Friday, September 12, 2008

velodrome weather

Down here a lot of things are back-the-front. For instance, we have our track racing season in the summer. We swelter under the corrugated iron roofs of the indoor velodromes. We fry and bake in the scorching centres of the outdoor tracks, our tyres exploding at random in the heat. Sweat pours from our brows as we struggle to get a wheel or cog change made in time for the start.

The time is nigh. Today it reached 24 degrees (Celsius). Daylight savings and evening rides are coming. The summer wind gusts that make breaking away on an outdoor track a nightmare (spinning out in one straight and labouring into the gale on the opposite one) have appeared for the first time in months. All the lovely machines will be hanging for only a short time more in the garages of trackies across Melbourne. Some glint of chrome, some of blood red or deepest metallic blue. Others are shiny, curvaceous, carbon black. Soon these masterpieces of engineering will flash around the track under the Australian sun.

High pressure air escapes as tyres are inflated. Sausages sizzle on the BBQ, the smell of burning fat is nauseating. Newly spoked wheels ping and creak into place. The starter's whistle blows. Kids focus on the line: too high on the bends, too wobbly on the straights, intense concentration furrowing their brows. The girls too, although outnumbered many to one, stake out their claim to track space. Grown men tussle and strain. The bicycles flash like lightning – chrome sears retinas. The lap bell rings. The swearing begins, at oneself as much as anyone else, or at nobody in particular. Darting from within the bunch, lunging for the line, laughing from the sheer joy of it. You have survived another race. Wobbly knees, vomit rising in your throat, head throbbing, heart pounding, sweat pouring. How long until the next start?

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