Sting goes to a bike race and lugs his camera instead oF his bike. Here he casts aspersions on bike racing in Singapore.

First, some random comments
Its been a very long time since I even did anything remotely racy. Ever since I went back to school and decided I would be a cyclo-tourist, I've been putting my thoughts and energies elsewhere while my body slowly assumes the convex shape approaching the mean figure for an average male East Asian, late twenty something. But big things have been happening in the sporting scene.

First of all, the government is willing to let sporting bodies and associations lease for free, vacant state land. This is the best thing that has happened to sport, and cycling in general, for a long time. I hope SACA has the foresight to request a little bit of land, preferably accessible and near an MRT, so that they can pave a nice little oval on it and have some track racing. Not only will it kick start a discipline that has become a distant memory in Singapore, it will serve as a new focal point for cycling activities.

Another Criterium

Anyway, the semester finally ended and so I decided to go see a bike race. It should be fun. Plus Gingerman had been harping for ever about how dangerous the course was and that it was too short and everybody would be too strong and want to sprint. I quite disagree with that point of view. Bike Racing is about learning what you can and cannot handle. If you think you can race in a bunch gallop to the line, then go ahead. But if you crash, you only have yourself to blame and not the organizer. I don't believe the organizer is at fault if crashes happen in a bunch sprint. Bunch sprints are part of bike racing. The danger of such violent exertions amongst amateurs is inherent but also apparent so if you dare, join in. Otherwise, try to win solo or stay back.

Having said that, the race in the Junior Veterans Category was quite expensive. Thousands of dollars of equipment was damaged and three guys at least ended up with broken bones. I wish them a speedy recovery from one of the least pleasant aspects of our sport.

Most of the categories passed by without incident. Big Stick in the Junior Vets tried to escape once but unsuccessfully and he was brought down in the crash costing him a back wheel. Beef made it through. Justin in Sports is still learning the ropes - the only thing I remember from watching this race was the amount of yelling going on in the group.

What I liked best was watching the Open Category with the elite riders. This was the type of racing I liked best. Aggressive attacks, counter-attacks and bike throws on the line. Add a super hot day, and it would be a fun race to watch.

From the word go, riders were aggressive. After a couple of laps, the situation was: Arab and a Cannondale rider on the front. Junaidi (who is also a Cannondale rider) trying to bridge up to the break and the pack trying to keep tempo. I could tell from the grimacing faces in the pack.

Here, the first strange thing happened. Junaidi did not make it to the break. It leads me to wonder: Why didn't his team-mate in front wait for him? Junaidi is a very strong cyclist. If he, his team-mate and Arab had gotten together, they would have constituted a break with serious firepower. Arab is a strong guy and Junaidi is probably Singapore's number 1 endurance cyclist right now. For some reason, his coach did not ask the team mate in front to wait. So you must ask yourself: Are they a real team? Or do they ride for themselves and only wear the same uniform? Is there a coach relaying information back and forth?With Junaidi back in the pack, the break was doomed. Still you gotta give it to them for trying. They kept a steady pace and from my point of view, seemed to be working well. But the day was hot and the race was short and there were willing workers back in the pack.

Forces of Nature

Once the break was inevitably absorbed, a counter break soon formed with four riders. Junaidi again numbered inside them. I missed the attacks that led to this but it must have been heavy stuff that tired out the rest of the pack. The rest of the guys were now racing for fifth place. The race had evolved because people were tired. They were now racing amongst themselves instead of focusing on chasing down the escapes. It was late in the race and those left behind were now on a zero-sum game scenario. It was like multi-player Prisoner's Dilemma. The guy who does the least work upon catching the break would probably win. Because its not possible to share out the work equitably, each person worked for himself. There were multiple attacks by individuals and multiple chases to stick to the attacker. Once a racer is stuck in such a scenario, it is almost impossible to break free. You could even call it Loser's Force of Attraction. The pack of Losers stick together and just wouldn't let go of anyone. There's comfort in numbers. I've seen this time and again having done my bit of time in the pack behind the leaders.

All too soon, it was the finish. I was about to shoot some pix of the winners sprinting to the line when some guys stepped in front of me. Mea Culpa, I'll get a longer lens and find somewhere else next time. But I did get the shot of the guy throwing his bike perfectly to get fifth place. Wonderful effort. Better luck next time. And for me, I've cast enough aspersions. Time to go back and study. 

Let go of me!!! A good throw!
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