By Sal Ruibal
This weekend's Olympic Mountain Bike races are the last events in the London 2012 Games and while these races are far from the most popular events at the Olympics, they are the happiest.
That's because, despite all the teary fake-hugs and glad-for-bronze smiles on NBC, the men and women racing on mountain bikes will actually have some fun. Yes, they'll be ripping their lungs out and shredding some Grade A quadriceps meat in the hunt for glory, but they'll be doing all that in a sport that is based on fun and having a good time with your friends.
I have scientific proof from the 2008 Beijing Olympics that mountain bikers and our buds in BMX have more fun than our cranky road cousins.
A careful examination of a $12 Olympic coffee mug (note Exhibit A, above) I purchased in the official Olympics store staffed by official Olympics sales clerks reveals that the Olympic mountain bike mascot is smiling while the road mascot (Exhibit B, below) is frowning and really grumpy.
Furthermore, even more scientific study of 2008 Olympic representations of BMX mascots shows those riders are ecstatic despite their hair being on fire.
BMX races last about as long as a 16-year-old boy's first sexual experience and the recovery period between heats is comparable, so that explains that.
Live Footage Further Substantiates Mr. Ruibal’s Position
To further demonstrate that mountain biking is more fun than a barrel of pickled rhesus research monkeys, I offer a video that shows actual jaded American journalists and bike industry representatives having a great time riding a trail just outside Beijing. I am the guy wearing the red-and-white Amgen Epogen/Aranesp jersey (for research purposes only).
My USA Today colleague Jim Bole is the narrator of the video. The local Trek guys hooked us up with bikes and euphoria ensued. Data was adjusted to account for the fact that most of the riders had spent the previous two weeks crammed into small dorm rooms then crammed into sweaty buses for two-hour rides to crammed media tribunes where we would watch a few hours of Olympic events followed by the terror of writing on deadline for an audience of a million or so readers.
The ride, as is observable in the research video, releases large amounts of endorphins, positive ions, tofu farts and giggles. We rode double-track high above the city and passed lots of smiling locals who thought an insane asylum had dropped onto their mountain like Dorothy dropping into Oz.
On the climb we saw men on the side of the road in boxer shorts saying their prayers while executing headstands. We heard music from a temple in the distance and smelled incense in the breeze. We laughed and they laughed and after a fast descent back to the vans we reluctantly gave back our bikes and re-entered the crazy zone. But the buzz lasted for days and every time we saw one of the riders on the bus or at a venue, we smiled and sang out, "Jai Ho!"
Home is where your heart is.