Race Report: Jeffrey Ritter's 2019 12 Hour World Time Trial Championship
We are so impressed by Cruzbike racers Cliff Federspiel and Jeffery Ritter who raced at the 6-12-24 World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, CA this past weekend.
In his first race ever, Cliff Federspiel destroyed the 127.2 mile record Jim Parker set for the 6 Hour event in 2016, racing an astonishing 145.2 miles in 6 Hours on his Cruzbike V20. His impressive performance earned him the recumbent 6 Hour World Time Trial Champion title and an incredible second place overall finish. Cliff's report is here.
Jeffrey raced a Cruzbike S30 in the 12 Hour event and finished first in his division with 181.2 miles, earning him the recumbent 12 Hour World Time Trial Champion title. Below is Jeffrey's race report. Enjoy!
This race report could also be titled, "How Cruzbike Saved my Life." Sounds incredible, but I know many members of the Cruzbike community feel the same way. So let me explain (briefly, so I can get to the race!).
In 2014, nearing my 60th birthday, I had decided to shift from USA Cycling age-group time trials and try to qualify to race in RAAM. My amazing wife, Jane Kuhar, was fully supportive, and had been driving SAG support for nearly a decade on my long rides, but we had never tried “going long” for a race.
On August 1, 2014, while riding the RAAM qualifying course in Ohio, I crashed. We will never know what actually happened as, at that moment, I was riding alone. But I went off a country bridge (with a low guardrail), fell 23 feet (as measured by my Garmin!), and broke my sternum on the boulder I impacted, and broke 5 vertebrae in my neck. Two surgeries in 36 hours saved my life and, remarkably, I had no permanent impairment-my surgeon reported I was 0.25” from being a quadraplegic and 0.375” away from death.
Ordered to stay off the road for a year, I continued to train indoors until the anticipated day of freedom. Yet, on August 1, 2015, within 2 miles, I knew I would never ride a regular bike again. The rods screwed into my neck prevent me from getting down on the drops.
Serious depression took over. Then I stumbled onto a video of a recumbent rider going up Col de Galibier in France. That led me to learn recumbents could be serious bikes and that folks even raced them. A few searches more, and Cruzbike was discovered. These bikes had the engineering to also go long and go fast. So, in early 2016, I met Jim and Maria Parker and they were kind enough to let me try a Sofrider. It was hard, surprisingly hard, to get the courage to ride again. But, after six weeks of very slow progress, I could ride down the driveway and I was hooked. I recommitted to my dream of being a long distance ultra cyclist, purchased my Silvio 3.0 in early 2017, started working with a coach and entered the Mid-Atlantic race in August 2017.
And, just to be clear, because over half of my neck is held together by titanium and carbon fiber, I lack the range of motion in my neck to ride a Vendetta—I had to figure out how to make my Silvio go fast. With 6 endurance races now under my belt, and recognized by WUCA as the 2019 12 Hour National Champion in May, it was time to go big!
The 2019 World Time Trial Championship
To be entirely honest, I was just thrilled to register before the registration closed out. To finally be on the same roads with athletes that had long inspired me was so very cool. The 12 hour field was substantial and nearly a dozen were registered in my age group of 60+.
To travel from NC to CA with a Cruzbike, be prepared to race in the desert, and have all the proper nutrition, clothing, and tools is not an easy task. Packing and focusing on the hundreds of small details was incredibly taxing. But detailed lists and a superb project manager (Jane) kept us from being totally overwhelmed (though I did end up packing 2 left hand windstopper gloves!).
We rented an RV there and spent 4 days adjusting to the time shift and the desert. We had never been in the desert and the dry heat, wind, and temperature shifts deserved respect. The RV also allowed us to park at the pit area, gaining a few more minutes of sleep.
What did I do to make my Silvio faster? In addition to working with a terrific coach, we upgraded the wheels, added oversized pulley wheels, eTap shifting, a curved boom, and installed a Cruzbike case to hold my water. I also use a Garmin Varia rear light radar and convex side mirror (since I cannot shift my head enough to see behind me).
The 12 hour race started at 5:00 am. Others reported the temperature was 37 degrees. Winds remained nominal throughout the day with a high in the low 80’s, so nearly ideal weather for producing some good times. I dressed properly in layers but have heard nearly 20% of the 24 hour racers dropped out due to the cold (certainly the results tallies seem to confirm that outcome).
While there had been many gripes about the road conditions, I found them pretty good. Certainly I have traveled on worse roads here in North Carolina and Ohio. The race is non-drafting so, while the 18 mile long loop was occupied by 225+ riders, the open, barren desert and nearly complete absence of vehicles makes the ride mentally challenging. But, oh my, the views!!!
