Molly Shaffer Van Houweling set a new women’s U.S. Hour Record of at the Velo Sports Center in Carson, California on Sunday, beating Carolyn Donnelly’s long-standing, 24-year record, with a mark of 44.173 kilometers.
Despite having little experience as a track rider, the 41-year old Van Houweling drew upon her 11 years of road racing, along with the help of Andy Lakatosh, a 28-time U.S. national champion; particularly with the the standing start.
“Up until last week I’d never done it before,” Van Houweling told the cycling magazine, VeloNews. “I was nervous thinking about it, that I wouldn’t be able to even get my gear up to speed to avoid falling on the corner.
“Hellyer is banked at a gentle 23 degrees,” she wrote in a report for her team, Metromint Cycling. The Velo Sports Center velodrome is 45 degrees in the corners. My first sight of it on December 6, only eight days before my scheduled attempt at the record, took my breath away. Standing at its edge felt like standing on the lip of a double black diamond ski run having only mastered the bunny slopes.”
Van Houweling was pleased that her fears were unfounded, but said it wasn’t easy.
“I cannot say that I enjoyed it, although I did try to think as many positive thoughts as I could,” she said. “Lots of friends wished me luck and I tried to think about them out there.”
With seven minutes remaining in the hour, Van Houweling says that she drew upon inspiration from two close friends.
“Ellen wanted me to ride like I was on fire, and Beth told me to ‘go at ‘em like a spider monkey,’” said Van Houweling. “So at my most desperate moment, an image of a flaming spider monkey sprung into my head, along with good vibrations from the rest of my supportive friends and family. I almost cracked a smile.”
By the halfway point in the race, Van Houweling had already established a considerable lead of 24 seconds, which held until the gun sounded at the end of the 60 minute challenge.
“It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t sound that hard … We’ve all raced for an hour … But about 30 minutes in it occurred to me, ‘Now I see what they’re talking about.’ It’s really pretty miserable.”
Following her success, Van Houweling hinted that she may return to the track to try and set an even better mark.
“I would be interested in doing it again, since this was my first attempt, and I don’t have a lot of experience on the track,” she said, “maybe see what I could do at altitude as opposed to sea level.”
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