Sunday, August 14, 2016

Does This Derny Make Me Look Dorky?

Maybe it's just that I was tired when I started watching, but the Olympic sport of Women's Keirin was such an amazing spectacle.

It starts on the steeply banked velodrome track, riders' feet buckled onto their pedals, embracing the men who are their handlers. Waiting for the start. Waiting for... the uniformed guy on a motorized bicycle to come around the track behind them, making the turn, riding on the inside lane.

This guy is sitting very upright. None of the hunched-over streamlined posture for him. His helmet is the round, nerdy type. He wears khakis and a polo shirt in the Rio Olympics colors. And he's not pedalling.

So the best funny thing is this dorky guy -- riding a thing called a derny. ("Hello! You're in the Olympics? What's your athletic event?" "I drive the derny." Silence.) He doesn't have to look athletic. He doesn't have to be athletic. He just has to ride around the track, five and a half times (if you don't count the first half lap before the official start), sitting straight up, looking straight ahead, increasing his speed only incrementally through each lap.

Finally, after watching this measured procession around and around and around the track, the derny pulls out and the sprint ensues. This is when the cyclists get down and dirty, jockeying for new positions, sizing up the field, knowing when to push to the head of the pack for the lead. This is when all the strategy they've had in their heads comes to fruition. This is the action. Two and a half laps of all-out, adrenaline-revving sprint riding. "He's gone! Let's go!"

The photo below is not from this year's Olympic event, but I love how this dernyman looks a bit like a traffic patrol officer. All business. Do not exceed the speed limit. Period. This portion of the race is not. a. race.

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