Today’s featured Olympic event combines elements of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’, strategy that would be at home in a NASCAR race, rocket science, and extremely form-fitting apparel. Let’s hope NBC uses one of those pixelating thingies when they televise the men’s competition, yes?
Oh, and a big part of the event features competitors standing completely still while balancing on bicycles in the middle of an oval banked somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. I give you the Individual Sprint competition in the Track Cycling venue.
Called by some “the fastest 10 seconds in sport”, and by others “why the fuck are they just sitting there”, Individual Sprint is a lot like my college sex life – lots of standing around doing nothing followed by a furious flurry of action and one person feeling a whole lot better than the other. Curiously, table tennis offers a different, though similarly accurate analogy – competitors flailing away with one hand in what is ultimately a silly and inconsequential endeavor.
The US Cycling Federation’s website…is hopelessly chaotic and impossible to navigate, so we’ll turn to our old friends at Wikipedia for a brief description of Individual Sprint. According to the unerring and righteous ‘pedia, “The sprint is a track cycling event involving a one-on-one match race between opponents who, unlike in the individual pursuit, start next to each other.”
Simple enough, except that the opponents must complete 4 laps of the 250m track to determine who wins, and the competitors usually spend the first 750m of the race riding at an roughly the same pace as the athletes competing in the bike race portion of the old ‘Superstars’ series (and how awesome was that, by the way?), with one rider hoping to use the aerodynamic advantage inherent in drafting to slingshot around the other to the finish line. It is not uncommon to see both riders at a dead stop halfway up the track waiting to see who blinks first, followed by a pell-mell dash to the finish line.
SI thinks the Netherlands’ Theo Bos will take the gold, and since I love me some Orange, I see no reason to disagree. Look out for Jennie Reed of the good old US of A in the distaff competition. Because she’s a big girl moving really fast, and if you don’t look out you’ll wind up pancaked.
Competition starts on August 16, with the finals for both genders on the 19th.