Records Set in Cycling Championships
Last updated 10/22/2021 at 10:42am
It was the first Race Across America's 6-12-24 Time Trial Championships here in Borrego Springs since the COVID-19 crisis began to fade.
On Lap-17 of the 24-hr endurance marathon, Marko Baloh more than lived up to his reputation as a world-class cyclist first by passing early race-leader Shane Trotter about halfway through his race and never looking back, and second by covering 501.6 miles in this 24-hour time trials victory. In essence, Marko managed to lap Trotter on the 18-mile circuit. He not only won his 50 – 59 age bracket, but also covered the most distance of any racer in the competition. An impressive feat all by itself, but this was Marko's 5th consecutive Time Trials win in the U.S. and worldwide that covered more than 500 miles. A native of Slovenia, this was his 7th World Time Trial in Borrego Springs.
On the ladies' side, Christie Tracy not only won the Women's Solo (40-49) with a distance of 442.8 miles (besting her 2019 distance of 402 miles), but also finished with the 5th most miles covered in all categories and age groups, male cyclist categories included. Consistently stiff winds overnight hampered Christie's speed.
"It was brutal!" she commented after the race, but she had soldiered on. In 2019, she was beset by sub-freezing overnight temperatures causing her to lose an hour of riding time. So night-riding seems to be her Achilles heel in the 24-hour field as far as achieving distance records are concerned. But there's always next year, and if anyone can pull off a record ride, she can. Also in the race was Borrego's very own Sylvia Maas representing Borrego under the team name (her and her crew) De Anza Villains.
Maas competed in the Women's Solo 50 – 59 age group and won with 343.2 miles completed. This was her 3rd solo finish and she has in the past competed four times as part of a team. Maas has been a part-time resident of Borrego Springs most of her life and was the daughter of John and Kathryn Hattox, long time members of the De Anza County Club. Maas' bike jersey features the Borrego Dragon, from a design drawn by Sarah Rogers and inspired by The Galleta Meadows sculpture by Ricardo Breceda.
Entrants numbering 160, in dozens of cycling categories and age groups, put on their A-games, but there were many no-shows from outside the U.S. who did not attend due to COVID-related restrictions. No surprise there. But the surprise of the Championships was where the "12-hour" field (37 participants) managed to eclipse six official course records going back to 2015:
1) David Potter (Solo Male 50 – 59) set a course record with 258 miles, barely eclipsing (by less than 5 miles) the 2019 record by Yann Bertaud;
2) Ryan Collins (Solo Male 20 – 29) posted 280 miles, besting the 2017 record by Collin Ng at 248.4 miles;
3) Clifford Federspiel (Recumbent 50 – 59) breezed along for 272 miles, surpassing Kevin Gambill's 2016 record of 248.4 miles;
4) Tom Keeley (Men's Solo 70+) posted 213.6 miles, passing for the first time the 200-mile barrier in his category/age, previously set by Ralph Schmook in 2018 at 194.4 miles;
5) Echelon, the two-female team (50 – 59) with 222 miles, also crossed over the heretofore elusive 200 mile record, beating the record set by the team of B4T9 Bombers who posted their 199.2 record in 2015; and finally...
6) Is It Dinner?, the Mixed 2-person (50 – 59) team reached 249 miles, 14 miles further than the previous record set by Team Geary in 2019.
Of the 37 participants in the 12-hr section, they set 6 course records...outstanding!
A special award for what has to be the closest finish in time trial history (according to race director Jeff Magnuson) goes to both Louis Amelbru and John Czajkowski in the 6-hr section, both riding 136.8 miles and both with an average speed of 23.1 mph, plus the same number of short vs long laps (six each), but Amelbru came out on top of Czajkowski due to faster time by a mere two seconds (5h 55m 53s vs 5h 55m 55s, respectively).
And finally, there was a very personal record attempt, an urgent desire, if you will, to break 200 miles in the 24-hour section (Mixed 2-person 50-59) by Theresa "Tiger" Beck and Chris Bergstrom (Team Bergie and Tiger). "We want 200!" Theresa said with fire in her smiling eyes. And they got it, plus four miles more to quench that desire.
Cyclists the world over are definitely getting faster and covering more distance as the years go by, and while most is due to individual conditioning and training, the bicycles themselves play a crucial role. They are now designed by top-flight mechanical engineers on computers for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, are lighter in weight with the use of carbon fiber technology, and they are tested in wind tunnels and on the road. And then the whole process repeats until they've come up with a racing bike design unlike anything in the past.
Just as one example from 50 years earlier the 1971 Schwinn Professional Road Racing Paramount (Model P13-9) is advertised as being "recognized as America's contribution to cycling technology." It was made with handcrafted aluminum and included a 10-speed derailleur 51-100 gear, weighed 23 pounds, and you could choose the color "chrome." It sold for $350 dollars.
But now there's the "Factor Slick", an engineering marvel where 10 speeds aren't enough, so it has 11. (Kind of like Christopher Guest's amp in the "Spinal Tap" mockumentary with a volume setting one full notch past 10). And it weighs 20 pounds, mostly due to its carbon-fiber frame and components. It comes with the same gear style/ratio as the 1971 Schwinn (but made with updated materials), and the Factor frame and components include a chemical compound called Pitch Fiber, the strongest and lightest of the three classes of C-F design elements. State-of-the-art? At least! And all for a base price of $8,500 ($15K for the deluxe package with lots of bike-pro goodies).
For the Factor Slick, a savings of between $8-14 grand, five pounds of weight, and increased aerodynamic efficiency may not sound like equitable trade-offs, but don't tell that to the world-class cyclists who now ride these types of bikes. Their sponsors and bike distributors around the world aren't complaining, either.
In closing, it was great to see so many top cyclists competing this year, and we expect them, and more, to return to Borrego soon.