Denise Mueller-Korenek in Bonneville
Words: Good Sport
Images: Matt Ben Stone
Bonneville Speed Week, an event that comes around every September, is considered to be a bucket list event in the world of motorsports. Dating back to Bill Rishel in 1896, who was the first man to cross the Salt Flats on a bicycle in the midst of a 3,000 mile cross-country race, people from all over the globe have ever since been venturing to the flats to race in whatever form they desire â€“ against other drivers, other types of vehicles or the clock.
This past Speed Week in mid-September 2018, photographer Matt Ben Stone was fortunate enough to sit alongside Denise Mueller-Korenek and her team as they returned to the Bonneville in hopes of breaking the world record for fastest human to ride a bicycle â€“ a record previously held for 23 years by cyclist Fred Rompelberg with a recorded speed of 167.044 mph.
Working with an extensive team on the feat, a crucial component to the crew was Shea Holbrook, a professional racecar driver known for her huge accomplishments in the world of touring car racing. Once the day arrived, Holbrook would pilot a customised 1000 horsepower dragster to speeds of roughly 100 mph with Denise in tow within a custom-built drafting chamber that sits attached to the dragsters rear.
As the vehicle-bike unit reaches 110 mph â€“Â the speed of great enough velocity to physically enable Denise to turn the large customised drive chain at her own volition â€“ the bike is uncoupled from direct tow of the dragster via a brake lever but remains in the slipstream created by the drafting chamber. Here the drastic reduction of wind-resistanceÂ allows Denise to accelerate to speeds totally inconceivable outside of this environment.
The bike itself along with the custom-built dragster rig had been designed specifically for the occasion. In additionÂ to an elongated frame and relatively small wheels, the drive-chain of the bicycle had been tailor-made with double-reduction gearing – a system thatÂ facilitates acceleration at unconventionally high speeds.
On the second attempt of the day, Denise managed to hit 183.9mph, flying past the previous menâ€™s record of 167mph and her own womenâ€™s record of 147mph which she set in 2016 at the age of 43.Â
To reach such a level of achievement, specifically in a field that is considered to be largely dominated by male involvement, is a gigantic feat by Denise and her team, and something that will hopefully set in motion an influx of incredible female athletes following closely behind, chasing 184mph.