Track Cycling

I’ve been enjoying the track cycling events at the Olympics (and ignoring most of the rest of the Games). Hitherto, I’ve only watched road-racing in general and the Tour de France in particular. Well done, the British team, etc. (Actually, they’ve been remarkably good, and it looks as if they’ll all be winning at least one medal — assuming Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins can pulls something off in the Madison. I hope they get to sit next to the Judo team on the plane on the way home.)

But what I was going to say was this: aren’t all the track events basically very silly? I was watching the team pursuit earlier today, and thinking what a silly event that was, before reflecting that there were at least four sillier events (the sprint, the points race, the Madison and the Keirin — and, arguably, a fifth, the team sprint, which is, let’s face it, pretty silly). Has velodrome cycling always been silly, or has it become progressively sillier over time?

17 thoughts on “Track Cycling”

  1. The keirin strikes me as the finest Olympic event imaginable, and has been my favourite thing of the games so far. It would be almost impossible to invent, has a crazy provenance (ditto the Madison), and yet remains utterly compelling to watch. Wonderful stuff.

  2. Or, as someone puts it on the Graun’s site, the Brits have “already cleaned up in the Riding Fastest In A Line, Riding Fastest By Yourself, Riding Fastest on the Opposite Side of the Track, Riding Fastest On The Same Side of the Track and, most impressively, Riding Fastest Behind A Little Chinese Bloke On A Moped.”

  3. I suspect that the little bloke on the moped may have been Japanese rather than Chinese. Presumably it’s a very specialist skill being a keirin-moped-fella.

  4. I think that the butterfly stroke is sillier; someone decided “we’ve got front crawl, and we’ve got breatstroke, but we really need something that’s sort of intermediate between the two, looks silly to boot and you have to be really good at swimming to do it at all, notwithstanding the fact it’s not as fast as front crawl. That’s such a good idea that it deserves more than one event – let’s have three gold medals for it”

  5. The Guardian’s Olympics coverage has really been very good indeed. Here they are asking the questions that matter, “how does Chris Hoy fit into a pair of trousers?” and “just how weird is Rebecca Romero?”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/aug/19/britisholympicteam.olympics2008

    And comic, in a way, that the only member of the track team not to win a medal at the Games is Mark Cavendish, who won stage after stage after stage in the Tour.

  6. Hi Chris, and Martin

    I’ve been enjoying the cycling, much to my surprise. I agree about the craziness – i’m all for it. The race where they chase a guy on a moped brings to mind human greyhound racing. And having just been in Australia for a while, and having to sit through their commentary, I am espcially glad that we are beating the Aussies in the table!

  7. Obviously I am deep down a post-nationalist cosmopolitan citizen of the world, ect ect, but, yes, it is very satisfying to be ahead of the Australians, and whoever decided that that was the match-up that mattered deserves credit.

  8. I think the credit for the decision that UK/Australia was the key match-up has to go to John “not bad for a country with few pools and no soap” Coates of the Australian Olympic Committee.

  9. Speaking of cycling, I saw a little bit of BMX this morning, and was quite prepared to deride it, but actually it was rather good, quite similar to the sledging events in the winter games.

  10. As I understand it butterfly was invented to win in a breaststroke race where the original rules simply required synchronised arm pulls and leg kicks. Some bright spark noticed that the rules didn’t mention whether the arm recovery had to be under or over the water. None the less you could probably bin one of the two strokes (though that’d make the IM a bit short).

  11. I’ve no real problem with buttefly. I think it’s funny.

    I suppose my only thought is this: to the extent that swimming disciplines are similar, so that the same athlete can hoover up loads of medals by competing in the various races, to that extent I’m sceptical about any claim about Phelps being the greatest ever Olympian. Sure, he’s won a lot of medals, but it looks as if that’s something swimmers can do, and other kinds of athletes can’t, because of the nature of the set of medals on offer. (If there was a 60m and a 150m and a 250m sprint, then Usain Bolt would probably have three more gold medals, but he wouldn’t be any greater an athlete than he is at the moment.)

    So for me an athlete like Carl Lewis is a much greater Olympian, in that he won in the sprints and in the long jump (and I’d be seriously seriously impressed with someone like Phelps if he’d also won a medal or two in the boxing). I think we’re more impressed by the swimmers than we should be.

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