New 12-hour record set on fastest recumbent bicycle: Bike Sebring 2022

Editor's Note: Before this year's race, the 12-hour Bike Sebring course record stood at 276.6 miles for both recumbent and standard, with Marko Baloh, the famous ultracyclist from Slovenia holding the standard bike record, and Kevin Gambill, of Kentucky (and riding a Cruzbike V20) holding the recumbent record. Baloh was back this year to defend his record, and others were there to take it. Ryan Collins, the 27-year phenom from Maryland who won the 12-hour WTTC (World Time Trial Championship) last year on a standard TT (time trial) bike was in the field, as was Cliff Federspiel (riding a Cruzbike V20), who came in second place at the WTTC Championship. John Schlitter, racing on his own brand of recumbent, was also in the field and in extremely fit racing condition. Of the four best racers in the 12-hour race, two rode on standard bikes and two on recumbents. Cliff pulled away from the other three racers on his V20, letting them finish together, and behind him. Cliff’s final distance was 285.5 miles versus 284.2 for the other three. Congratulations to Cliff for a historic record and a hard-fought victory. Enjoy his race report below.

Cilff Federspiel's record-setting Bike Sebring 2022 Race Report:

I started thinking about Bike Sebring shortly after the 6-12-24 World Time Trial Championship in Borrego Springs last year. At that event, I posted good mileage in the 12-hour race, but finished so dehydrated and hyponatremic that I needed medical attention at the end of the race. I took some corrective actions after that race so that the next time I raced for 12 hours I would be able to perform well and walk away without need for medical attention. But I needed a next race, and Bike Sebring seemed like a great choice.

After WTTC I had my sweat tested and learned that my sweat is saltier than 99 out of a 100 athletes. So one of the key corrective actions I took for Bike Sebring was to increase the amount of sodium in my Roctane mix by 225%. For hydration and fuel I carried a 3.75L bladder with salted-up Roctane in my Bacchetta Brain Box, and 0.5L of the same mix in a time trial bottle up front. I also carried 4 Roctane gels in case I needed a bit more fuel or sodium than I was getting from my hydration.

Another corrective action after WTTC was to switch to an uncovered front wheel for my V20. I raced WTTC with a covered front wheel, and the gusty winds nearly caused me to crash once when I reached for my drink tube.

I also tested my rear wheel. I had been racing on a 650b, thinking that with my head slightly lower I would be more aero. But testing showed that I’m actually faster with a 700c rear wheel. Makes me wonder if a 700c rear wheel would have made a material difference at WTTC.

One key difference between WTTC and Bike Sebring is that drafting is allowed at Bike Sebring. When I told my coach, he put me on a training program that included weight lifting and much more high-intensity training. The idea was to uplift the left-hand side of my rather flat power-duration curve so that I could tolerate the variable power output necessary for pulling, attacks, etc that you get in a drafting race.

A few weeks before the race, Larry Oslund reached out to me proposing that we work together, especially on the 11-mile loop, so that one of us could hopefully break the overall recumbent record, which stood at 276.6 miles, set by Kevin Gambill in 2016. It seemed like a good idea to me (and still does).

When I met Larry for our recon ride the day before the race, he had his “super-bike”, a low-racer designed and built by John Morciglio that Larry named Magic. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t get much draft from him on Magic, but after we did our two test laps and I looked over my data I could see that I got about 30 Watts.

In the first 100 miles of the race, I took Jim Parker’s advice, staying with the front group and not being a hero. The front group included six recumbents (Larry, Jim Parker, Maria Parker, Kent Polk, John Schlitter, and me) and eight standard bike riders (Ryan Collins, Marko Baloh, Tim Valencia, Marc Poland, Caroline Worrall, Michelle Wood, Dan Rocco, Joe Barr). I took a couple of modest pulls on the way to Frostproof and took one long, fast pull coming back when I felt like the pace needed to pick up.

After leaving the track I didn’t talk to Larry until we were on the out-and-back portion of the Century popsicle route (Riverdale Road). He said he had dropped his chain and had to close a 40-second gap to catch back up. Over the course of the Century, he ended up dropping his chain 6 times and had to work hard to catch back up.

As we approached the end of the Century, I asked Larry if he wanted to swap bikes when we got to our pit stop (My wife Elisa and Larry’s wife Gayle set up at the top of a small hill along the 11-mile loop rather than with everyone else in the pit area). He said yes if it was OK with me. I figured if we could get Larry on his V20, we could make up the time from the stop without a problem, and I could use the time to swap my 3.75L hydration bladder a little earlier than necessary. We took off after stopping for 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Finishing the Century at Bike Sebring 2022
We decided that I would pull first, and I started with a little extra power so we could make up some time on the front group, which was now Ryan, Marko, and a third DF, plus John and Kent on recumbents. Before we even made our first turn Larry was dropping way back. I slowed a bit for him to catch up, then picked up the power again. And again he dropped back. As we were approaching the end of the first 11-mile loop, we got together and he said something was wrong with the bike. He asked me to look at whether or not his rear brake was rubbing. It looked like maybe, but I couldn’t be sure. As we entered the down-and-back that takes us through the timing strip and back thru the pit area, I spotted the lead group coming out. I learned later that this is a 1.3 mile lead. Coming out of the pit area Larry and I discussed the situation with his bike, and we decided that I wouldn’t wait for him (Editor's note: Larry's full report is on the Cruzbike forum here).
Cliff Federspiel racing Cruzbike V20 to 12-hour course record at Bike Sebring 2022After we got past the controlled intersection on Hayward Taylor Blvd, I stepped up the power hoping it would be enough to start making up ground on the lead group. When I got back to the down-and-back near the end of lap 2, I saw that I had made up some time on the lead group. This gave me encouragement to keep the power up. Out on US-98 before the turn onto County Road 17 S, I could start to see the main group ahead of me. I kept the power up and finally caught them just as we were approaching the hill where Elisa and Gayle were stationed. Marko looked back and gave me a thumbs-up.

