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Thursday Night Lights

It wouldn’t be Thursday Night Lights without a little gridlock along the way. The disadvantage of the velodrome’s location is the mass of commuters making their way up 35 towards their own little slice of the American Dream in the early evening. It’s a great time to get yourself pumped with some tunes, spend some time watching dogs in other cars or talk about the coming track night with a good friend. Usually you can spot the other racers heading up as well; there’s really only one good way to get up there.

Once you’re there, it’s like you never left. You see the same faces week in and week out, figure out which wheels to follow in the event, who can be trusted, who you should stay clear of. Everyone high-fives and has a kind word to say. Occasionally early in the season, there are nerves that get the better of us and it can subdue the typically fun and free atmosphere, but those go away soon enough. Everyone is there to have a good time, and it’s hard to have a bad time when you’re racing your bike.

And if you’re up there, that’s probably what you love to do. Track racing, at its heart, is just a game. It simplifies the act of racing a bicycle to its bare necessities. There are no brakes, there is no turning back, there is just forward. Forward and “Who should I follow?” and “Why am I at the front this early?” and a lot of staring at the wheel in front of you in a haze.

You get three races a night, if the schedule pans out the normal way. This is changing for a couple of the categories as we grow and expand, but generally you get three. Three attempts at making your mark on the results board with some time to recover in between. This is a great format as it keeps the races short (the longest you do as a Cat 4 is 10 km), and allows you multiple chances at redemption. You messed up? Here, have another. It’s a pretty great way to run a competition and leads to smart racing as opposed to all-out efforts that may result in a lapse of judgement, or worse, an accident. These events generally are split into two categories, sprint or endurance.

Everyone has their most loved and their most hated event. Some only show up on nights when their particular style of racing is well represented—there are a few Thursdays when the average quad size jumps up a few inches—but most stick with it and do everything. As for my own personal favorite, I’d have to say the Chariot. Two laps of 250 m each from a standing start as fast as you can go. No tactics, no games, just go. Lovely.