Three world records were set in Battle Mountain this past week at the 20th Annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge during morning and evening races on the famous arrow-straight stretch of Highway 305 south of town.
Ilona Peltier of France set the women’s world record by coming in at first place at 78.61 mph. It was a tight competition, as earlier in the week the record had been broken by Human Power Team Delft & Amsterdam. Second place in the women’s race was taken by Vittoria Spada of Italy at 76.98 mph, and Rosa Bas of the Netherlands took third place at 75.88 mph; all three were record-breakers.
In the men’s race, Fabien Canal of France came in first place at 84.99 mph; at second place was Andrea Gallo of Italy at 84.81 mph; and Guillaume de France of France came in third place at 72.16 mph.
Yasmin Tredell of the U.K. set a world record in the women’s multitrack race at 55.66 mph.
In the multirider race, Calvin Moes and Evan Bennewies of Canada set a new world record at 74.73 mph.
Helge Hermann, who came in third place in the men’s multitrack race, and Ben Whybrew of Germany built the multitrack velimobile Milan SL tricycle for Bill Thornton of Team Wild Bill. Thornton came in first place at 60.87 mph in the men’s multitrack race.
“For me, it’s like a dream to come here,” said Hermann. “I’ve seen Battle Mountain on TV and in films, and I’m so interested in human powered biking. It’s the first time to see this in real life, and my first time in the United States. I love the landscape here; it is remote, like Iceland.”
Glen Friel of the University of Liverpool, here with a team of 18, said the students design and build a new bike every year. “We want to do well in the competition,” said Friel, “but we also want to build engineers, and that’s our primary goal.” Liverpool student and team leader Kiaya Pandya said, “It’s been a brilliant project. It’s making me into a better engineer. It has everything that you’d expect an industry project to have, including all the engineering but also extending to dealing with businesses, trying to find sponsors, organizing the operation and general running of stuff; I think it’s made me hugely employable. It has been a lot of effort to get this far. We were let down by one of our manufacturers, so we ended up building the entire thing in 37 days. We all worked 19 weeks of work in five weeks and had an average of three hours of sleep per night. The whole team is absolutely incredible. To be here in a position that we can race a bike is in itself amazing. It’s been touch and go this whole week.”
Friel remarked on the camaraderie of the entire group of competitors, and the friendships that had developed. “The spirit of this event in Battle Mountain! For instance, the Australian team is a young lad called Adam, his father Michael and his brother, just the three of them; they’re self-funded. They had quite a big crash. The front wheel was totally demolished, the roof part of the bike was damaged, and they thought they were just out of the race. The international people here all came around; the Italian team were helping, the Liverpool team helped, the Dutch team were helping. Hans – with Ellen Van Vugt – he built a new bike wheel for him. The London team were in Elko and they phoned him up and asked what he needed, and he said 7” spokes but all they had were 9” and Hans said get them, he’ll make them fit, and he did. The reason he crashed initially was that the front wheel wasn’t balanced and built properly. Hans is a real expert. And now Adam will be able to race,” said Friel.
The weather conditions were ideal during the week, reported many of the contestants. “It’s really perfect conditions right now – 0.0 wind speed, there is no wind, the temperature is warm; it’s really perfect for the bikes today,” said Felix Ackermann.
One team that consisted entirely of students was the Human Powered Vehicle Team from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. “My husband George and I have been mentors of the HVP team at Cal Poly since the ‘80s,” said Carol Leone. “We help them build; tell them what not to do. I organized this event back in 2003. Our team is trying to be reasonable with its goals. Their goal that they’ve already obtained is the school record, which was 60 mph. Now they’re going for the U.S. Collegiate record of 61-something, and that’s for a bike that’s built by students and ridden by students. The other teams here, their riders are not students; they are professionals. We’re doing it all.”
The Italian team, Policumbent from Politecnico di Torino, had two bikes, one for their main rider, Andrea Gallo, with whom they were trying to reach the European record; and one for their female rider, Vittoria Spada, trying for the women’s world record.
“This is our 10th year of activity, and we represent a team of 50 people from our aerospace and mechanics department,” said Francesco Corda. “We have been building bikes and prototypes since 2009. We think alternative mobility is the key for the future for all metropolitan areas, which are always growing. This kind of prototype cannot be used on normal roads, but we can improve them with some technical solutions for everyday mobility. Many people could go to work without carbon emission, just using this kind of recumbent bicycle. Think about it – in the year 2050 there will be a world population problem – so mobility will be a world issue, and we must find some solution. This is not a full solution but it’s a start.”