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'I will never ride on the track again' says Austrian cyclist after smashing 24-hour endurance record

Nick Busca
18 Oct 2017

Christoph Strasser set a new record, but won't be returning to the boards. All photos: Manuel Hausdorfer | lime-art.at

There are some records for which the adjective 'incredible' falls short. The one set by the Austrian cyclist Christoph Strasser on Sunday 15th Octobr is the most recent example.

Strasser, winner of four Races Across America (as the name suggests, racers cycle across the States, from West to East) cycled 941.873 km in just 24 hours – which is the new 24-hour World Record for an indoor track.

But the closer you look at Strasser’s record, the more his titanic effort reveals itself. The 34-year-old Austrian smashed the previous record of 903.765 km, set by the Slovenian Marko Baloh in 2010.

In the 24 hours Strasser spent spinning around the Tissot Veldrome Suisse of Grenchen, Switzerland, he completed 3767 laps.

His average speed wasn't one of a recovery ride. He covered the whole distance (the equivalent from his hometown of Graz, in southern Austria, to Rome) at an average speed of 39.2 km/h and an average power output of 212.16 watts (his FTP is 370).

Throughout the whole attempt – which took place from 13:00 on Saturday until 13:00 on Sunday – and despite a total fluid intake of 15 litres and 10,000 calories, Strasser stopped to go to the toilet just once: after 20 hours and for just three minutes.

His plan was to take in around 12,000 calories, all through more than 15 litres of liquids. However, after the first six hours, mostly because of his aero-position, he says he was unable to take in more fluids (and consequently more energy).

He had to stop his nutritional plan for a couple of hours.

'One of the guys in my crew was running towards me from the track to hand me a bottle of water every half an hour,' he says.

'My plan was to eat and drink more, because if you have more energy, you can push harder.

'But after two hours I had to stop eating and drinking for two hours, and then the power output went down. I was almost vomiting, and it nearly happened,' he says while recovering a couple of days after the record.

'Because of the aero position of the upper body, I think my stomach had some pressure. And the nutrition was not proceeding smoothly from the stomach through the digestive tract.

'So I really I had to concentrate to not vomit. But after two more hours, I could eat and drink again, and the power went up again,' he adds.

Although Strasser didn’t sleep for a whole day (and cycled instead), he says that not sleeping was not the real problem.

'The body can manage to stay awake for 24 hours and that is why a lot of people can stay awake for a whole night — so you can stay awake also on the bike. That was not the big problem.

'The big problem is to stay concentrated the whole time. Because if you go to the left side too much, you’re at the bottom of the track and then you can crash, while if you’re going to the right part of the track too much, you can slow down.'

Because of the constant riding anti-clockwise, meanwhile, the left part of his body was the part that hurt the most and is still more sore than the right.

'It is a funny thing that you don’t expect it but that is because I always had the turn to my left and changing direction is not allowed. The rules don’t allow that.'

Despite the many challenges, Strasser doesn’t conceal that his hardest enemy was something less expected: the boredom.

'It is the most boring thing you can do on a bike,' he says, 'and I kind of underestimated that. But the good thing is that we had some tricks to handle that.

'I had a small radio system so my support crew and I could talk. To be able to communicate with my crew and having people around me to cheer me on was a great relief.'

The event, supported by his main sponsor Specialized (Strasser raced on a Shiv), attracted more than 500 amateurs who watched his attempt and tested bikes outside the Velodrome.

In attendance as one of three officials overseeing the attempt was the former 24-hour record holder, Baloh himself, who was working for the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) to observe the record and control the rules, as well as supporting Strasser's attempt to smash his own record.

'He was really supporting me and keeping the fingers crossed for me,' Strasser says of his predecessor.

'As I won many races in the last year, he knew I could beat his record, but he said he wanted to watch it in person and not on the internet.

'This is what the ultra-cycling community is. It’s not always like that the riders like each other, but most of the riders have respect for one another.

'The other good thing about ultra-cycling,' adds Strasser, 'is also that there is no prize money and that is, in my opinion, the best way to keep the sport fair.

'If there were a huge prize, then you might have performance enhancing drugs and other tricks — it’s not fair anymore. But because you don’t do it for the money, you do it for other reasons.

'And that keeps the fair play in the sport.'

The record attempt was originally planned for 14th October 2016, but because he caught a cold it had to be cancelled.

Although he’s proud to have achieved his target and is now focused on resting, Strasser (who also holds the current world record for the most kilometres ridden in 24 hours outdoors, 896.173), thinks he knows what he won't do again in the future.

'I think I will never ride on the track again. It was a very special experience, and I am very thankful that it was possible for me to do it, as my sponsors supported me.

'It was also interesting to prove that my mind and body achieved that. But I wasn’t really enjoying it.

'The chapter of riding the track is closed for me — it’s enough. I prefer the road!'

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