Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mechanic Dan's Bike Race

When I visited Portland for the second time on my Roadtrip Through California and Oregon, I had the opportunity to attend one of Mechanic Dan's bike races. I had never watched a bike race before. I was excited to see Mechanic Dan strut his stuff!

Dear readers, meet Team Gentle Lovers.

Team Gentle Lovers consists of Mechanic Dan and Andrew the Utzmeister.

These two guys radiate hotness: beards, tats, the ability to rock the pink, and oh my god, look at the cute little bunnies on these punks' jerseys!

Look at the cute little bunnies!
These guys are undoubtedly Gentle Lovers.

The race was being held at the Alpenrose Dairy Velodrome. I had assumed that all velodromes were built to the same specs. I was wrong! Alpenrose is regarded as one of the most exciting veledromes in the United States, as the track is banked at a whopping 43 degrees. That's super-duper steep! (Most cycle tracks are banked between 25 and 33 degrees.) It was fun to stand at the edge of the velodrome and look down at the cyclists as they rode through the bank. It looked as though they were cycling parallel with the ground!

When I got to Alpenrose Dairy, I headed for the shady grass section at the south end of the velodrome and quickly started up a conversation with a lovely woman, Andrea. I asked Andrea a million questions about how the races worked, and she had a million answers for me. Andrea explained that there would be two types of races at the track this particular evening: keirins and madisons. She explained the races, in-depth, and gave me play-by-play explanations.  Lucky me!

The Keirin Race

The first race was a "keirin." This race is a motor-paced cycling race. Riders must remain behind the motorized pacer for a fixed number of laps. With each lap, the pacer increases his speed. Eventually the pacer exits the track, at which time the bikes sprint ahead to the finish line.

Below is the keirin. Notice the gentleman on the scooter at the front of the line of cyclists. (As it turns out, the gentleman was Steven, Andrea's hubby.)

The keirin, in one of the motor-paced laps.

After a few more laps, the scooter peeled off the velodrome, and the cyclists gave it their all.

The race was conducted over multiple rounds. Some of the eliminated riders got an opportunity to try again via a "repĂȘchage," a process by where cyclists who fail to continue due to a small margin are given the chance to continue to the next round.

The keirin was developed in Japan in the late 1940s as a means of gambling (cycling in Japan is like horse racing in the United States). The keirin was officially incorporated into the Olympics starting with the 2000 games, in Sydney.

The Madison Race

After the various rounds of keirins, next up were the madisons. By now, I was getting really excited to see the Gentle Lovers race!

The madison is a team race in which riders propel their partners like a slingshot along the track. While one team member races around the track, the other team member rests on the railing at the top of the track. At the end of a pre-determined number of laps, the riders then swap places. The madison rules state that riders must touch each other as they swap positions. Generally the touching is done in the form of a hand-sling, whereby after the resting rider drops down into the track, he is slung forward by the other rider, who then exists the race via the track's apron. Not only does the hand-sling satisfy the madison touching rules, but it also allows for an exciting transfer of momentum.

Oh, and to spice things up a bit, at fixed times during the race, there are sprint laps whereby teams can gain extra points by speeding ahead to be the first to complete the sprint lap.

Known as the "American Race" in France and as the "Americana" in Spain and Italy, the madison race was named after the Madison Square Garden, in New York. Interestingly, the madison race was developed as a means of bypassing laws that were intended to curb the exhaustion of cyclists taking part in multi-day races -- one rider could rest while the other charged ahead.

The madison that Mechanic Dan and Andrew raced consisted of 60 laps around the track. As the Alpenrose Dairy track is just under 269 meters per lap, this makes the entire race just over 10 miles. Mechanic Dan and Andrew swapped positions every two laps, or every 1/3 mile.

Here, Andrew is about to sling Mechanic Dan into the race.

Let's be honest, friends, there's nothing more sweet than watching two machos decked out in pink hold hands in the middle of a bike race. What Gentle Lovers!

After Mechanic Dan is slung into the race, he pedals as fast as he can.
Looking swell, Mechanic Dan!

Wow, the madison was a blast to watch! I'm so proud of Team Gentle Lovers, who took third in the race. (Did I mention that this was Mechanic Dan's first madison?)

Yeah teams!

As Gentle Lovers took their spot on the podium, they shared a hug and kissed each other (on the lips!). I wish I knew my two boys were going to exchange this symbol of affectionate, gentle love or I would have had my camera ready!

To be honest, before the races began, I didn't think that watching bicycles go around in circles around a track was going to be all that fun. But, boy, was I wrong! I had an absolute blast! By the end of the evening, I was itching to get out there and race, too. Maybe someday!

Thanks, Gentle Lovers, for an awesome evening at the track. And congrats on a stellar race!

Post Scriptum: I rode my bike over to the velodrome to watch Mechanic Dan's race. On my ride, I saw this painted in the bike lane:

Ride on, my two-wheeled pony!

Oh how I love Portland -- for so many reasons!


  1. I've always thought about going to the Marymoor Velodrome, just never got round to it! Now I might have to! Helluva job by the bunny wearers! (Michelle would love that jersey) and leave it to you to find the perfect person to sit next to!

    1. I had thought about going to Marymoor as well, but also never quite mustered up the energy (interest?) to go. But now things are different. Of course, it helps to have a friend to watch. :)

      I think you and Michelle need matching pink bunny jerseys. :)

    2. If she decides to ride instead of do half marathons we will!

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