It was another incredible week at Battle Mountain, capped off with a historic day of racing on Saturday, with 11 wind legal runs in the morning at 70+ mph, and of course the memorable last heat in the evening that started with a bang: a new world record of 83.13 mph by Sebastiaan Bowier.
In addition, there was the additional media attention focused on Graeme Obree, who had famously declared almost two years ago that he was out to break a world record on a prone recumbent of his own design. In fact, last year’s poster featured the artist’s conception of what a prone streamliner would look like, but Obree never showed. This year, he did, to everyone’s delight.
Some wag pointed out that 2013 marks three years in a row that whichever rider was featured on the poster did not show up (Sam, Obree, Firefly). I wonder who’s going to be on next year’s poster?
Overall, aside from the new men’s record, results were mixed, with several teams not doing as well as last year. Partially this was due to weather: two evenings’ runs were entirely cancelled, and most of the runs on two other evenings were scrubbed as well due to wind.
I see 120 runs recorded on the timesheet, not counting the scratches, DNF’s etc. This is somewhat down from last year, mainly due to the weather, but it has now become the norm that we have at least four heats each morning, and three in the evening, with typically five bikes per heat.
Now a few comments about each team, in descending order of speed.
This team has dominated the event ever since they showed up two years ago. This was their third consecutive year, and each time they brought a bike that was intended to be faster than the previous one. This year they delivered, and they achieved their goal of breaking the world record. Kudos to them. It will be interesting to see if they will be back next year, given the enormous amount of fundraising they have to do each year to mount such an effort. Breaking their own world record doesn’t seem like much incentive to keep coming.
It is always great to see Thomas, Jan Marcel, David and Franz. When I was describing the various teams to my family over Skype, I would always refer to them as “the fun Dutch team”. Every year the puns on their T shirts get worse. They ran Cygnus Beta which basically looked to be the same bike as last year. They were hobbled by tire problems all week. Jan Marcel was looking for 80 mph and didn’t quite get there, although his 78.23 on Saturday evening allowed him some degree of satisfaction. Thomas went 75.8 in 2012, and didn’t do quite as well this time. Perhaps it was the adjustment to a new seating position, where he sat lower so he didn’t have to use his bubble canopy. I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to David, but he was obviously not happy with his results. I wish them better luck next year.
University of Toronto
This team should be proud of what they accomplished this week. They brought two bikes: Vortex and Bluenose. Last year, Bluenose was an an unqualified disaster. It performed poorly at the ASME East event in the spring, where it could not navigate the endurance course without crashing at least twice per lap, and the team only started to repair the bike a few weeks before last year’s WHPSC. As a result, it was very unstable to ride, and the fastest time recorded was just below 70 mph. This year, testing at Ford was the first time where Bluenose showed that it had higher speed potential than Vortex, and after some tire issues were sorted out, Bluenose recorded three runs at 75+ mph and one at 70+ mph, with four separate riders.
The team has learned that you cannot make a dual purpose ASME / Battle Mountain streamliner. The best combined performer was Vortex that did well in both events (and delivered a six pack of beer to catch during a 60 mph run in 2011). For next year, they will build completely separate bikes for both events. For Battle Mountain, they are talking about a bike that is designed from the ground up to be a camera bike, rather than a hasty conversion like Bluenose. We also look forward to seeing how many fins appear next year.
This team did much better than last year, and Aurélien showed his incredible strength and ability as a rider, not so much with his fastest run of 77.6 mph, but with a run of 69 mph on Thursday night with the wind at three times the legal limit. They told U of T not to run a mix of the blue and black Michelins, and they were right.
Elan Human Power Team
This team had high expectations from last year since Ellen had just gone 70 mph for the first time, they built a smaller bike for her, and they added Jan Bos as a rider for good measure. Unfortunately they had a whole series of problems as one can see from the notes that they posted during the week. Jan managed to get a decent run on Saturday night, the last run of the whole event, but neither he or Ellen got close to what they had done last year. Velox S is off to a new owner, and we shall see what Hans and Ellen do next year. Update: they summarize their week here.
(screencap of video by Alex Selwa)
It was a bit strange to have Larry and Tom around all week, and not have them in the bike. Phil Plath made the transition from stoker to captain this year, and he was getting comfortable as the week went on, with the fastest ride being essentially the same as last year’s tandem record. Unfortunately, they crashed in high wind on Thursday night, and they were very fortunate to have escaped with only road rash. My understanding is that Larry has a new tandem almost completed that will run next year.
