Photo credit: Instituto del Desporte de Aguascalientes


I like to recite the trite motto “it’s all about the journey” when I talk about bike racing. There are so many variables that contribute to results—many of them out of your control—that it seems healthier to focus on the beauty of training on scenic roads, the fun of spending time with teammates and other racers, and the thrilling dynamics of racing, win or lose. Plus, if a race doesn’t go perfectly for me, there is often some consolation in the form of a podium spot or a teammate’s good result.

It is sometimes difficult to apply this philosophy to the new cycling discipline that I’ve been pursuing for the past nine months—attempting to set hour records on the track. The indoor velodromes in which these events are held are not scenic. I’m competing by myself against the clock and history and without my Metromint teammates and favorite competitors. There are no thrilling tactics, just lap after lap of turning left. And there is no podium. Nowhere in the record books for second or third place. This race really does seem designed to be all about the destination—record books or bust.

So I’m happy to report that on July 3 I made it into the record books again. At the Velodromo Bicentenario in Aguascalientes, Mexico, I covered 46.088km in an hour. That broke the women’s records that I had established in my last attempt in February (45.637km)—the U.S. elite record, the Pan American elite record, and the world record for the 40-44 age group. My new record in those categories now surpasses (by a mere 23 meters!) the overall women’s record of 46.065km set by world- and Olympic champion Leontin Van Moorsel in Mexico City in 2003.

I’m proud of reaching that destination, but even happier to report that the journey was better—endless left turns and all. It turns out that velodromes are varied and interesting, if not exactly scenic. In the course of my training I’ve gotten to know my home velodrome at Hellyer Park in San Jose, CA; the VELO Sports Center in Carson, CA; the Palma Arena Velodrome in Mallorca, Spain; and what may be the fastest velodrome in the world in Aguascalientes. And I haven’t been starved for scenery, either. To prepare for the altitude of Aguascalientes, I’ve trained in the stunning mountains near Mammoth Lakes, CA. As for teammates and competitors, I’ve received constant encouragement from my Metromint teammates and gotten to know a whole new community of track specialists and hour record fanatics.

Two of these fanatics have played special roles in my most recent effort. One is Jim Turner. Even before Jens Voigt’s September 2014 hour attempt inspired me to embark on this journey, the seed was planted in my head when I read Jim’s detailed August 2014 report about breaking the record in the 75-79 age group in Aguascalientes. I didn’t know Jim at the time, but have since sought out his advice about hour record training and racing, and about the logistics involved in making an attempt at the velodrome in Mexico. He is the one who recommended altitude training at Mammoth Lakes, and we became neighbors and friends there this summer. Jim played another crucial role in my preparation—he helped me accomplish the heat acclimatization plan that Stacy Sims designed for me by setting our Mammoth Lakes condo sauna to preheat so it would be at the perfect temperature when I returned from my training rides! Most important of all, Jim inspired me with his obvious delight in training and competing—in everything, really. “Infectious enthusiasm” is another trite phrase. But those who know Jim will agree that it’s undeniably applicable to him, and to his support team (including wife Ann and coach Dan Smith) as well.



Photo credit: Instituto del Desporte de Aguascalientes


The other new hour fanatic friend who was key to the most recent leg in my journey is not a fellow age-group amateur, but professional Alex Dowsett—who is racing the opening time trial of the 2015 Tour de France as I write this. I met Alex when we were both training at the Palma velodrome in January, 2015. I had just broken the U.S. women’s hour record in December, but was still a novice on the track. So I watched in star-struck awe as Alex sped around the track perfectly tracing the black line that marks the shortest possible route. When I introduced myself as a neophyte track rider inspired by his skill, Alex graciously posed for a photo and deflected my fawning compliments with the quip: “so far you have more hour records than I do!”





So I was rooting pretty enthusiastically for Alex when he broke the men’s UCI hour record earlier this year. In the meantime I had broken my own record in a February attempt in Aguascalientes. But I felt like I had paced that attempt poorly (going out too fast and fading after only 20 minutes or so) and I was hoping to learn something from watching my new friend’s attempt that I could use to improve next time. Alex did not disappoint. Unlike almost all of the men who have recently attempted the hour record, he demonstrated amazing self-discipline in setting a controlled pace designed perfectly to break the previous record.

I wrote to Alex after his success to see if he had any tips for me, apart from the perfect pacing. He described some critical equipment choices and tweaks. He called them the “bits and pieces” that added meters to his ride. Alex of course has the best professional support from his Movistar team. But when he explained how these bits and pieces made the difference, I knew this approach could work to my advantage too. Because in addition to my wonderful Metromint road racing team, I’m supported by what has to be the world’s best grab bag of speed-enhancing, watt-saving bits and pieces—all expertly assembled by my Team VH manager and husband Rob.

It turned out that I needed every single one of those bits and pieces. After several successful training sessions focused on “Dowsett-style” careful pacing, I set out on this attempt intentionally going more slowly than I did last time. And it seemed to work. Unlike last time, I didn’t slow after the first 15 minutes—when I was about 1 second ahead of Van Moorsel’s pace. I didn’t slow after 30 minutes, when I was 5 seconds ahead of pace. I still felt ok at 45 minutes, when I was 7 seconds ahead of pace. But then, with about 10 minutes to go, I suddenly entered the dreaded “pain cave.” My lap times started to fluctuate—too slow-too slow-too fast-too slow. I lost control of my breathing and I started to veer wildly off of the black line. I knew my advantage was starting to slip away, but surely I could hold on for just 10 more minutes—and then 7 more—and then 5 more . . . And then I heard Jim Turner—here trackside in Aguascalientes doing play-by-play on the livestream of my attempt—say “you can do it, Molly!” Those words of encouragement—on top of every aerodynamic watt-saving innovation and technique that Rob had assembled—were enough to help me hold on to the end, grunting and hyperventilating, keeping about 2-seconds of my advantage. I had accomplished my goal of exceeding Van Morsel’s mark by only 23 meters—less than 1/10th of a lap!



Photo credit: Instituto del Desporte de Aguascalientes


So the bits and pieces of speed paid off by getting me (barely!) to my destination. But most of the fun was in putting it all together. Because the bits and pieces were provided by people who are now friends. They involved training in some of the most beautiful places in the world. They included heartfelt messages of encouragement from teammates and training buddies who are there for me win or lose.

Coach Dave Jordaan, Andres Douzoglou of Beyond Aero in Berkeley, nutritionist Anne Guzman, heat and hydration genius Stacy Sims of OSMO nutrition, CeramicSpeed bearings and UFO chains, Pearl Izumi and their fast skinsuits, Friction Facts, DASH saddles, Ultimate Sports Engineering, Specialized helmets, Lee Povey and PCC, Nick Salazar and TriRig.com, Jim Turner, Tim Mualchin, Robert Chung, Chris Yu, Cameron Piper, Michael Hernandez, Beth Hernandez, Hellyer Velodrome, Elizabeth Hernandez-Jones, Annabell Holland, Al Morrison, Xavier Disley, Mark Florence and his Cycling Time Trial Podcast, Shaun Wallace, Alex Simmons, Kraig Willett, UCI Commissaire Randy Shafer and the officiating crew from the Mexican cycling federation, and the wonderful Juan Esparza and the staff of the Instituto del Deportes de Aguascalientes.



Photo credit: Instituto del Desporte de Aguascalientes




Photo credit: Instituto del Desporte de Aguascalientes