Borrego Springs is a terrific course for this type of event. Combining the variables of the environment (wind, temp, and road conditions) creates an authentic test of any athlete. It is also not flat, and the long 3-4 mile grind up at 1-3% certainly tests your resolve. There is also one good downhill where I usually was nearing 30 mph.
Key to my race has been learning about, and executing, great nutrition with rapid, effective pit stops. Dusty Dustyn, another 60+ athlete, is sponsored by Hammer Nutrition and she went so far as to introduce me to their senior research director. In addition to teaching us how to properly fuel an endurance effort, the overall package of fuels, supplements, and race preparation Hammer nutrients made a huge difference. Not once did I feel close to bonking and my energy stayed high throughout the day. I’m not endorsing Hammer per se, but when I see other racers eating contra to the science of good endurance nutrition, I know I have gained an advantage before the race even begins.
My ideal race imagined doing a lap an hour-18 mph-and surpassing 200 miles. My first lap came in at 59:26 so I thought, “This could be a good day!” In fact, it was nearly perfect. My rolling time during the 18 mile long loops varied from 59 to 74 minutes. Three times I skipped the pit altogether, racing 36 miles each time without stopping; only 3 pit stops were substantive (once to use the john - my first in any race - but hey, we started in the middle of the night!) and two to remove winter clothing layers). During the final 55 miles, I took only one 57 sec pit stop.
We worked well as a team—certainly one good piece of advice is to practice your pit stops! As I rolled to a stop, with one hand Jane handed me my electrolytes and BCAA, with the second, she was re-filling clear water and, once her first hand was free, she would replace my fuel bottle and gel flask.
I did, however, take a strategic break during my final long loop out on the course in order to time my return to the start-finish to arrive just after the short loop opened at 3:30 pm. I had been strongly cautioned not to try another 18 mile long loop after 3 pm and it was good advice. The specific lap data confirms my rolling speed was sustained throughout that final long loop.
At 3:32, I rolled into the start/finish. A quick stop for water and a sip of Coke and I headed in to the short loops. Jim Parker once told me, toward the end of a race, “Just gut it out!” So I did! My final short loops (4.8 miles) kept moving faster and my final lap was my fastest of all (15:59).
It was a thrill to see Cliff zooming past me more than once. Both Jane and I so enjoyed having other members of the community at the race (Elisa, his wife, also rides a Cruzbike). He certainly is going to be doing some killer results in future races.
While I did not reach my 200 mile goal, I had a great race. The final distance of 181.2 was a personal best. In many ways, just riding up to the start at 5:00 am was my victory—five years of recovery from near death, endless hours of training, adaptive adjustments to get faster. All worth it just to be there. But to race hard and be as fast as possible, and be successful as a team with my wife—priceless!
I did have one secret weapon—tucked beneath my jersey was a pendant of a red bicycle. I had long been inspired by Muhammad Ali’s life and journey, as well as his tenacious commitment to rise up from failure. The red bicycle is an emblem of his story (when he was 12, his red bicycle was stolen and it motivated him to learn how to fight!).
So, here I was, racing in a world championship with “the Champ” along for the ride, close to my heart. In the silence of racing, more than once, I repeated on my lips his words:
“Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Last Saturday, there was no question that I would keep pedaling on. My race had not been just 12 hours in length; I had been seeking the finish line in Borrego Springs for five years, beginning far below a rusty bridge somewhere in Ohio.
As Cliff noted in his kind words about others, it takes a village to put an athlete on a bike for hours! The entire Cruzbike team has been so supportive (Maria, Jim, Lucia and Robert), Larry Oslund and Doug Kline have helped me so much with fine tuning my Silvio into a rocket—and the folks not here in the Cruzbike community-my coach, Ben Turits; my LBS, Durham Cycles; and the team at Hammer—all have my thanks.
- Jeffrey Ritter (@Jeffrey Ritter on the Cruzbike Forum)
Sincere Congratulations! Better late than never… Quite the community you are part of.
A real inspiration! Reading this has really helped me in my recovery from my accident. Looking forward to racing with you this year!
An awesome and inspiring saga! Keep on Cruzing!
That is some kind of perseverance. Awesome.
What a wonderful story! Amazing ride! I am impressed that you have recovered from that fall and are still out riding. The Cruzbikes are fast, and you don’t need to have an injury to benefit from riding one.
Great story. So inspiring. Congrats to you and your wife on both the long road to recovery and the big race. I have to also give a nod to your red bicycle pendant. As a 22 year resident of The Greatest’s home town of Louisville, we do a big community ride to his boyhood home every spring. Nice to have that kind of inspiration riding so close to your heart . . . literally!
Outstanding job !!
Truly an inspiration! Thanks so much for the detail and writing this up. I appreciate it. My hats off to you. Great job!!!
A great ride and a real inspiration!
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