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Day before the Kilometer from Eric

Tuesday, Sept 21, 2004

Woke up early and headed to the track for a workout before the session started. We wanted to get in a three lap effort at speed and a standing start before everyone started warming up for the day. Didn't quite work that way though. Instead we ended up doing our flying 3 laps in pretty heavy traffic. What a rush that was. I think I could do a faster kilo if there were people randomly scattered all over the track, just because it keeps your adrenaline so high. We were zipping in and out of the lane the whole time. At one point we went 4 high in the corner to get over a crowd of riders. I felt like I was kicking butt in a keirin, not doing a practice kilo run.

Anyway, both of us feel a lot better today and we feel ready to go back out there tomorrow and hit it hard.

I really wish everyone back home had access to the live feed from the track that's being broadcast here in Athens. No moronic commentators, only the racing and the roar of the crowd. We just finished watching the finals of the men's sprints. The Aussies we had talked to earlier in the day fought a tough three ride final over the Slovakians to take the gold. It may not have been as tough for them if it weren't for the large patches of missing skin and gaping holes in their skin-suits, but they did it either way.

Earlier in the day we stuck around to watch the semi-finals and the last ride we saw was the Aussie-Japan semi-final. The Aussies had done a great job razoring the Japanese and they were bringing it home through the final turns under full power when suddenly there was shrapnel all over the track. In the next instant you could see the front of the bike visibly drop a few inches, followed by that gut wrenching site of the pilots handlebars jerking suddenly up track. He gamely fought to keep the bike upright as his Mavic iO front wheel continued to disintegrate underneath him. After 5 sections of rim had scattered themselves across the track (there are six sections total) something finally lodged in the front fork, stopping the wheel and ending any hope of keeping the bike upright. For one more long moment the bike drifted up track, the riders leaning against the Japanese bike, still trying to keep it going. Then with a rather soft thud the bike hit the track. If not for personal experience I might have thought it was a mostly painless landing, but I've been there before. I could practically feel those long wood splinters going into my hip and back as they slid down the track and came to a stop in the infield.

The next few moments are always just as long. Neither rider moves much more than to roll over onto their backs as the medics come running out with their backboards. We watched this yesterday as well when the Aussie girls lost control and went down. The medics move the riders onto backboards and lift them one by one off of the apron and onto the infield. As medics pick up a rider to take them away the crowd cheers, presumably because it's some sign that the rider is going to be OK. This was new for me. In the U.S. the crowd usually only cheers if the rider gets up and leaves at least partly under his/her own power.

After watching that happen, Matt and I were both happy to be able to see them finish the job off this afternoon.



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updated 09/21/2004
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US Paralympics

US Paralympics