Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Great Race

Photo completely unrelated, I just like it. 
About a month ago I was toying with the idea of buying myself one of those fancy GoPro video cameras. They're not cheap and the idea eventually lost its appeal when I realised that shooting movies from the front of the bike probably wasn't going to yield anything too compelling.

This morning however, I really regretted my choice. I was cruising down Hobart's bike path when I came across a middle-aged bloke on a mountain bike, knobby-tyres, backpack, obviously riding to work like me. I was on the Thorn Tourer - at a steady pace but not really in a hurry -  and slowly reeled him in. I drew level, passed and continued on my way.

A couple of kilometres on, I heard the unmistakable sound of knobbies being wound up to warp speed. It was clear my mate had found a sudden turn of speed. He flew by, out of the saddle and cranking on the gentle uphill which precedes the long descent from New Town to the Tasman bridge.

Now I was faced with a dilemma. With skinny high pressure tyres and a distinct weight advantage, it was inevitable I was going to catch this bloke on the downhill run. Passing him wasn't really an option because he was only going to come back harder and I really didn't feel like racing him. I'm only trying to get to work and I don't want to get there all sweaty and tired.

I gradually reel him in again, closing the gap to about three bike lengths as we approached the barriers at Bay Road. My mate grabs a massive handful of disk brake and suddenly washes off a all his hard-won speed and flops through the barrier like a giant MTB-riding fish. I audibly click through a few gears so he knows I'm breathing down his neck.

Out of the barriers he rises from the saddle again, like a young Eddie Merckx, but without the speed, classy bike, fitness, or handling skills. We're up to speed again, but his shoulders are heaving with the strain of pushing the big gear against the gentle headwind. Surely, he thinks, he must have dropped the fat bloke on the red tourer. But how would you know?

And then he pulls the ultimate rookie move, something I've never even seen before. He starts looking back. Short glances at first, the longer wild-eyed looks. There's nothing furtive about it. He's actually turning his head and checking to see if I'm still there, whether I'm winding up to take him out. It's like the middle of a medal round in an Olympic sprint, except he's dropping speed and he's looking over his shoulder waiting for The Move. But it's never going to come. Part of me wants to drop down a few gears and put in a comical burst, but to do so would be to break the unwritten but immutable rules of the commuter race and I doubt I could keep a straight face. Instead I must sit a few lengths back, condemning my new mate to holding his pace, lest he submit to the ultimate humiliation of being passed again.

The end, when it came, was the usual anti-climax. Around the Cenotaph, he turned right toward the Aquatic Centre. Whether he was planning to turn right, or whether it just offered some welcome relief, I'll never know. Such is the nature of the Great Race. Some video would have been golden.

(I know I've written about The Great Race before, particularly the use of the Passive-Agressive Shadow Technique. But this guy was so good I just had to share.)

2591km so far this year.

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