The world’s fastest riders and their aerodynamic human-powered machines will convene for a battle of speed at the 11th annual Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC) held from September 13-18 in Battle Mountain, Nevada.
Sam Whittingham and Barbara Buatois both return to defend their titles as the fastest man and woman in the world, respectively.
“The object of this competition is to showcase the world’s fastest human propelled by his or her own power,” said Al Krause, Race Director of WHPSC. “We set a world record last year and hope to do it again.”
The event is sanctioned under the International Human Powered Vehicle Association (IHPVA). It is designed to showcase speed, captured inside a mere 200-metre trap, following an eight-kilometre flying start.
“The goal is to set the new 200-meter record as sanctioned by IHPVA,” Krause said. “Our participants have a five-mile flying start toward a 200 meter time trap where speeds are an average of the time inside the trap.”
Participants also have a mile to slow down and be caught because these are ‘launch and recovery’ vehicles, meaning they need outside assistance to start and stop. A minority of entrants are able to self launch and recover.
The WHPSC is held on the SR 305, a stretch of road that is considered the smoothest surface in the world. The power required to attain a certain speed is dependent on many variables such as road surface, wind speed and direction, and tire pressure. Furthermore, the location is positioned at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level which significantly reduces drag because the air is much thinner at higher altitude.
“After many years of searching Matt Weaver found the current site,” Krause said. “It is the longest, straightest site that falls within the IHPVA slope rules of 2/3 of one percent and is at high altitude which further reduces drag because of lower air density.”
In 2009, Sam Whittingham broke the his own record for a human powered speed at 82.819 MPH on a completely enclosed speed bike named the Tempest in the men’s event.
Barbara Buatois bettered the previous women's record with a speed of 75.458 MPH in the women’s event. This year, a junior category was added in addition to the traditional men’s and women’s category that include riders from Canada, The Netherlands, France, Slovenia and the United Kingdom. There are a total of 23 participants.
“I believe people are inspired by these events because it is an extension of what many of us feel when riding a bicycle; it's you, the bike and the world, your bike becomes an extension of yourself and you are moving in harmony with nature,” Krause said. “Going faster is, I feel, related to the desire to fly, and most people can really go very fast in a streamliner. Aerodynamic brag accounts for 80 percent of the total drag you encounter on a bicycle, reduce that drag and speeds go up dramatically.”
Qualifying rounds will be held from Tuesday, September 14 until Saturday, September 18 in the morning and record attempts will be held in the evening.