It’s mesmerizing. For the first minute and a half, we watch as bike and rider overcome a wobbly start, tethered to a vehicle that gradually speeds up to 100 mph. Then, at 1:29, the cable pops off and the rider, Denise Mueller-Korenek, starts to pedal inside the slipstream. At this gear ratio and speed, it’s difficult to understand how fast her legs are pumping, but over the next 3.5 miles Mueller-Korenek accelerates to an average 183.9 mph over the last mile—almost as fast as a Boeing 747 just before take-off.
In 2016 Project Speed attempted to break Dutch cyclist Fred Rompleberg’s 167 mph men's motor-paced bicycle land speed record set in 1995 at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. With a history dating back to 1899, the cycling land speed records had never been broken by woman. On September 12, 2016, that changed. 15-time cycling Champion Mueller-Korenek reached a speed of 147.75 mph and set the first-ever “Paced Women's Bicycle Land Speed Record.”
However that was not enough, so the team—comprised of coach and former record-holder John Howard and pace car driver Shea Hollbrook (herself a drag racing champion)—came back to re-attempt the record at the 2018 Festival of Speed.
“Yes, I have a cycling land speed record for women,” explained Mueller-Korenek, “but I didn’t go out there [to Bonneville] to just set a women’s record, the plan is to make this year’s world record attempt in September the ultimate record.”
Fueled by the desire to destroy the previous record, Mueller-Korenek took on an intense training program designed to prepare her body for the challenge: strength training to increase her power output (which they refer to as her “wattage”—love that!), speed training at the velodrome (to train her fast twitch muscles for that final 20-second mile!) and motor pacing training with a modified motorcycle (for leg speed). Then, on September 16, 2018, dressed in an 8-pound leather and Kevlar suit, a motorcycle helmet, and goggles, Mueller-Korenek pushed her bike and body to the limit. She rode her bicycle at an average speed of 183.9 mph (that’s 295.9 km/p for my metric friends).
I wonder what’s next.
Sources: ABC17, BBC News, Project Speed Denise Mueller-Korenek Project Speed