For the last two years, Barbara has been the only rider for Team Varna. They brought two bikes to Battle Mountain, but Barbara only rode the larger one, Varna Tempest. She didn’t go as fast as she had done in the past. Perhaps this was partially due to the weather conditions. The question is whether Sam will materialize next year to take back the title.
It was great to see Ben again this year. He had worked quite a bit to reshape the nose of Nitro. In the end, he was rewarded with going just a little faster than last year, and perhaps more important, going just a little faster than Gareth did. I hope that these guys keep coming back, although I understand that it is a long trip for them.
Sergey in Tetiva
Sergey said that the bike was not too different than last year. He did not go as fast, but on the plus side, he also did not have a serious crash either. He was happy with his one run over 100 kph.
It was great to see Mike back out at Battle Mountain as a rider after an absence of a good number of years. Mike is dominant in stock class in the midwest HPV races so it would be very nice for him to find a bike that actually fits. Having Fran and Florian go for the junior record added some spice to their efforts. They also just need a faster bike. Perhaps that bike will be Velox2? Of course, it was very fortunate that Florian escaped serious injury during his crash. He is a strong rider, and he seems determined to keep going with streamliner racing. If he finds the right ride, he has a bright future ahead of him.
The Beastie Boys
I cannot overstate how much fun it was to have Graeme Obree around for the week. He was very gracious, and also very realistic in what he could accomplish during the week. His rides in Beastie were faster and more steady as the week wore on, and it was great to see him break the prone record so that the media could tie up his story in a neat bow.
The other thing that was fun for U of T was the fact that he was willing to try to ride Vortex near the end of the week to see if he could go faster.
It would have been fantastic to see him do well, but his unfamiliarity with the bike didn’t allow him to go nearly as fast as he or we would have liked.
It was fun to see Sven pilot his vintage streamliner down Route 305. His yelps of delight after going through the traps was a nice contrast to the cadence modulated grunting or yelling that we would hear from some other riders from the timing table. Sven also came out to the drag races, demonstrating to one and all his ability to self start. Regrettably, at that precise moment, my camera’s battery elected to die. It was also a treat to meet Steve Delaire, who showed up to help Sven set up. A long time ago, I was considering upgrading from a P 38 to a Ti Rotator Tiger, but ended up settling for a used Speedmachine that has since become the U of T’s training bike. Steve talked about diverse subjects, ranging from what it would take to make a RAAM capable streamliner, to how he set up the cable actuated indirect steering on the Super 7.
It must have been a very difficult week for Damjan. Here is one of the fastest guys on earth, and he couldn’t hit 50 mph. It is obvious that his bike with the fiendishly compact drivetrain is not fully sorted. I wish him the best of luck in the future, and I hope that he got back all the sets of allen wrenches that he had distributed to various points along the course.
One could look at the final speed rankings and snicker about Dave’s top speeds this week. However, as a first time solo builder/rider at Battle Mountain, Dave broke all kinds of precedent by showing up with a finished bike with which he could qualify on the first day of racing. Extra points for having what looks like a snake in need of a serious diet called “Big Nose Pete”, a name bestowed upon it by one of Dave’s kids.
As a final note, I would like to thank Al and Alice for running another great event. Also thanks to the rest of the timing crew: Preston, Brad, Danny, Andrew, Jeff and Paul. Between all of us, I am happy to report that we didn’t drop a single time all week, even when we had multiple bikes and/or chase vehicles in the traps. A big thanks to Laura of the Battle Mountain Chamber of Commerce for all her arrangements. Having the Civic Center as race headquarters made life a lot more pleasant for many teams, and our team in particular. Finally, thanks to all the racers, participants, and the other volunteers. The great atmosphere during race week is why I keep coming back year after year. As my wife tells me: “You have found your tribe”.
I’ve uploaded some more photos here.
UPDATE #2: Here is an AFP report that includes the Glowworm crash video
UPDATE #3: here is the Glowworm crash video in its entirety. Note: language NSFW. This was taken by Alex Selwa in the Bluenose chase vehicle. It ends shortly before the chase car pulls over to help the riders who were OK.
UDPATE #3: here is Aerovelo’s account of the week for U of T.