World Championships, Orgelet, France 2022

Preperation

After my hour record in June, I found myself lacking in motivation even though the World Championships were only a month away. It took me a full week to recover from the effort required to beat Kyle Lierich’s record and even after that time I still found myself skipping the prescribed workouts or struggling to obtain the stated wattage. The training I did managed to complete consisted of short efforts up some local hills, along with some longer rides.

I was still in a dilemma regarding which trike to take. There was no doubting the aero advantage of the Phantom T2. However, the world championships consisted of four elements; a hill climb race, two sprint timed efforts and a 100km criterium race. Therefore, a large proportion of the event would consist of climbing up some fairly steep hills. The ICE VTX weighed about 13kg, while the Phantom was around 17kg. The question was would the aero advantage on the flat and descents make up for the disadvantage up the hills. Also, I was unsure how the Phantom would survive on normal roads.

I almost made up my mind when I rode it on the rough Welsh excuse for roads for a 3-hour training session. After 2 hours I was struggling with the vibration through the stiff carbon frame. As I drove home, I thought of ways I could improve the Phantom for riding on this terrain. I decided to put an extra layer of 3mm foam behind my back, add extra padding to the head rest and lower the tyre pressure down from 100psi to 60psi.

The results were dramatic. I could now ride with a fair degree of comfort. Don’t get me wrong, this is a racing trike, so there was still a degree of harshness, but it was now tolerable. Also, I found the weight was not holding me back too much up the hills. In fact, the stiffness of the frame was helping. After completing some training rides I looked at the data. On a five minute climb of around 7% gradient the Phantom was 20 seconds slower than the VTX for around the same power. Not good, but less than I thought given the 4kg in extra weight. However, over the course of the ride it was blisteringly quick, with Strava showing me little PB cups for sections I had not even pushed on. The decision was made, and the Phantom was packed up in David Tullet’s van for transportation to the champs!

The Hill Climb Race

The Coxon clan, consisting of my wife, son and me, flew to Switzerland and then drove down to Orgelet. David oversaw trike delivery, which he did with deligence despite almost having to remove the fuel tank of his van to fit it in! Thank you David!! Orgelet was a typically beautiful French small town centered on a medieval church. Straight away we realised food was going to be an issue, with the French cuisine struggling to cope with our family of vegetarians. Apart from a takeaway pizza outfit, the hotel restaurant was the only place available to eat in the town and they could only offer a salad. Maybe, after they admired my rather broad physique, complete with its small “aero” belly, they considered this the required food for the upcoming hill climb race.

This race consisted of two climbs up a five percent hill of around 2.5 km in length. Not too bad for a guy who lives amongst the Welsh hills. However, unlike Wales, the French temperature was in the mid-thirties. For a chap that runs hot this was going to be an issue.

When I got to the start line, Jochem Leemans, my good Dutch friend, beckoned me to a place on the front row. Jochem is a gem of a guy and someone I really respected as an athlete. Throughout my hour record preparation he was always there to offer advice, gleaned from his amazing 100 mile record the year before. Prior to a cycling accident, Jochem had serious Olympic ambitions in cycling. It was clear that this competitive desire still burned in him, as evidenced by his lack of “aero” belly and my need to breath in when the photographer snapped away.

The gun went and Jochem exploded off the line and I was swamped by other trikes coming past me. Trying not to panic I saw Jochem disappear around the first bend with a line of other trikes in his wake. I tried to be rational to calm myself down. In a hill climb, it is vital not to go too hard, as a loss in power in the last part of the climb can quickly lead to a huge loss in time. I settled myself down, concentrating on keeping my heart rate as a sustainable level. Sure enough, halfway up the climb I was overtaking people who were overexuberant in the first 500m. I looked for Jochem and the second place rider, Olivier Vuadens, but they were totally out of sight as the finish line appeared.

The riders collected at the top as the slower riders trickled in, all high on climbing endorphins and enjoying the atmosphere that these events bring. After a few minutes we proceeded slowly down the hill, to take part in the second assent of the climb. Again, Jochem shot off the line and his advantage in watts per kilograms became very obvious! I was third and closer to Olivier than the previous ride up the hill but still cursing my cookie eating habit and considering liposuction as soon as I got home.

