One hundred miles is an epic distance for cyclists at all levels. Very few recumbent cyclists have done it under 4 hours during road races where there is a pack of cyclists to help maintain the pace. Very few recumbent cyclists have done it under 4 hours without drafting on an indoor track. No recumbent cyclist has gone under 4 hours on a surveyed road course without drafting. That is, until now.
Pending certification by the UMCA and the WRRA, Larry Oslund set the 100-mile open-road record for a recumbent. As a UMCA judge, I got to watch his amazing effort from the comfort of the follow vehicle. He started at exactly 7:50 AM on October 11, 2015 on the 32.2 mile loop course near Lumberton, North Carolina. His goal was to complete 3.1 laps (exactly 100 miles) of the surveyed course in under 4 hours.
Open roads are subject to wind, hills, automobile traffic, railroad tracks, dogs, potholes, and other hazards that you generally don’t find on a velodrome track. A loop course is required for outdoor record attempts because it negates the effect of wind. In actuality, on a loop course, any wind slows you down overall because the benefit of a tailwind is less than the detriment of a headwind.
Unfortunately, Larry’s chosen day turned out to have sustained winds over 10 mph and gusts approaching 20 mph. Flags along the course were briskly snapping all morning.
Larry rode a Cruzbike V20. He replaced the stock handlebar with a narrow and straight handlebar. This moved the grip area inward, making him more aerodynamic. It also made the bike harder to control on a windy day, but other than a few wind-induced swerves while passing through the town of Rowland, he managed the bike very well, even when taking the corners at high speed.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ATTEMPT
Early in the first lap, Larry motioned for the follow vehicle to approach. His TT helmet visor had become completely fogged over. He was riding blind. He had to pull over and his support crew gave him a standard helmet to wear for the rest of the event. He probably lost a full minute due to this mishap. Larry went to great lengths to avoid the switch, which would not only cost him stoppage time but some aero advantage, too.
I tried to breathe differently, holding my upper lip over my lower one, and blowing my respiration down away from the helmet.
While passing through the town of Rowland, a diesel pickup truck was passing Larry and it suddenly belched a huge cloud of black smoke that completely enveloped him. We were following right behind him and he simply disappeared for a few moments.
To begin my second hour, I started on the nice smooth Highway 74 with a crosswind that was angled a few degrees behind me. I was invigorated now that I was on the smooth road with a little side push. Once I turned the corner ending my first 32 mile loop, l looked forward to a nice 12 mile stretch with a tailwind. It was nice and a little restful, although I was still pushing the pedals hard. My average speed for this segment was a wonderfully fast 27.1 mph, but I knew the bad roads and crosswinds of Rowland were around the corner. This time I had a nasty surprise from a big diesel pickup truck that I suppose was a little unhappy that we slowed him down this Sunday morning. As he passed me, he floored it and I was engulfed in a large black cloud of thick smoke! Thanks a lot there buddy!
Larry made a supreme effort to hold an average pace over 25 mph, and due to the wind, he was struggling to make it to the finish line on time. All the spectators and officials had gathered at the finish line, which is in front of a small country store, and we were waiting to see Larry as the clock approached four hours. It was a nail-biting finish. He came into view and then crossed the line with 29 seconds to spare as we all cheered.
By the time I finished the last segment against the wind, my average speed was down to 22.4 mph, and I only had 12.5 miles left to go. My support car pulled up to me and Alvin yelled out the window: “You need to average 25.6 mph to the end to break 4 hours.” I said thanks, and with renewed vigor, purpose, and pain, I cranked it up a notch. Suffer for another 30 minutes or so and it will be over I told myself. I was so close, I just had to regain the time lost to the headwind. It would be so disappointing to not break 4 hours now after all this effort. I pedaled harder and faster. My pulsed actually popped up over 200 for a short time when going up the last steep hill over the train track. The crosswind was tough, but it was still pushing me ever so slightly in the right direction. I knew when my average speed passed 24 mph that that was what I needed to break 4 hours. I slowly watched and pedaled as it kept increasing from 22.8. Every mile it went up another tenth. Finally when I made the right turn back to the start, I hit my magic number: The 24 mph average needed in the final lap to break the 4 hour Century! Everyone was there cheering me on. It was just what I needed. I now had only 3.4 miles left to go! Just a few more minutes and one more climb to go!
I tried to give it everything I could without locking up my right calf locking. I increased my speed up to about 26, but then the final little 40 foot incline over the interstate (biggest hill in Lumberton I am told!) was looking right at me, laughing (if hills can laugh – yes they can and do). By the time I crested the top, I had slowed down to paltry 17mph! I was so tired. Only 2 more miles to go! A slew of cars passed me as everyone was making the mad dash to the finish line to get set up to record my exact finish and time and pictures of it too. I just kept pumping and breathing and pumping and breathing. 2 miles never took so long going so fast! Where was that finish line anyway! Suddenly I saw all these cars parked about ½ mile up on the left. I gave it everything I had left. I knew it would be close. My wife later told me they were all standing there wondering if I was going to make it under 4 hours. The stopwatch turned over to 3 hours 59 minutes and they still could not see me yet. Then I popped into view, just a little dot, and they began the count down as I approached. I pushed through the finish line at 3:59:31.
When he circled back around and rode back to us, he caught a severe hamstring cramp in his left leg. I held it straight until the cramp passed. Then he was able to get off the bike and begin the celebration and photography. I was very glad his wife and parents were able to witness this accomplishment.
His official time was 3:59:31. Here is the summary of his ride from Larry’s Garmin:
Larry has been riding a Cruzbike for only about one year. I expect he will only be faster in 2016. Congratulations, Larry!