Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bike Ballet

One of the three major pro bike races of the year, the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), began yesterday. It features a TTT—a team time trial. That's when all nine members of a pro team ride together over a prescribed course, one team at a time, racing against the clock. The team that rides the prescribed course fastest wins the TTT segment of the three-week race. The TTT is one of the most popular stages in a pro bike race for the fans who watch on TV. The TTT is a carefully choreographed ballet—nine riders flying in a straight line at upwards of 30 mph, tire to tire. They can lose up to three members (crashes, mechanical problems) and still win if they cross the line with six of the starting nine. The time of the fifth rider to cross the line (I think) is the time given to the entire team.

Michael Barry, who rides for the British Sky Team (and writes about pro bike riding), published this video of the Sky Team practicing near Amsterdam for the Giro d'Italia TTT. There is a camera attached to his handlebars, and another attached to a trailing motorcycle (I think) that Barry turns on as they set out. In the video, watch how fast they move and how closely they ride to one another—and how the lead rider in the train, who does the hard work of breaking the air barrier at the front of the line, peals off after about 20-30 seconds of hard pulling at the front, and fades back to last place in line to catch his breath. The line cycles that way for the entire length of the course. And watch for the HUGE two bladed wind-powered electrical generator (near the beginning of the video)—Europe is way ahead of the U.S. in alternative energy.

Watch for a yellow car that passes the team on the road and throws something at the riders, and the reaction of the Team Sky rider in white. I might expect that in the U.S.—surprising to see it in Holland where biking is ingrained in the culture. Idiocy knows no nationality, I guess.

And check out the Team Sky bus that ferries the riders from race to race. Nice.

In the words of the lyrics to the techno rhythm accompanying the video, "If you got a pair of headphones—you better get 'em on and get 'em cranked up!" (See more of Michael Barry's writing and videos about life as a pro bike rider at his blog, Michael Barry: Le Métier.)

Oh, and I have to say: Team Sky rides the Pinarello Dogma 60.1 (the Pinarello Graal is the brand new time trial version of the Dogma), a fold-out picture of which is taped to my bathroom mirror. It's an Italian dream machine. I have never ridden a time trial bike and would be scared to. They're like regular race bikes except, instead of regular handlebars, they have tiny hand grips jutting off the front of the handlebars that the riders grasp, with their elbows resting on the handlebars, to create more of an aerodynamic position for speed. Thus, in the video, you see the camera on Barry's bike shooting between his two hands. The closer your hands are together, the less control one has over the bike. And at 30 mph . . . ? I would love to do this—bike ballet!

No comments:

Post a Comment