So at the end of the day, I was in third place, which to be honest was a huge comedown from the high of the previous months record. Although the Phantom, a trike designed for the flat, had performed well, it was clear that Jochem had a huge advantage in this terrain. Sleep was hard to come by as imposter syndrome raged in my head. I just hoped the sprint races would provide some healing to my battered ego.

The Sprint Races

Taking place on a seemingly flat road outside of the town, these races consisted of a 200m flying effort and then a 1km time trial. Again, the weather was hot and getting rapidly hotter! I had minimal experience of completing a flying effort, where one must ensure you are going maximum speed at the start sign and then holding the effort for the 200m. I started the run up to the line easily, building up speed over the kilometer distance until I got into the 90-12 gear. As my cadence peaked, I hit the start line. It then came as cruel surprise that I was going uphill and going considerably slower than I expected! Cursing my poor pacing, I was amazed when I saw I had won this race, with Jochem second. I repeated this win in the 1 km time trial but this time I felt that I had performed as expected, completing the distance in 1:06 minutes and averaging 55 kmh with 600 watts through the pedals.

I went to bed happier that night, despite the obligatory dinner of lettuce leaves, no longer declaring I was a fraud to my much put upon family. Jochem was still a long way ahead overall, due to his amazing climbing finesse, but I was now second overall.

Crossing the finish line of the 1km time trial

100 km Criterium Race

The next day started with a confused ride to the start line, which we thought involved a neutral ride from Orgelet to a neighboring village. After milling around Orgelet with William in his velomobile, and discussing the arrangements with Jochem and his friend, Arnold Ligtvoet, we realised the start was actually over the large hill in the neighboring valley. Needless to say, no warmup was needed as we arrived at the start line already sweating.

A credit to the organisers and local community, the village was decorated in bunting and full of people cheering the riders. Water bottles were filled and instructions issued regarding food and water delivery to the soigneurs, my wife, Vicky and William’s Dad, David

A picturesque setting for a brutal race

Any chance of winning was going to be slim, with the final race involving 100km of very hilly French roads in hot temperatures. With only a 75 tooth chainring and 25-12 gears available even surviving was going to take some doing. As the gun went Jochem shot away, looking for the draft of the quicker velomobiles and two wheel machines. My efforts to chase were hampered by a bike in front struggling to launch off. I found myself incased in the scrum behind him, but once free began to pass people with some ease, moving into second position in the trikes.

The 10 kilometer laps consisted of two climbs, one peaking at 10 percent and another longer climb of around 5 percent. These were split by a superb descent in the shade of the French hills. Although straight, there a sharp turn at the bottom, marked by prophylactic hay bales which I am sure a couple of riders grazed.

As the race proceeded, I continued to make progress, although sadly not on the rampaging Jochem. All was fairly manageable, although there was a mild moment of panic as the communication with the chief soigneurs broke down regarding fluid delivery, with a much-needed water bottle being replaced with a very dry cereal bar.  Lucky for me, water was handed out around the course by the superb volunteers, who never stopped cheering my sweaty form throughout the three-hour race.

The Phantom was performing well, despite being away from its home on the racetrack. Up the hills it held its own and down the descent it was amazing; totally steady at over 90kmh and going around the corners with ease, despite the 500mm track width. The lack of gearing was an issue, however, with a need for a slightly larger gear on the flat and a slightly smaller gear up the hills! On the last few laps, I was moving into survival mode, with the effort of pushing the large gear up the hill leading to cramping in my hamstrings. Needless to say, I was happy to see the finishing line, crossing as second trike and securing my position on the second spot on the podium, with Jochem declared the much-deserved winner.

The tight turn at the bottom fast descent

That evening, we relaxed over a beer with new friends, we all agreed it had been a great event, surrounded by amazing people, supported by the superb community that is human powered racing. Well done to all the riders and congratulations to all the winners of the different classes (especially William Tullet, World Junior Champion!!).

The podium; myself (2nd), Jochem (1st) and Olivier (3rd).
Time for a beer, with Arnold and Jochem

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