SAN DIEGO -- Denise Mueller-Korenek brings a whole new meaning to pedal to the metal - bike pedals that is.
Mueller-Korenek, a 45-year-old San Diegan, set a world record this week by averaging 183.9 miles per hour on a bicycle. That's twice as fast as a cheetah.
The mother of three and Valley Center resident used a racecar draft and custom-made bicycle to smash the men's motor-paced bicycle land speed record of 167 mph (she already broke the women's record in 2016), which had stood since 1995.
Before you start to think that using a racecar slipstream is taking the easy way out, Mueller-Korenek used the same technique and location as the previous world record holder, Dutch cyclist Fred Rompleberg.
But she managed to speed through Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats more than 15 miles per hour faster.
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I had the privilege to photograph female athlete Denise Mueller Korenek @firecycle the new WORLD RECORD holder for the fastest bicycle at an incredible 183.932 Mph! . . This is her on her record breaking run pedalling a double drive train bike behind race car driver @sheaholbrook in a “lakester style” rail dragster. Photographed exclusively during Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats, USA 🇺🇸🏎🚴🏼♀️⚡️💯 . . . . . . . . . #mattbenstone #projectspeed #denisemueller #johnhoward #bonnevillesaltflats #saltflats #speedweek #bonnevillespeedweek #utah #outsideisfree #cycling #custombike #landspeed #womenwhorace #womencycling #stravacycling #worldrecord #bicycleworldrecord #bicyclelandspeedrecord #lifebehindbars #cyclist #viewslikethis #getoutside #cyclinglife #lightbro
The record-breaking ride was hardcore
Muller-Korenek tethered herself to a pace car driven by drag racer Shea Holbrook until she reached about 90 miles per hour. Then, she unclipped and pedaled through the draft for several miles, reaching an average top speed of 183.9 mph between miles four and five.
Instead of traditional cycling clothes, Mueller-Korenek wore an eight-pound leather and kevlar suit to protect her in case of a fall and a motorcycle helmet to keep the salt out of her eyes. If she didn't pedal hard enough to stay in the racecar's slipstream, she risked being catapulted backward by the wind.
The best part? Mueller-Korenek came out of retirement to set both her records. She was a 15-time national champion bike racer as a teenager, but stopped cycling as an adult to run her family business and raise three children.
One of Mueller-Korenek son's met her at the finish line to capture the record-setting celebration on video.
"I think we broke the limit of what we were supposed to do," said Mueller-Korenek in the video, adding that her throat was covered in salt. "I'm still actually on cloud nine...we skipped the entire 170s."
In a phone interview from Utah with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mueller-Korenek said she was shocked to learn that she’d not only broken Rompelberg’s record, but smashed it by more than 16 mph.
“I was literally stunned,” she said. “I was hoping to land somewhere in the 170s and we just blew right through them. It’s amazing to have this record.”
Mueller-Korenek admits to being an adrenaline junkie who grew up in Encinitas racing bikes and cars. The “crazy factor,” she said, runs high in her family.
She said the only moments when she was truly apprehensive on Sunday were when she almost hit the fairing with her front tire during the final ride and then during the fast deceleration process afterward.“I was praying to God,” she said. “There was a lot of left and right out there and a few times things creep into your head. At the end, there I was, holding on for dear life.”
Without any device to shield a rider from wind resistance, a human-powered bicycle can travel a maximum of 40 miles an hour on a flat surface. Beginning in 1935, speed cyclists began riding behind pace cars fitted with a fan- or box-shaped wind shield known as a fairing.
The fairing creates a capsule-shaped, resistance-free pocket of air behind the pace car that shrinks in size and pressure the faster the car moves. The trick, Mueller-Korenek says, is staying inside that pocket without hitting the fairing in front or getting sucked out of the pocket from behind.