17 September 2018

Faster Than An Airbus A340--Or Any Guy

I wrote one of my earliest posts about Beryl Burton.  Half a century ago, she held cycling's 12-hour time trial record.  No, not just the women's record, the record.  Over that historic half-day, she pedaled 277.25 miles (446.2 kilometers).  That was a full five miles (eight kilometers) more than the record she broke.  That margin enabled her to keep the record for two years--a geologic age in that world.

Now I am getting to write about someone who I see as one of her heirs.

Yesterday, Denise Mueller-Korenek rode a bicycle 183.93 miles (296 kilometers) per hour.  Like Burton, she broke not only a women's record--she broke the record.  

Another way her ride, though much shorter, parallels that of Burton is that she didn't beat the old record by a hair or a fraction of a kilometer per hour.  Rather, she rode a full 17 miles (27.3 kilometers) per hour than the previous record-holder--Dutchman Fred Rompleberg--who accomplished his feat in 1995.

To put it another way:  Ms. Mueller-Korenek rode nearly ten percent faster than the previous record holder.  And she rode faster than an Airbus A340 taking off.

What makes her record perhaps even more astonishing than Burton's is that Miller-Korenek is 45 years old and took 23 years off from cycling to raise her three kids.  But her coach isn't so surprised.  "I've been coaching mostly women, including Denise, for the past 35 or 40 years," he said. "My theory is that women are able to push that aging envelope a little further than men and are more capable of long-distance peak performance."

Denise Mueller-Korenek, center, with coach John Howard and Shea Holbrook, who drove the race car that paced her.

Her coach is John Howard. If that name rings a bell, it's because he was, arguably, one of the first world-class American cyclists since the days of the six-day races.  Oh, and because he held, for a decade, the very speed record Rompelberg broke--which, in turn, Denise Mueller-Korenek shattered yesterday.

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