15-time bicycle champion goes for speed mark with road racer’s assistance

WENDOVER, Utah – Two women have one goal this week on the salt flats of Bonneville.

Pirelli World Challenge racer Shea Holbrook will assist 15-time bicycle champion Denise Mueller in her attempt to set a world record for the fastest rider ever on a bicycle.

The current mark is 167 miles per hour as the two women seek to better that speed with a specially-prepared two-wheel pedal vehicle for Mueller and Holbrook leading the way in a Hoehn Motors-provided Range Rover SUV designed to pace the bicycle star.

denise-and-leathersMueller, the current national Criterium cycling champion from Carlsbad, Calif., coordinated this record attempt with Holbrook, a six-time Pirelli World Challenge race winner, and bicycle legend John Howard, a 20-time U.S. champion and three-time Olympian. In addition, the U.S. Cycling Hall of Famer Howard established a world speed record of 152.2 m.p.h. in 1985.

Fred Rompleburg of Holland set the new world mark of 167 m.p.h. at Bonneville in 1995.

“With John as my coach and Shea as my pace car driver, we have a strong team to go after the world record this week at Bonneville,” said Mueller, who’ll ride behind Holbrook’s Hoehn Motors Range Rover which sets the pace. “We have made some practice runs and I feel good about our chances for the record. We have prepared for the conditions too.”

The setup for Mueller’s record attempt has Denise and her KHS Bicycles-designed carbon-fiber, “short travel” suspension two-wheeler (with double reduction gearing) trailing Holbrook’s machine throughout the mile-long course. Mueller will hold on to the rear of the Range Rover until 100 m.p.h. before releasing from the four-wheeler and stay in the SUV’s draft for the attempt up to 168.

“John made a similar run in 1985 behind a dragster at Bonneville for the record at 152,” said Mueller. “He has designed the record attempt program right down to the exact elements involved. Shea will keep a consistent pace to get my bike up to the proper speed.”

denise-shea-in-range-roverHolbrook, a former water-ski champion before moving into auto racing, has worked with the Range Rover to develop the throttle control needed for Mueller’s attempt on the salt flats course.

“This run will be different from my racing as I am usually hard on the throttle in my Honda race car,” said Holbrook, the 26-year-old driver form Orlando, Fla. “With this attempt, I have to be very consistent with the throttle as we gain speed and I will be watching my rearview mirror as Denise increases her speed.”

Howard, a former “Ironman” Triathlon champion, has assisted Mueller’s training for the world record attempt in the San Diego area as John replicated much of his record-setting training. Adapting to Mueller’s needs, Howard’s guidance included leg speed and power at the velodrome, strength in the gym and stamina enhanced by her return to criterium racing with the Sisterhood of Cycling team.

All of these elements have helped build enough speed, power and stamina to accelerate the bicycle’s massive chain ring and maintain speed for a mile.

To cover the mile distance in 23 to 25 seconds, Mueller will have to contend with Holbrook at the wheel of the Range Rover, gear selection, bicycle geometry, power, speed wobble and bike handling strong enough to stay in the draft of the SUV.

denise-bikeBicycle records are established at Bonneville when the cyclist drafts (rides) behind a motor vehicle to minimize wind resistance. Holbrook’s Range Rover is modified slightly by adding a tail fairing (an exterior structure) to keep the wind off the cyclist who is riding behind it.

This type of record was invented by Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy, who drafted a train to set a 60 mph record at end of the 19th century. In order to accomplish this feat, a mile of plywood sheets was attached to the railroad ties ensuring that Murphy would have a smooth surface riding behind the train.

This week, the crew of Mueller, Holbrook and Howard are hoping for smooth salt to set a new speed mark. Howard knows Mueller has training successfully for the mission.

“Denise has extraordinary power, the highest wattage I’ve seen from a female,” said Howard. “She is also an amazing bike handler, having made the podium at the World’s in downhill mountain bike racing.”

In addition to bicycle racing, Mueller has been successful in motor sports like her pace car driver Holbrook. Denise has raced go-karts, off-road motorcycles and even had a run previously at Bonneville on the salt flats with a modified Mini Cooper.

Record runs are scheduled to begin at Bonneville for all competitors this Saturday, Sept. 10, and continue through Tuesday, Sept. 13.