I sat in most of the next lap, not taking another pull until we got back to County Road 17 S. I had the first of the four Roctane gels I was carrying on this recovery lap.
Cliff Federspiel flying through the pit area at Bike Sebring 2022
For laps 5-10, we ran a paceline with everyone taking pretty even pulls. I had a second gel somewhere in the 8-9 hour timeframe. My second hydration bladder ran dry at about 9.5 hours, and I told Elisa we would just do bottle swaps, no second bladder swap. Bladder swaps are a really bad idea in a drafting race (duh, you might say), and I should have figured that out in advance. Fortunately, due to the cool weather and the length of the loop 0.5L was enough to get me around each time without running out.

Somewhere along the way we dropped one of the DFs, and we dropped Kent Polk at about lap 9. So now the front group was Ryan and Marko on standard frames, and John and me on recumbents. I was feeling pretty good at that point, and started thinking about when and where to attack. I sensed from John’s pulls that he was starting to fatigue, and Ryan took two extended stops in the pit area, so I figured something was giving him trouble. The second time Ryan stopped, I figured we had dropped him for good, but he caught us as we got to County Road 17 S. My first thought was to attack with about an hour left. But at the end of lap 10 and start of lap 11 everyone was going thru the down-and-back pretty slowly, especially through the pit area, and I opened up a gap on the others. I figured it was too soon, but I took note. On the next trip thru the down-and-back, I opened an even larger gap. I let them catch up, and Marko got to me first. After we turned onto US-98, I moved to the left and waved for Marko to pull, but he didn’t pull through. I stayed on the front, but waved him through as we were getting close to the turn onto County Road 17 S. Again he wouldn’t pull through. When we got onto County Road 17 S, I pulled to the left and stopped pedaling, and finally he pulled through. That’s when I decided I would attack the next time we pulled out of the pit area after completing lap 12.

The next time through the down-and-back I stepped up my power as John, Marko, and Ryan were slowing down and moving over to grab their fresh bottles. I checked the time on my bike computer, and it was 4:40pm, so I was going to have to keep my power up for nearly 2 hours! By the time I reached the turn onto US-98, I couldn’t see them behind me. I spotted them as I was leaving the down-and-back after completing lap 13, so I had about a 1 mile lead on them at that point. I popped another gel to keep my energy up, and did my best to keep my power up. The next time coming out of the down-and-back after lap 14 there was no sign of them. I had intended to go out for a 15th 11-mile loop, but the race officials waved me toward the track. On the track, I could see my power drop at times, and I was starting to feel a little nausea. I had my fourth gel during the finish laps on the track, not sure if it would make me feel better or worse. I could see that I had the distance for the record, but wasn’t sure if the other three were gaining on me. At ~11:50 into the race I was approaching the finish timer, and figured I had time for another lap. I gave it everything I could on the straightaways, and made sure I stayed away from the hazards in the corners. It was getting a bit dark, but I saw at one point my power was above threshold, so I was feeling confident about completing that final finish lap. But it turns out I missed it by 12 seconds.

Cliff Federspiel finishes his record-setting 12-Hour Bike Sebring race

There was a bunch of confusion at the end about the finish order. At first the timing system had Ryan, Marko, and John with 287 miles and me behind them. Larry and Jim went over to talk with the official running the timing system to figure out what was going on, because none of the three passed me on the track. It turns out that when the other three were approaching the end of lap 14, a race official shunted them directly onto the track, skipping the down-and-back. You can see this in the Strava flyby of the race if you compare Marko and me:

By skipping the down-and-back, the three were able to complete a fifth finish lap on the track. If I had skipped that down-and-back I would have easily completed a sixth finish lap on the track. In the end the officials figured out what happened, gave the other three credit for lap 14 minus the 1.3 miles for the down-and-back, which accounts for the official difference between my mileage and theirs. My official mileage was 285.5, a new overall recumbent record.

Here's a link to my Strava data from the race:

Thanks to Elisa for doing a great job crewing, especially for adapting to the audible I called about skipping the second bladder swap and instead going with bottle swaps late in the race. Thanks to Jim Parker for good advice on race tactics and strategy. Thanks to my coach, Nate English, for helping me get ready for this event. And thanks to Larry for proposing a good race plan and helping me learn about the course prior to the race.

1 comment

  • David Plantenga

    Mister Cliff,
    Congratulations on your record setting ride.
    Your recap was nicely detailed. And I’m very happy the timing volunteers rectified their placement mistake.
    Go CruZers …

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published