896 km! Christoph Strasser's 24-hour world record

896 km! Christoph Strasser's 24-hour world record

16.04.15 07:53 14.045Text: NoPain, Power2Max (proofread by Josh Hayes)Photos: Erwin HaidenAn interview with Christoph Strasser, from the Austrian province of Styria, who set a new world record on March 21st 2015 by covering 896.173 kilometers in 24 hours on the Berliner Tempelhof. 16.04.15 07:53 14.046

896 km! Christoph Strasser's 24-hour world record

16.04.15 07:53 14.046 NoPain, Power2Max (proofread by Josh Hayes) Erwin Haiden Dieser Beitrag ist auch in Deutsch verfügbarAn interview with Christoph Strasser, from the Austrian province of Styria, who set a new world record on March 21st 2015 by covering 896.173 kilometers in 24 hours on the Berliner Tempelhof. 16.04.15 07:53 14.046

He did it! Christoph Strasser, from the Austrian province of Styria, set a new world record on March 21st 2015 by covering 896.173 kilometers in 24 hours on the Berliner Tempelhof. To achieve this legendary accomplishment, 32-year-old Strasser rode lap after lap with an average speed of over 37 km/h and a power of 250 watts, clearly overcoming the former record set by the Slovenian Jure Robic in 2004.

This exceptional athlete was able to beat the previous record by 56 kilometers. The numbers and facts are impressive: during the first eight hours, Strasser's average speed was over 40 km/h. "I'm just glad I made it. My team did a great job, so my biggest thanks go to them as well as to Specialized, who made everything possible here in Berlin", said Christoph Strasser, who celebrated his victory with a champagne shower.

Fatigue, cold, spectators...
On March 20th, at 3:35 P.M., the world record attempt began. The day started well, with ideal temperatures with almost no wind on the track's eleven kilometers.
"It went really well. The biggest problem during the first hours was the thousands of visitors on the Tempelhof. I was basically running the gauntlet against bikers, runners and kiters. I'm glad there were no accidents. Except for a flat tire around 1 P.M. on Saturday I had no technical difficulties either. Regarding my body: of course I felt fatigue and cold. During the night it cooled down to +1°C. Mentally it was problematic that I had no radio contact with my team - therefore they couldn't push me, like they did at the RAAM", said Strasser, who also got wet during the last 30 minutes when it started to rain. Christoph only got off the bike a total of 10 times, mostly for pee breaks, exchange of jackets, and to exchange his bike.

More (theoretical) records

The 24-hour world record counts as a supreme discipline in the ultracycling sport. But Christoph also theoretically managed to increase the 24-hour outdoor track world record - which is currently at 890 kilometers - by five kilometers; however, he didn't effectively do it, since he wasn't running on a track.
Two more records could have been surpassed: the 200 miles ultracycling world record set by Marko Baloh (8:17.08 hours) and the 12 hour world record, also set by Marko Baloh, with 285.07 miles.
"But they don't count since I haven't subscribed to these records. I couldn't care less though, because my big goal was to beat Robic's record. I almost managed the 900 kilometers too", Strasser said proudly.

Record holder Brändle pays Strasser his respects

Matthias Brändle, who was - up to this point - the only Austrian hour world record holder, who managed to ride nearly 52 kilometers on track in October 2014, raises his hat to Christoph Strasser:
"I have witnessed his record ride and it's incredible what he achieved here: maintaining more than 250 watts for an entire day! I ride with the same performance during my endurance training, but after about six hours I'm really exhausted. I have wondered what it would be like to set such a record, but I couldn't imagine it due to the mental aspects. It must be brutally hard for the mind! Also to think that we rode 900 kilometers in 4 days during the Tirreno-Adriatico! For me such a 24-hour world record attempt is beyond imagination. It is an amazing achievement."

Interview (the day after)

Congratulations on your two world records: 24-hour road and 24-hour outdoor track. How do you feel on the day after?
Well, shoulders, upper arms and triceps feel really awful, probably due to the cold. I chose a breathable outfit on purpose to prevent extreme sweating, and so I was pretty undercooled after the race. I had no problems with my groin and adductors; they're used to my seating position from the long units on the TT bicycle. However, my butt hurts quite a bit - sitting was a lot more unpleasant than during the RAAM. You can't apply lotions on the tender parts when wearing a time trial suit. During the RAAM, you can always "re-grease" when things get unpleasant.

