As the 2012 Olympics started, cycling was one of the first events. As the large group of cyclists got off to their start, wearing colorful uniforms representing their respective countries, the memories came flooding back. Cycling has always been a somewhat geeky sport. The iconic movie, “Breaking Away”, was about four young men who didn’t quite fit in, coming of age. The colorful spandex that brightens the road in England today has often been a source of derision for those of us who wear them. The colorful sight of many Olympians starting the bike race was something to behold!
When I was in high school, I used to ride my Sears 3rd speed to school. Yes, a “3rd speed,” as the gears didn’t work and only had one speed. My parents bought me a bright yellow, brand new 10 speed bike, and the first day I rode it to school, it was stolen! My cycling career ended before it started. Little did I know that I would have no trouble going out and cycling a 100 miles once I turned 50.
Cyclists are often seen as a breed apart, and it’s hard not to be, toiling on the road for hours on end. In many ways, it’s a solitary sport. It’s great exercise, but does have it’s share of danger. Professional cyclists will reach speeds of 60-70 mph during downhill stretches of a race. I’ve had a couple of serious crashes over the years, but I still love to ride.
There is a lot of strategy in a road race like the one today. Whether it’s a board game or a cycling race, I love strategy! During a race such as the Tour de France, each team has nine members, allowing a strong team to share enough of the work to control a race. The most members an olympic team can have is five, making strategy much more important. The British have one of the strongest teams to ever come to an Olympic games, but that strength can be thwarted by the tactics of numerous other countries, or even by a single cyclist!
In many ways, the opening cycling event represents all that is good about the Olympics, and all that is good about Geekdom. People coming together from different countries, speaking different languages, doing what they love and giving it everything they’ve got. The crowds were there, there were the inevitable crashes, and I learned that maple syrup is a great way to prepare for a race. The strategy was complex and exciting, with multiple attempts by individual riders from different countries to apply pressure early and often. It was nip and tuck for a long time, and an exciting finish ensued. Today was a good day to be a cycling geek!
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