Jon Ornee believes he has set the fastest time to cycle 100 miles in an exceptional time of 2 hours, 20 minutes and 26 seconds.
Granted, that should read the fastest time to cycle 100 miles while drafting but at an average speed of 42.6mph (68.6kmh), who is going to take it away from him?
The American attempted the new record category, which is currently being verified by Guinness World Records, on Monday 5th October on the Michigan International Speedway NASCAR track and after sitting behind his dad who drove the minivan draft car, Ornee believes he will enter the record books.
For reference, the World Record for the fastest non-drafting 100-mile ride on a bicycle is 3 hours 11 minutes, an average of 31.4mph, showing that Ornee’s time is a testament to the effects of drafting when done properly.
The former triathlete completed 50 laps of the 1.97 mile (3.17km) oval track to hit the record. With only one side of the track being straight, Ornee had to deal with what is effectively a long, lazy left hand banked turn on each lap with only a short stretch of straight, flat road to provide respite.
Now, you may also think drafting behind a minivan on an aero set up on what is effectively a massive velodrome could mean that Ornee would be able to glass-crank his way to the new record. However, as he told Cyclist, his power files would suggest differently.
‘The data suggests I only averaged 204 watts, but it’s rather unusual because drafting involves a lot of micro sprints and coasting,’ explained Ornee.
‘My max power was 1,014W – I must’ve been slipping out of the pocket at some point and had to dig to get back on – but most laps were a steady combination of 300-450W and low wattage coasting. It kind of felt like descending a 2-3% grade for 100 miles while on the pedals.’
Ornee also admitted that the temptation to modify his bike with a huge chainring was tempting. Yet with crosswinds, the long banked turns and other potential issues, his decision to stick with a 52/11 ratio allowed him to remain at 42mph while spinning between 90 and 120rpm fairly comfortably for the record attempt.
A bigger challenge than turning the pedals, however, was remaining in the draft of the minivan for the full duration, straddling the line of maximum aero benefit and caution to avoid touching the bumper.
‘I was pretty close, usually within about three feet. I’m actually not exactly sure. I did do five to six training sessions drafting behind my dad’s minivan to get really comfortable with the position and effort, including a 100-mile training day back in May which gave me the confidence to go faster after a summer of solid training.
‘I thought my “sweet spot” speed would be between 37 and 40mph but I eventually settled at 42mph,’ said Ornee.
‘On the day, I used aero bars simply to hold an aero bottle so I could drink without taking my hands off the handlebar. It worked awesome from a hydration standpoint, but the aero bottle with computer mount blocked my view of my front tyre – so I actually couldn’t see exactly how close I was to the back bumper which wasn’t ideal.
‘I obviously erred on the side of caution and it worked out.’
There was a reason Ornee attempted this new record, of course, not simply because he wanted to get dizzy around a speedway track. In fact, it was after an incident that many of us cyclists are faced with at least once in our riding careers.
‘Last May I was hit by an SUV while cycling. It was a near-death experience that has changed my life. After post-crash surgery, I recovered while riding indoors to rebuild fitness, but I was hesitant to get back on the road,’ explained Ornee.
‘Honestly, I was scared. Cars and bikes clash too often. We’re supposed to share the roads, but several issues including poor infrastructure, driver education, distracted driving and road rage – because that cyclist forced me to slow down for five seconds – regularly place cyclists in danger.
‘Fast moving bikes belong on the road. Heck, we can go over 42mph for 100 miles! Going over 10mph isn’t safe on a shared sidewalk or bike path with walkers, dogs, families and driveways.
‘Cars and bikes can and should co-exist! They shouldn’t be enemies, they should be friends! Frustrated and scared for my life, I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if a car and bike teamed up for a change and did something spectacular?’