Was it really a world record?

October 2, 2010/ Jim Parker

Some people have asked whether it’s fair to call Maria’s records in the 100 mile, 200 mile, and 12-hour road events “world” records. When we began researching what it would take to set a “world record” in solo long-distance cycling, we found that there is only one international organization that sets standards for such an undertaking. That organization is the Ultramarathon Cycling Association (UMCA), which has members in over 20 countries and certifies long-distance cycling events and records around the world. The criteria to set a record certified by the UMCA are strict. The course distance must be accurately surveyed and certified. To eliminate possible advantages of wind patterns, the course distance must be between 5 and 20 miles and it must be a loop. To eliminate the potential benefit from other riders, not only is no drafting allowed, but there can’t even be other cyclists anywhere in the vicinity of the rider on the same course. The use of standard safety equipment (helmet, lights if riding in the dark) is mandatory. Two judges must be present, with at least one watching the rider every moment, and the judges must pass a test and be certified to be eligible to judge. {While these criteria are strict, they are achievable by almost anyone, anywhere in the world where there are roads and cyclists. To learn more about the UMCA and their records process, visit http://www.ultracycling.com } Does this mean that Maria Parker is a faster distance cyclist than Beryl Burton, the greatest cycling champion that England ever produced? Of course not, and Maria Parker would be the first person to tell you that. To see how different the two riders’ events were, let’s take a closer look at Beryl Burton’s phenomenal 1967 performance (at the age of 30) in the 12-hour event. This event was certified by Britain’s Road Time Trial Council (RTTC), which is now known as CTT. I corresponded with an official of the CTT to get more information on what type of course conditions were in place in 1968 for the 12-hour time trial. Drafting was prohibited, but there were dozens, if not hundreds, of other riders on the course. Also, the course on which she rode was not a 5 to 20 mile loop course, but rather “a series of connected loops, with a fairly small finishing circuit to enable the judges to measure the distance at 12 hours precisely”. Moreover, riders in those days were not required to wear certified helmets, which are a significant source of drag, especially when used in the recumbent position. Therefore, for a variety of reasons, this RTTC record would not meet UMCA criteria for the 12-hour road bike record. In short, Maria Parker and Beryl Burton never competed in the same events and never will. Comparing their performances is like comparing apples and oranges. So why doesn’t Maria Parker compete in a 12-hour CTT event? Well, first of all, they are only held in the UK and we live in North Carolina. But more importantly, they don’t allow recumbent bicycles to compete. The UMCA welcomes recumbents in the events they hold, and recognizes the records that they set. The World Recumbent Records Association (WRRA) keeps track of many recumbent bicycle world records, and, for the long-distance events, accepts UMCA records, not CTT records. In conclusion, I think it’s fair to say that Maria Parker set world records in the 100 mile, 200 mile, and 12-hour road cycling events, certified by the UMCA. They aren’t national, state, or club records. They are world records, and they stand until anyone, anywhere in the world, can break them.

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