Human-powered vehicle racer Jerrod Bouchard, a senior in mechanical
engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla, recorded the third-fastest
time ever by a college student this week in the World Human Power Speed
Challenge at Battle Mountain, Nev.
Bouchard’s best official attempt in four tries on the 5-mile straightaway in
Nevada was 59.26 mph. According to Mike Mowett, a statistician for the Human
Powered Vehicle Association, the 61.49 mph record was set in 1993 by Jeff Solt,
a national class sprinter who rode a University of California-Berkeley bike.
Between Solt and Bouchard is Ron Layman, who recorded a time of 59.89 mph for
the California Polytechnic University team in 2004 at Battle Mountain.
Mowett says there is some debate about the difference between
a "typical college athlete" and a professional.
Human-powered vehicles are recumbent bicycles with aerodynamic shells.
Bouchard and his UMR teammates worked on their vehicle, StreaMiner, for about a
year prior to the event. They designed, built and tested the bullet-shaped bike
in anticipation of going after the collegiate record. The team consists of
chief engineer Bouchard, who is from Camdenton, Mo.; aerodynamics designer
Andrew Sourk, a senior in aerospace engineering from St. Joseph, Mo.; team
leader Craig George, a senior in electrical engineering from St. Joseph; and
composite specialist Matt Brown, a senior in mechanical engineering from
The annual event is held on a flat 5-mile stretch of highway near Battle
Mountain. Each evening during the event, which was held Oct. 1-6 this year, the
road is closed for approximately one hour before sunset. The riders get one
attempt per night. Chase vehicles follow each rider down the road.
Several event organizers catch the human-powered vehicles as the racers
attempt to slow down at the finish line. The riders are then extracted from
their vehicles. Bouchard says you can tell he’s really "pushed it" when
he’s unable to walk away for several minutes after the aerodynamic shell is
removed from StreaMiner.
This year’s week-long event was marred by cold weather and wind. All racing
was cancelled on Friday, Oct. 5, due to wind and snow, and the riders were
unable to reach top speeds in the cold weather on Saturday. Oct. 6. Bouchard
recorded his best time earlier in the week.
After qualifying on Monday, Oct. 1, Bouchard and his teammates had several
setbacks, including a few crashes. Fortuanately, after each crash, they were
allowed to start again and Bouchard did finish those runs successfully. During
one sprint, Bouchard’s small windshield fogged up and he had difficulty seeing
the road. During another run, he topped 60 mph and even passed a vehicle that
had started two minutes before him. But he had to slow down in order to
overtake the other vehicle safely, a maneuver which cost him speed during the
crucial stretch of road where the vehicles are officially timed.
In addition to the UMR team, professional riders and crews from the
University of California-Davis and Western Washington University competed
during the 2007 World Human Power Speed Challenge.
Bouchard, Sourk, George and Brown are all members of UMR’s Human-Powered
Vehicle Team, which won East Coast and West Coast championships in collegiate
human-powered racing last spring. The Battle Mountain endeavor, which
emphasizes sprinting speed, is a separate challenge that was born out of the
larger team’s success.