To be a sprinter is to be composed of dynamite, sewing needle and amygdala-free alpha urges. To a true sprinter, fear is cotton candy on the tongue of a child. They negotiate holes that wink in and out of existence faster than soap bubbles. And their ability to deliver a final kick at speeds we mortals can’t fathom hitting is miraculous enough to inspire religions. Seriously, how can anyone accelerate from 40 mph?
What I wouldn’t give to have the sort of swagger that says, “I’m all that and a star at supernova. Beat that.”
It’s an experience most of us—rightly—won’t even dare to flirt with. I once overheard a grenade watching the Tour de France exclaim, “Dude, that’s cray-cray.”
There’s not another sport on the planet where, with less than a half second to the finish, there may be as many as five potential winners of the race. You won’t find that in motorsport, horse racing or any track and field event ever dreamt. Should that proverbial edge go ragged, the blast radius of carbon fiber shards, vaporized polyester and abraded skin can make a spin in the last turn of a NASCAR race—and the resulting mechanical carnage—seem like so many crushed beer cans.
What I never liked about running was managing to stay upright after the final dash to the line.
At root, a sprint requires nothing more than a rider and a bike. Like so many things, it is at its most elegant when it is at its simplest.
What makes the act such an extraordinary expression of physical prowess is the way the bicycle amplifies effort and contains it. It serves as an exponent to muscle and insurance against blackout.
Thanks to our many gears and the head-forward pitch of position we reach speeds not possible on foot. Each time the chain ticks down the cogs, the heat rises in our blood. Then comes a sprocket that sends the burn to every corner of our bodies, and even if we refuse to listen to our screaming legs, the burning elbows and ears tell us no mas!
Only in surrender does the bike grant its most surprising gift. The sheer speed of the bicycle keeps us upright like a set of training wheels.
Sprinting on a bicycle allows us to finish our meal and then eat the utensils and plate.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
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