Faster and faster he goes. Louder and louder roars the crowd. Remorseless is the counting down of the clock, relentless the rising tide of lactic acid in the rider’s legs. Still the laps mount up.
He has been down on the pace required for a new record for much of the ride, then on par, and now he is faster – much faster. The crowd wills him on, straining to pass every ounce of its energy to the man on the track, who rides solo, but is far from alone.
Ten minutes to go. History is being made, if the rider can only maintain his pace. Helpers are stationed either side of the track: a laptop on one side, hand signals on the other. All bases are covered, but only the rider can deliver.
And how. He reaches the 50km mark some 17 seconds faster than the existing record. The handbrake comes off. He is free to ride, to absorb every last atom of support inside the velodrome, to suck in the noise of the crowd like oxygen. This what they have come to see.
Finally, the bell. One more lap. The goal is accomplished, but still he pushes to the line. An explosion of noise from the crowd. The rider rips off his helmet and punches the air. Alex Dowsett is the new world hour record holder. He has delivered, as promised, the Perfect Hour.