New 100 mile recumbent course record set on fastest recumbent bicycle: Bike Sebring 2022
Jim Parker, Cruzbike co-founder, director and avid recumbent cyclist shares his record-setting Bike Sebring 2022 100-mile race report below.
I debated not racing at all because I had been sick with a bad cold. Two nights before the race, I had a fever and muscle aches and thought I might have the flu. I traveled with Maria to Sebring thinking that I would just crew for her while she did the 12-hour event.
But once I got there and saw all the bikes and racers and felt the energy of the motor speedway, I knew I would have to race. We woke up at 4:30 am to prepare for the 6:30 am start. I got ice from the hotel machine, mixed bottles with electrolytes, checked tire pressures, cleaned mirrors and glasses, and did all the last-minute things you do before a big race. The temperature was in the low 60s, so no need for an extra layer of clothing. In the starting lineup I was in the front row, next to Dave Lewis in his velomobile.
The announcer counted down the start and I could feel my adrenaline surge. I started the timer on my bike computer about 15 seconds ahead of the start so that I would not need to worry about it once the race was on. At exactly 6:30, we all took off. I followed Lewis’ velo onto the road that led us to the track. It was dark. I had a headlight, but I didn’t have it on its brightest setting. First mistake. But no worries, I would just stay with the lead pack and make use of their headlights.
The speeds on the track are fast. Everyone’s adrenaline is rushing. Before the start, I was not aware of the mist coming down from the pre-dawn sky. My eyeglasses quickly became covered, and I could not see. I snatched them off and stuck one of the temple tips in my mouth, biting down on it. I was so focused that I raced a few miles on the track in the dark with a pair of eyeglasses sticking out of my mouth. Finally, the dawn crept up and I could see better. I tucked my glasses away in my jersey and I led the group for about one lap, not including Lewis and his velo, which were already way ahead. I left the track with the lead pack and we started our long journey on the out-and-back loop.
We settled into a nice pace as we passed through the town of Sebring. We were briefly held up by one traffic light, but did not lose much time. We raced through orange groves and cattle ranches, with the road undulating and sometimes zig-zagging around farms. This was the finest group of standard TT (time trial) bikes, road bikes, and recumbent racers that I had ever seen assembled, most of whom were racing in the 12-hour event. Marko Baloh, Ryan Collins and Cliff Federspiel were helping set the pace. I mention these three first because they all made the podium at the WTTC (World Time Trial Championship) last year in Borrego Springs, with Baloh and Collins racing on standard TT bikes, and Federspiel on a Cruzbike V20 recumbent road bicycle (Cliff's WTTC race report is here). But that was not all. We also had experienced recumbent racers Larry Oslund, John Schlitter, Kent Polk, and Maria Parker in the pack; plus some very strong standard bike racers like Dan Rocco, Marc Poland, Helena Redshaw, Adam Ashwill, Carol Beliveau, and Michelle Wood. We had a dream-team group and were hauling north toward the turn-around.
Over the years, I have seen chaos and many accidents at the turn-around, about 55 miles into the race. I always warn newcomers to the race to get in and get out of there as fast as possible. Do not try handoffs there. Marc Poland was just ahead of me at the turnaround. He was pulling off to the side for a handoff when someone directly in front of him dropped a water bottle that rolled under his wheel, causing him to fall and get a minor injury. I circled around him and kept going with the lead pack. Marc got back in the race but he lost the draft of the pack, which dramatically hurt his time.
I carried three 21-ounce bottles with water and electrolytes, a Payday bar, and a small bag of jelly beans for sustenance. Every time I would dig out some food from my pocket and eat, I would slow down enough to drop off the back of the pace line, and I would have to work hard to get back on. Occasionally I would feel strong and move to the front of the pack and pull for a few minutes. Mostly I rotated with the other recumbents behind the standard bikes. The trip back to Sebring was fast. We had a mild tailwind coming out of the north, which almost never happens. Between mile 80 and 90 is Arbuckle Creek Road, which every other year is a slow slog into a growing headwind. Not this time. We made good time. During the entire race, the weather remained cool and mostly cloudy. I was completely without water for the last 5 miles, but this didn’t hinder me.
With a few miles to go before the 100-mile mark, the pace seemed to slow. For those entered in the 100-mile race, the smart move (if you are going for the win) is to stay sheltered behind the leader and conserve energy for the final sprint. My main goal was the recumbent record, and I was afraid that the slow pace of the group was going to put that at risk. Therefore I moved up to the front and stayed there, probably longer than I should have. When it came time for the final sprint finish with about a mile to go, a strong standard bike rider who had been drafting behind me, made a break. When he burst in front of me, I followed, closing the gap briefly. I just didn’t have the energy to take the lead. I finished 6 seconds behind Tim Valencia, but fast enough to set the recumbent course record, which had been set by Troy Timmons in 2013 at 4:09:32. My official time was 4:05:41. Exhausted, and still sick, now with a cough that moved into my chest during the race, I felt good for having raced. After a couple nights of decent sleep, my body mended, symptoms gone.
“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever”, From the movie: The Replacements, Keanu Reeves as Shane Falco.
Check out the roundup of Cruzbike race reports from Bike Sebring 2022 here.
Incredible well done again. Glory glory glory. You Parker mob make quite the team. Humble caring walking the talk. All done whilst unwell. Three thumbs up.
Awe inspiring! Love being a part of this tribe and am looking forward to riding with all of you in georgia.
Well done Jim. Sounds like an epic ride. Thanks for sharing.
@Mike Polen Exactly right. I would bet a considerable amount that the standard biker racers (like Marko Baloh, Tim Valencia, and Ryan Collins) who finished the 100-mile at approximately the same time as I did have trained much longer and more seriously than I have; and that their average power was considerably higher than mine. Just because you ride a V20 does not automatically mean you will win races. What it does mean, as a general rule, is that you will go faster with less power than you would on a standard bike. If you put a real athlete with serious training on a V20, then I would expect to see the V20 finish way ahead of the standard bikes. Maria beat all the women and most of the men. But when she trained seriously on a standard bike back in her triathlon days, she was always, at best, a mid-pack cyclist. The V20 allows us to race way above the level that we could reach if we had to ride a standard bike.
Well done. That was a fantastic. Great to read your reports. Continued success.
I like PayDay bars on long, fast rides too for their blend of sweet, salty, and something to fill the stomach for a bit. Be careful you don’t inhale a peanut while breathing hard and trying to eat, though! Ask me how I know…
Great race! I’m really enjoying all the recaps. Next best thing to being there.
Next year, I hope!
Very happy for you.
Thank you for your intimate recap. Most enjoyable.
Hi Jim, nice job on both the race and the subsequent report. To what do you attribute the diamond frames ability to still compete with the V20? Are they just being ridden by stronger riders (no offense, but we are not getting any younger…well, except maybe Maria…)?I am surprised the lower drag of the V20 does not seem to make as much of a difference, at least at Sebring.
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