Enjoy the gripping story of Alain Hinzen's quest for the 2023 Recumbent World Championship title racing the Cruzbike Vendetta V20 recumbent road bicycle. Thank you for sharing, Alain!
November 2022: Setting goals for the 2023 season
After finishing second in the 2022 Recumbent World Championships, my goal for the coming season was to win this competition.
The basic constraints remain the same as in previous years (a wife, three children and limited time to train), so I decided to focus on short distance training. My plan for the championship is to collect as many points as possible in the shorter distances and try to lose as little as possible in the final long distance race. This strategy still feels a bit strange to me, as my physical abilities and racing history make me more of a long distance rider with several wins in ultra endurance races.
But to achieve my goal, I had to be realistic, strategic and squeeze the most efficient training out of the short time available. For the long distance, I have to rely on my genetics.
Two weeks before the championship: Recumbent race in Öschelbronn
Big disappointment for the whole weekend. Four races and all under the expected potential. The hill climb was the best of these races (I won it by a comfortable margin), but the power output was below my expectations and the time was much slower than in previous years. The other three races were even worse. In the sprints (1000m and 200m) I struggled with the bike's handling on the velodrome, not daring to go all out and far from the potential I expected. Was it a problem that I'd done almost all my training at night on a turbo trainer? Hadn't I done enough "real" rides?
The hour race was an even bigger disappointment. I had problems with my nutrition before the race and was hungry at the start. I didn't expect to be able to finish the race, but in the end I finished second with a very strategic run, saving as much energy as possible to last the race distance.
Despite this disappointment, or perhaps because of it, this botched dress rehearsal turned out to be the perfekt preparation for the World Championships. I identified some of the weaknesses and mistakes I made, and I had a plan to do better in two weeks' time…
Friday, 11 August 2023: First Day of the Championship
Three days of racing, three days of meeting old and new friends, all sharing a passion for fast and efficient bikes, and all three days kicked off with a beautiful opening ceremony.
I was really excited and couldn't wait to get started. Looking at the starter list, I knew that Swiss rider Melchior Poppe would be my biggest rival, as he has set several new long distance world records this season and had a strong showing at the recumbent race in Öschelbronn two weeks before the championships.
The race will start with a hill climb, my strongest discipline. Apart from a high power to weight ratio, I had the best climbing bike you can buy (except maybe the new V20c). The climb was 3.4km long, with gradients mostly between 8 and 12%, and with beautiful scenery (not that it mattered at race pace).
Melchior stormed away on his M5 Carbon Highracer for the first few metres. I followed him, expecting a very hard race if this pace was maintained, but after a few metres my body got used to the effort and I decided to take the lead and keep the pace high. I started to feel really comfortable at this pace. Surprisingly, my rivals did not. I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw one after the other crack and soon the last one disappeared. After half the distance there were some hairpins where I could see how big my lead already was. I decided to suffer less in order to save energy for the next few days. In the end I was 51 seconds ahead of the second rider, the Frenchman David d'Hostis. Melchior finished 8th, which played into my hands as I still believed he would be my main rival for the general classification.
Saturday: Second Day of the Championship - a Day for the Fast Guys (and Girls)
My five-year-old daughter called me in the morning. She asked: "Dad, what colour will your medal be? Gold, silver or bronze? I hope it will be gold" (her favourite colour).
If the goal was not set before, it is now...
Saturday was the day of the short distances. It started with a 1000m sprint, then 200m with a flying start and finally 4000m. I had to start first for all the races as the starting times were based on the results from the day before.
There was a slight headwind in the morning. This made the 1000m feel very long. I finished in a time of 1:11. That was the second fastest time of the unfaired bikes. The winner, 19-year-old Frenchman Riman Leborgne, was half a second faster on his Zockra Carbon Highracer prototype. Melchior was just a fraction of a second behind.
For the 200m, I know that timing is crucial to get a good time. I cruised at 45km/h until I reached the 400m mark before the start and then I went all out. When I reached the start line, I realised that it was a bit early. I really had to dig deep not to die in the 200 metres. But luckily I ended up being the fastest of the unfaired bikes with over 62km/h.
The final run in the afternoon was the 4000m time trial. My plan was to start fast for the First 1000 meters and stay between 350 and 400 watts for the remaining distance. This was good for a time of 4:19, which was also the fastest time in the unfaired category, two seconds faster than Melchior who was second.
My strategy seemed to work. Not only was I happy with my performance, but my direct rivals changed between almost every race, giving me a comfortable lead in the overall standings. And now there is only one race left, the 100km.
Nevertheless, this will be the most important race with the most points. I needed at least a sixth place to secure my first world title in the unfaired class (after two titles in the partly faired class in 2015 and 2016). I was excited. Most people expected me to win this competition, but a race is only over when it is over. Unexpected things can happen, a crash or a simple puncture and the title is gone. I put some tools and a spare tyre in my moose pack, just to be on the safe side…
Sunday: Final Day of the Championship
100 km. 19 laps on a flat 5.4km track with three sharp corners. The start with fully faired, partly faired and unfaired bikes, tandems and trikes was chaotic as expected. I set up at the front of the unfaired and partly faired bikes and tried to set a pace to get a good group that could work together. This strategy worked. Melchior and I were in a group with four tailfaired bikes. After about half an hour two more riders joined us, one unfaired and one partly faired. Unfortunately, I started to get cramps in my legs at that point. I was just lucky that the pace was pretty consistent, but I was always on the verge of cramping. I knew that I only had to finish the race in this group, so I tried to avoid excessive power peaks while staying in the group. Not an easy task on this course with three corners where you have to push hard to stay with the other riders. With 20 minutes to go, it happened as it had to. An attack by a partly faired rider, and my legs blew up, I could hardly pedal any more. I had only one thing on my mind: "Don't stop pedalling. If you do, the race is over". I had to let the group go (or at least what was left of the group after the attack). 20 long minutes followed, I just had to survive without being caught by too many unfaired riders. I found my rhythm with another unfaired rider and managed to finish the race in second place in the unfaired category.
That was enough to win the title.
A few hours later I was back at home, my youngest son in his baby carrier, putting him to sleep. He was really excited to see me again after three days of absence, so it took him a little longer than usual to close his eyes.
The last three days are still ringing in my ears, three wonderful days. But I knew and felt: Here is my place to be, together with my family. And from time to time I dive into another world, in search of speed and glory, sharing the passion for fast and beautiful bikes."
Congratulations to Alain for an epic championship weekend!