Your start was delayed for about half an hour. Why was that?
I should really only focus on riding and leave tuning to my mechanic. *Laughs* This was the first time I had assembled my bicycle myself, mounted the Power2max power meter, put in new batteries and greased all screws. So far so good - until my photographer went for a test ride and - thank God - noticed that the crank set was much too loose. Drama, panic, frantic searching. In a nutshell: I greased the crank axle's screw by mistake and fastened it badly instead of securing it with Loctite. Thus it became loose even before the start. The participants were clueless, Sky and RTL started to believe it wouldn't take place. All that just happened because I mounted the cranks myself. But as long as I can master cycling, I willingly accept my inability at tuning, and I stand by it! *silence* My punishment was rain for the last half an hour.

You used a Power2Max power meter again. In the first hours your average power over a lap was around 270 watts; after 24-hours, the speedometer showed an unbelievable effort of 250 watts NP. What was your pacing strategy?
Actually I had planned to use a steady pace throughout the entire period. Thus, I continuously checked my Watts value on the Garmin, calculated the average lap time myself and called it out to my supervisors. After about two thirds I couldn't keep up with the planned Watts, but towards the end it got better again. I still need to check whether it was really 250 watts at the end; I do believe however that it was over 240.

 "I should really only focus on riding and leave tuning to my mechanic." 

Do you plan to publish and analyze your power data?
I will gladly provide my data for Power2Max, and we want to publish the evaluation on the website. First we have to assemble the various files, which are divided, on my Garmins (note: Strasser rode two bicycles, with two power meters and two Garmin Edge computers) in the correct order. Unfortunately I have only used zeros for average power calculations on the first Garmin, and not on the second. But this should not affect the NP. By the way, my FTP is at 380 watts, which is why the software claims a TSS of 1050 at about 78 kilograms - so everyone can calculate that this amounts to a continuous power of about 3.2 watts per kilogram.

How were your other values such as cadence, heart rate and pace, over those 24 hours?
Although I was able to keep up the desired Watts for a long time, my pace and lap average did decrease during the night, probably due to the suboptimal choice of track in the darkness. Of course I also watched my heart rate, but it was just like during the RAAM: first it increased for a few beats hour after hour, and at some point it kept going down. In the last hour, when I went all-out and my Watt values were the same as they were at the beginning, my heart rate was about 25 beats lower than usual. But since I know all this from the RAAM, all I did was watch my watts and listen to my body.

Which technical improvements have been made for the 24-hour project?
Last year I have been concerned with the subject of aerodynamics. This year it was the tires. I trusted Wolfang Arenz from Specialized when he recommended the new S-Works Turbo Cotton clinchers. Basically these are the same tires that Tony Martin used in the previous year's world championship. They roll significantly faster than my usual tires and stick to the ground like glue. I had no problems whatsoever except for one flat around 1 P.M., which was caused by a metal pin, and my pace was actually noticeably faster at the same Watt power. Except for that I only adjusted my sitting position, put on a new aero helmet, and my dad - who is, unlike me, a trained machinist - has pimped my Specialized Shiv with well functioning Dura Ace brakes.

Did you have any kind of special entertainment to help you get through this long and partially lonely ride?
Unfortunately not, because we had a double communication problem: the internet router in the car didn't work, so there was no live stream, and the new TT helmet provided no room for our team radio. Thus I was cut off from my team and we could only communicate by shouting. However, due to the helmet and the cap I wore below I was hardly able to hear anything from outside. We were only allowed to use speakers to warn visitors about the fast rider. We had no permission to play music through the speakers, so I listened to my favorite songs on my MP3 player at a moderate volume. But towards the end, when I had overcome Jure's record, we didn't care about the music regulations anymore: we played our RAAM songs, and that motivated me to perform really fast lap times during the last hour. All the cold resistant visitors on the Tempelhofer field celebrated and clapped with us. That was a damn cool atmosphere at the end.

