb facility here at the University, with  all the technology and expertise I need to be in the best physical and mental shape possible by the time of the ride. Fortunately, the current lockdown restrictions still allow me to use the HPU as intensively as I need to over the coming weeks.

“The team will also be advised by Chris McNamara, of trainSharp Cycle Coaching, who has been my coach for the past six years.

“The support of the University, my classmates and my family will be essential to drive me on and maintain my focus during what is clearly a difficult time for everyone.”

Dr Andy Hooton, Head of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Derby, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity not only for Karl but also his fellow students on the course who will be playing an active role in helping him.

“The University very much believes in the importance of students applying their skills and knowledge in real world settings and projects while still in higher education.

“You cannot underestimate the physical and psychological strength required to take on the one-hour ride, which has proved too tough for some of the world’s leading professional cyclists.

“But Karl’s determination to ride as far as possible within one hour underlines his belief in his own limitless potential, which is another key factor in the way we try to prepare all of our students for their lives and careers after education.”

Learn more about our Human Performance Unit or find out more about our Applied Sport and Exercise Science MSc course.

Student standing with his bike outside University Sports Centre
Karl Baillie at the University of Derby Sports Centre

For further information contact the press office at