Saskatoon cyclist wins 24-hour time trial world championship
Meaghan Hackinen bested her result from last year by seven kilometres, covering 741 kilometres during the 24-hour race in Borrego Springs, Calif.
Updated: November 13, 2019
Meaghan Hackinen, an ultradistance cyclist from Saskatoon, won the women’s solo 24-hour event at the 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, Calif. on Nov. 1 and 2, 2019, covering 741 kilometres. JAMES FOLSOM / SASKATOON
Meaghan Hackinen started to worry around midnight.
The first few hours had gone better than expected. She was averaging 35 kilometres per hour on her new Cervélo P2 time trial bike, completing endless 29-kilometre loops in the California desert.
Then the temperature fell, and so did her pace — below the 32 kilometre per hour target she’d set for herself for the daylong time trial at the 6-12-24 World Time Trial Championships on Nov. 1 and 2 in Borrego Springs, California.
“I was kind of bummed out because I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to hold onto that additional number I was striving for,” the 34-year-old ultradistance cyclist from Saskatoon said Monday in an interview from Kelowna, B.C.
But Hackinen kept pushing her bike through the night. When dawn broke, she found herself far ahead of her nearest competitor and on track to smash last year’s record and win the 24-hour time trial world championship.
When she crossed the finish line at 5 p.m. on Nov. 2, Hackinen had covered 741 kilometres, seven kilometres further than her second-place result at last year’s event and a little more than three trips between Saskatoon and Regina.
“I kind of held on (and) managed to do better than a lot of people,” she said.
Hackinen, who averaged 31 kilometres per hour over a full day in the saddle, finished the race sixth overall, behind four men riding solo — the fastest of whom covered 850 kilometres — and one mixed two-person team.
The next-fastest solo woman competitor covered 682 kilometres during the annual event.
It’s rare for men to break the 500-mile barrier (805 kilometres) and equally rare for women to cover 400 miles (644 kilometres) during the race, according to race officials. Hackinen’s repeat performance puts her in a small club of elite athletes.
“It feels really exciting. I’m really proud of how I performed. There were some competitive people in the race and I look forward to seeing them again next year. It feels surreal; it just feels unreal — I don’t quite believe it,” she said.
Meaghan Hackinen averaged 31 kilometres per hour during the 2019 6-12-24 Hour World Time Trial Championships, in which she won the women’s 24-hour category after covering 741 kilometres. DON FORBESS / SASKATOON
Hackinen was once just a daily bicycle commuter, but soon began riding increasingly long distances — competitively and for fun. Two years ago, she finished the 6,900-kilometre unsupported Trans Am Bike Race in 24 days, 22 hours and one minute.
Although she is among the world’s preeminent ultradistance cyclists, Hackinen eschews much of the technological aids available to today’s cyclists. Besides her new bike — last year she rode a standard road bike — all she used was a heart rate monitor.
“You can buy speed, but not that much,” she said with a laugh before explaining her view that “hard work is the most important thing” when it comes to spending hour after hour spinning the pedals.
Spending 24 straight hours on her bike, subsisting on energy gels and electrolyte-laced fluids (an upgrade from the egg salad sandwiches she ate least year), is like being “afloat in the ocean,” she said.
“It’s an opportunity to get out and (have fun). A chance to think about whatever I want and see what’s possible.”
Hackinen will be back in Saskatoon for the Nov. 21 launch of her book, South Away: The Pacific Coast on Two Wheels, a memoir of a bicycle trip she took with her sister, and a Nov. 22 talk at the Bike Doctor.