Right now it seems there is nothing you can't do. Are you slowly running out of opponents after three RAAM wins, RAA wins and the 24-hour world record?
Yes, at the moment there are actually few competitors who put me under pressure. I did have a hard time losing against Reto Schoch at the 2012 RAAM, but it was nevertheless important because I could learn a lot from it. For the future I'd wish for more direct challengers, and that other riders also make big efforts instead of just doing big talking.

Matthias Brändle congratulated you. Do you know each other personally? Have you talked to him before?
My press consultant Martin Roseneder has talked to him. Unfortunately I have had no personal contact with Matthias yet, but I do feel honored that he followed my world record attempt, and I'd be honored if we got the chance to chat someday.

 "For the future I'd wish for more direct challengers." 

An analysis

Several days after his record, the Austrian exclusively provided his power data to power2max so that they could have a closer look on Christoph's "numbers".

The facts:
Christoph's weight: 78 kg // Christoph's FTP: 380 W
Record time: 24 h (20.03.2014, 15:35 pm bis 21.03.2014, 15:35 pm)
Lap distance: 11.8 km // number of laps: 77
Location: Airport Tempelhof in Berlin // total distance: 896 km
TSS after 896 km: 1050

Average per lap:
Ø cadence: 79.6 rpm // Ø speed: 37.34 km/h
Ø power: 250 Watt // Ø NP : 254 W
Ø power / kg body weight: 3.2 W // Ø heart rate: 137 bpm

Table of laps

Tech Specs

LapLap timeTimeDistancekm/h / lapkm/h overallWatt / lap

To evaluate if Christoph did race evenly paced, we will need to have a look at this variability index (VI). To get your VI, you have to divide the normalized power (= 254) by the average power (250). The closer your quotient is to = 1, the more evenly you paced your race. Christoph achieved a VI of amazing 1.01 - a perfect pace!

Christoph’s heart rate

From his experience during the Race Across America (RAAM), Christoph knows that his heart rate steadily increases during the first hours, comes to a peak after 6 hours and decreases after 10 hours. He started with a heart rate of 133 bpm; after 4:18, his reached 154 bpm. For the next hours he went on with 147 to 150 bpm, and after 10 hours the heart rate decreased again even though his power didn't decrease at that time.

During the last hour, Christoph mobilized his final strength and put a power of almost 260 NP to the pedal. However, his heart rate didn't go higher than 135 bpm.

Conclusion: 1 watt is always 1 watt, but 1 bpm is not always 1 bpm, as everyone's' heart rate is influenced by duration, intensity and external conditions during the race.

Relation of power and pace

Looking at the relations between power and pace, two things can be seen: After 8 hours, the pace goes down, although Christoph keeps his power high. So why did that happen? First of all, it was colder and windier, so he had to put on arm warmers, leg warmers and a different jersey, which changed his aerodynamics. Besides, it was dark outside, so that it was very difficult to stay on the perfect racing line. Especially the turns were tricky. So there Christoph did loose some meters.

We have already seen that Christoph put almost 260 watts to the pedal during the last hour. However, he was going more or less 2 km/h slower than the day before. Why? It started to rain and Christoph had to put on a rain jacket, which was slowing him down again.

Now, back to Christoph's assumption that he need 37 km/h and an average power of 270 watts to reach his 900 km. At the end, he had managed 896 km (so almost 900) with "only" 254 watts NP.

How is that possible? Was Christoph mistaken?
He was not. A 3x RAAM winner and someone who can cycle so evenly paced over 24 hours knows himself and his capabilities right down to the smallest detail.

Hence, it had to be something different: In Christoph's case he was lucky to have new tires. He trusted Wolfgang Arenz, Senior Developer of the Specialized Tires, who recommended using the new S-Works Turbo Cotton Clinchers. "Obviously, those clinchers were clearly faster than the tires I used before; moreover, they had a fantastic grip", said Christoph.

Find the complete analysis Christoph Strasser's 24 h world record on the power2max homepage