Talk of the Hour Record and you talk about pressure, but it’s not only the athlete who carries the weight of expectation.
“It was by far the most exhilarating thing I’ve done in my life,” laughs Jennifer Choi, product development manager at Rapha, the relief of a job well done under the most intense scrutiny audible in her tone in a phone call to Rouleur Towers.
The task? Working with couturier Sharon Stoke to stitch a series of numbers - embroidered in advance by the supplier to the royal household - to the commemorative jacket worn by Bradley Wiggins in the immediate aftermath of his world hour record.
The location? Track centre at the London Olympic velodrome. The time frame? Three minutes. The number of spare jackets available in case of disaster? None.
Choi, Stoke and Rapha’s relationship manager to Teams Sky and Wiggins, Ian Fleck, had only one jacket to bring to Lea Valley - a garment made to measure for Wiggins, and already embroidered with his sponsors’ logos by Hand and Lock, lacemen to the royal household since 1767.
"The first two numbers were on as he came across the line," Fleck recalls. "We’d done the first 'five' with eight minutes to go, we did the 'four' with two minutes to go, and for the last three digits we had to wait for the ratified result to come on screen.
"We knew ahead of the event that we had three minutes to get those on. All credit to Jen and Sharon, who did the work under immense pressure."
“The pressure was quite intense,” Choi remembers. “Leading up to the Hour we had everything prepped. We had about 10 needles all threaded up and laid out. We had everything down to baby wipes for our hands so they weren’t too sweaty and we wouldn’t lose grip. It was meticulous planning.”
The planning extended to having the numbers made in advance by Hand and Lock. Anything less would have been inviting disaster. Fleck recalls a three-minute window, opening with the UCI’s ratification of the official distance – 54.526km – and closing with the presentation of the jacket.
“Sharon and I went into sewing mode,” Choi laughs. “Eight minutes before Brad finished his Hour, we had to block everything out. Talking to Sharon afterwards, she had imagined the two of us in a quiet studio. But the atmosphere was just amazing, and kept ramping up. The three of us had to stay really focused.”
The significance of the numbers came later, says Fleck: in the immediate aftermath, the only concern was that the correct numbers appeared in the correct order.
“It was all a bit chaotic leading up to it, so once we’d handed the jacket over, it took us a couple of minutes to decompress a little bit and feel the impact and realise how much he’d smashed the record by,” adds Choi. “Five or 10 minutes afterwards, the three of us sat down and realised: ‘Oh my goodness’. Then we were jumping up and down and celebrating.”
Ultan Coyle’s design will be reproduced on a commemorative t-shirt.
“The focus was to do something beautiful and one-off for Brad,” Fleck says. “We’d been talking about doing a commemorative t-shirt with the distance, so it actually tied in quite nicely with the design language used specifically for Brad’s jersey.”