Below is a video of the 1990 Match Sprint Cycling World Championships. It is the only video of match sprint cycling I have ever watched. In fact, about a half hour ago, I never even knew this sport existed.
But I feel confident telling you that you have to watch this video, especially if you are unfamiliar with this outrageous yet completely captivating sport.
As one of the top comments on the video says, “I feel like I’m watching some mysterious mating ritual.” Watch the video. You’ll see that this is a very apt description.
Before you watch though, answer a quick question in your head for me: how long do you think it takes to complete a three-lap cycling sprint race between two people in which the top speed is over 40 mph? 35 seconds? One minute? Longer? Get an answer in your head for a frame of reference.
Admit it, this was far more entertaining than you ever imagined.
I’m just flabbergasted that after 30+ years of being a sports junkie that I’ve never stumbled upon this sport before. I can’t say I’ll become a fan or start following it, but I feel a strange sense of satisfaction having now been introduced to it and moved to the edge of my seat by it.
The most captivating parts are, of course, where the cyclists attempt to bring their bikes to a complete stop. The announcer comments how much thigh strength this takes.
But here is my question, for which I’m sure there is a logical answer: Why doesn’t one guy start his mad dash earlier, like during one of these bike-stop periods? My guess is that the cyclists can only hold their top speed for so long, so they have to kill time together like this on the first two laps.
I don’t know. I need to ponder the strategy here a bit.
Ah, here we go. From the Wikipedia page on sprint cycling:
When racing at high speed, the rider who manages to stay just behind their opponent can draft, expending less effort. By riding behind the ‘lead out’ rider, the second rider reduces the aerodynamic drag they feel. Just before the finish, the trailing rider pulls out of the slipstream, and using their fresher legs may be able to overtake their opponent before the line. To prevent this, the leading rider may choose to accelerate quickly before the last lap, hoping to catch his opponent off guard and establish a large enough gap to negate the aerodynamic effect or to keep the speed high enough to prevent his opponent from completing a pass.
I’m not a cyclist, so I always forget about the drafting part. Now it makes sense.
Either way, it makes for far more compelling video than I ever would have imagined.
Anyone else know of some random, off the wall sports like this one? Now I’m curious as to what else is out there I don’t know about…