Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Night of Sprints

Last night I made a new twist in my short racing career: match sprints. I am not a track sprinter, though this was well known to me beforehand, I confess.

Upon a darkening service road alongside the major arterial known to locals as Lakeshore Boulevard West, I spotted them. They were few in number but visible slightly with their blinking white and red lights against the darkness of the November night. Having spend forty-five minutes doing warm-up laps around the fairgrounds on the other side of Lakeshore, I felt as ready as my rusted old Paulie bike would ever be. Nadir saw me head to toe in lycra and slapped my hand with a laugh.
I had made my preparations: switched out my old French toeclip pedals for new French roadies, my heavy front track wheel for my twenty spoke road wheel and GP Attack 22C tire, and removed the rear fender. Lycra was applied in club-style layers. All wrong for this underground-style messenger sprinting event, but I thought it best anyway. Everyone else was in jeans and black hoodies, faces pierced and riser bars chopped, as per current styles. Some even raced converted road frames or freewheel bikes; the best time of the night was put down by a guy in street clothes riding something that vaguely resembled the first proper road bike I ever owned, a chipped and scratched Miata with a sagging chain.
I chose to race Daniel, who I used to work with at the Path. A good young guy. He broke his collarbone getting doored in Berlin this past summer. Hey, if you're going to get f#$ed up, best to do it somewhere stylish. I was hoping he wasn't yet fully healed as I too am nursing a bike- related wound. A young twit on a mountain bike plowed into me last Monday evening as I made my way carefully home in the dark and the rain of rush hour. I was just careful enough to slow up at a green-turning yellow where a car was turning into my path in the streetcar-tracked intersection, when Idiot slams right into me, handlebar into ribs. Never mind my two blinking red turtle lights and reflective tape on my courier bag, this young fool saw nothing.

Point is, Daniel had me in the first and second round rematch. My spinney gear ratio, tight chain, bruised ribs (and therefore reduced core strength) were all major marks against me. A loose chain reduces rolling resistance at the start, I learned. I canvassed him for a third chance but boredom/distaste had set in, and I had to make do with a much bigger, younger and faster opponent who dropped me at the start line. Oh well.

A two hundred metre standing-start track sprint really has no subtlety. There is no psychological element around who gets the jump on who - in this case it was about overall times for the night. The guy who won did it time-trialing (14.79 sec.), with no opponent to race against. He beat the guy who showed up in a minivan with a lovely white Cinelli and a $2000+ Zipp disc wheel that made a popping sound when he started, as though it had cracked at first pedalstroke. High tech and light weight = extreme brittleness.
I got closer in the re-match but still got smoked - didn't really even know where the finish was and surged past after it. We actually bumped right after the start, that's how close it was.

No comments: