Thursday, 2 August 2012
Understanding the Olympics - cycling
I'm no great fan of sport so I thought the Olympics would leave me cold. However, dinner with friends reminded me that everything, even sport, can be interesting once you understand it. A friend had been to see the cycling road race & regularly visits the Tour de France. He explained the intricacies of the sport and now I am fascinated by it. The really interesting thing is the peleton - this link courtesy of Wikipedia explains it. Basically (and here I apologise to anyone who REALLY knows what they're talking about because this is very much a layman's explanation) the peleton injects a very strategic element into cycling. Peleton means little ball in French and is related to the English word pellet. It refers to the process by which cyclists will bunch together in order to cut down on the amount of wind resistance. Cyclists in the middle of the little ball or cluster of cyclists can experience 40% less wind resistance, thereby resulting in them getting a rest from the amount of work their muscles have to do. Then, when it is their turn, they will return to the front of the cluster and take their turn dealing with the wind and having to cycle harder. The extraordinary thing about this process is that opponents will make this formation together, benefitting everyone until that is the time comes to seek victory. However there are times when opponents do not act as suspected. I understand that what happened the other day when Mark Cavendish failed to win an expected gold medal for Britain and said, "it just seems like most teams are happy not to win as long as we don't win." As occasionally happens in life, we witnessed a serendipitous moment in relation to this. We were at the seaside recently and were mesmerised by a shoal of fish where the front runners would swim for a few seconds, then zip to the back of the group. This ritual happened over and over again during the ten minutes we watched them. I can only assume that they were practising a similar formation to racing cyclists, fascinating. So, now I know more about it, I am finding cycling a fascinating sport. Something I had never imagined it would be!