American cyclist Denise Mueller set the women’s bicycle land speed record at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats on Saturday. Riding a highly customised bike behind a modified Land Rover, she hit 147mph.
Mueller, who is the reigning US women’s masters criterium champion, was the first female cyclist to attempt the motor-paced record. Speaking to ESPN, she explained: “Men have done this record since 1899, and a woman has never even tried to do this record. So, why not? I get to be the first ever.”
Mueller was towed until the Land Rover hit 90mph, at which point she released the tether and continued pedalling. She was on a fixed gear bike where a speed of 140mph corresponded to a cadence of 100rpm.
A fairing on the vehicle in front helped ensure she could draft it safely. As she pointed out to VeloNews: “Hitting a 140mph wall of air will knock me off my bike.”
Her top speed within the one mile timing trap was 147mph. After that, both Mueller and the car – which was driven by Shea Holbrook, one of the US’s leading female racing drivers – gradually slowed to 100mph, at which point Holbrook accelerated away and wind resistance helped bring Mueller to a stop.
Wet conditions the following day unfortunately meant she couldn’t improve on her record.
Mueller is still aiming to beat the 167mph (268kph) set by Dutch rider Fred Rompelberg in 1995, but her coach John Howard — a three-time Olympian, 20-time US national champion, and former men’s bicycle land speed record holder at 152mph – said she will need more space for this. “We don’t have enough track to beat the men’s world record. We’ve got four miles and we’d need six.”