A flawless Monday night in November. 60 degrees and a supermoon. Which I had never heard of before but has something to do with the closest approach the moon makes on its eliptical orbit resulting in some massively large moon, er something like that. It’s big round and in its most basic terms reminds me of a rotating full carbon disc rear wheel. Which only serves to remind me how I should have been out on the perfect ride tonight, but instead sat sprawling on the couch in sweatpants and a flannel shirt I’ve worn for 2 days. I told myself it was a recovery day but really I just sat recovering from a meatball dinner. But it was not a lost evening since my guilt for missing out on a ride workout was replaced as I sat mesmerized by an hour and a half of what I consider the most visually stunning example of grace and speed. It was the UCI Track Cycling World Cup from Apeldoorf, Netherlands. And unlike most track events that receive barely a thread of coverage on Olympic prime time TV. Tonight I received a full uninterrupted dose of track racing. And the best part, no Bob Costas interruptions.
While most of America prepped for a Monday night showdown between the Giants and Bengals I watched a fringe sporting event. This is not Belgium or England why the heck am I shirking the fantasy leagues for a bike race? In a nutshell, because of its pure blend of power and speed meets aesthetics. Yep, what sport looks like visually, is part of what drew me to blow off 2 quarters of football. The curves, lines, speed, color, contrast and of course human drama. It all plays into how it reflects on my retinal coil. That and the enjoyment of watching these guys go deep into the tunnel of pain while I couch sprawl like a Flandrian cave troll.
Watching a team pursuit roll while the lead rider peels up the bank and drops back into the draft without missing a pedal stroke- all at 35 plus miles an hour is nothing short of a cycling symphony. Or a man-on-man cat and mouse match sprint that ends in an all out heart blasting finish. Racers, powering their fixed gear machines at speeds that defy gravity on 45 degree banked wooden track resonates with the cyclist in me and leaves an impression. Don’t get me wrong, nothing beats a good overtime playoff hockey game on an HD 60 inch flat screen, but 18 racers fighting for position in a Madison race as they bump at speed is a visual treat.
Skin suits are all that protect these guys and gals from a sliver laden high-speed ass drag. Frankly I love the intensity of a high speed crash. We never want to see it but you know how human nature is when experiencing crashes- we just can’t look away. In many ways some of the events feel a lot like a 2 wheeled Nascar race.
The blend of speed, power, and motion is poetry. Especially as it rolls flawlessly over a smooth banked track that is designed for one purpose only. I’ve been getting my fair share of cyclocross this fall. But watching the accelerations on the track just makes me want to get out there and see what it feels like to go high on a bank and dive into turn as I ramp up to a full bore sprint. Then try to hold it for a full lap while I still hold back for that last untapped burst that defines the moment. I almost feel the pain in my quads but I would love to try and hold on for a full final lap just to empathize with these guys during the fury of an all out final sprint.
The strain of a start during a full, hard as you can, go 3 lap, all out sprint or a match sprint stare down right at the start of a final. Hopefully this teaser captures some of what draws me to this spectacle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBUK1rki8yw
We’re so lucky to be surrounded by so many sporting options. But I feel like we are missing out on a true sports treat of track racing. It may not be our usual Monday night entertainment but I for one would welcome the chance to be trackside with a bag of peanuts sipping a cold beer while cheering on people whose names I could hardly pronounce. While they fly by at speeds most humans could not attain without motorized assistance, This February the Track Cycling World Cup comes to Los Angeles. It might be time for a west coast trip to get a firsthand feel of what I am missing.