An even earlier start today, since we were due at the track gate at 4:30am. I duly pedalled off on my Bike Friday at 3:35 for another ride in the dark. It’s actually a nice time to ride in the desert, especially with a very bright light! Unbeknown to me, there was a bit of drama with Team Varna back at the hotel – whilst installing a few cable ties to tidy things up, Dave noticed that the front tyre was looking a bit scuffed on the sidewall, and so they had to make a rapid change to a new one. This led to a rather rushed departure, and when they picked me up at the gate, Becky discovered that they had forgotten the cooler with all the ice packs in it…. So we had to make a rapid drive back the 14 miles to collect it. At least it gave me time to use the air conditioning to start pre-cooling, but not the best thing before racing. I just tried to relax. The car actually got so cold that I was beginning to shiver (which was my intention) – Dave and Becky actually got out to warm up whilst we were waiting for the escort vehicle to take us out to the track. When we arrived, Freddy was on the line and getting ready to go. I stayed in the van to keep cool whilst the bike was set up. Fred and I would be running on the track at the same time. I watched him launch and fall over, scratching his beautiful deep clear coat on the Mephisto’s carbon fairing. But after they picked him up, he restarted and got away fine. Then it was my turn. As well as adding the cooling systems, we had also removed the nose hole and venting tube, adding a small gap in the front of the canopy instead. Everything seemed to be working as I sat on the start line. After Fred came round the first time I was wheeled up to the line and off I went – I had a slight wobble on starting, but I think it was just due to the steering being lighter since we took the venting tube out – before it was wedged between the handlebars and the shell, adding some useful friction damping. But no problem, and I slowly accelerated.
Once again it took two miles to get to 50mph, but then I only got up to 53 on the straight, instead of 55+ previously. Quickly several problems became apparent (always the trouble with making changes with no time for testing): Firstly, with Dave being distracted by the tyre, he had left a zip-tie untrimmed which was rubbing painfully on my leg with every pedal revolution. Secondly, the first time I tried to use the mister, I accidentally pulled the supply tube out of the trigger, rendering the system useless. And thirdly, the foam we had added, although very thin, was enough to scoot me forward a bit and reduce my leg extension. This is turn brought my knees nearer my wrists, and I had to hold my wrists hard up against the inside of the shell, which is fairly abrasive. On top of all this, I just wasn’t going fast enough – I think that my body just hadn’t recovered fully from Friday. Normally recovering from an hour’s race in 48 hours would be more than enough time, but with heat exhaustion thrown in, it would appear not. Still, I was holding a steady speed around 51mph, so I thought that if I could maintain that for the duration then I might at least improve my previous distance. Then at 30 minutes I drained my drink…. I had 500ml, which had been enough on Friday. But today I had planned to down a bottle on the start line; in the rush I forgot, and instead took a couple of big pulls from the stuff onboard. And so it ran out early. So with no drink, no mister and an increasingly painful welt on my leg, which was stinging nicely with the sweat, it was getting hard to want to continue. When my speed dropped to 48mph on the 6th lap I decided I was unlikely to improve, and so pulled in. Disappointing, but we tried. On the plus side, the cooling worked – the temperature in the bike didn’t go above 27 degrees (probably cooler than ambient), and despite being sweaty, I didn’t overheat.
Meanwhile, Freddy was tearing it up. He consistently held a high pace, and at the age of 50, regained the world hour record with an awesome 53.4 miles! I was blown away by his performance, absolutely incredible, especially when I heard he was pushing a cadence of 70rpm (!). In his black bike he was lucky that it was another overcast morning; not long after he finished the sun came out and it started to get hot.
Next up was Steve Delaire, out for another go, with more ice this time. He ended up with a new personal best of 43 miles, also handily beating his brother! Then it was a question of whether Matt Weaver could be ready in time – he had been up until 2am working on the bike and had continued to do so all morning at the trackside. At 8:30 they had the bike on the line and were starting to install him. Matt has so much complication to his machine that this is quite a feat, especially with his new cooling system. We had to be off the track at 10am, so as 9am approached, he was getting close to running out of time. But then he was ready, and with launching arm supporting him, we slowly moved off. There were loud clonks from the bike – his final drive, which was originally a toothed belt, had been replaced with a short-pitch chain, which was slipping under the high torque of starting. After about a half mile he pulled the wheel in, wobbled left, over compensated right and fell over. His crew quickly had him up and ran the bike back to the start to try again. This time he thankfully got away safely, and was up to 55mph on his first lap. But sadly this would be as good as it got – Matt’s cooling and visual systems failed, leaving him riding hot with only the back up small screen to navigate by. Incredibly he managed to finish the hour, but at progressively lower speeds. He didn’t even know that the hour was up, and shot through the catchers standing in the track to stop him – his car chased after and caught him at the first turn. It was good to see him actually run, but once again he was unfortunately hindered by problems. And then that was it, racing over.
At the luncheon and awards, we got to salute the new world record holder and see the Dempsey-McCready prizes awarded – with nobody getting to 90km, Freddy Markham got $18,000 for first, Sam Whittingham $12,000 for second and Matt Weaver $6,000 for third. And then very unexpectedly, Paul McCready had very generously decided to reward the two of us who had travelled from Europe – Damjan won $4,000 for coming so close to the record, and I got $2,000 for my effort. Which was very much appreciated, since flying to Arizona is not cheap!