Sunday, March 26, 2006

Adventures at the Commonwealth Games- cycling

This afternoon, I went to watch the Commonwealth Games cycling time trail event. My main intention was photography; I was not overly concerned about who got which medal.

After some aimless wandering, I settled on viewing from a corner, where cyclists would lean into the curve. I stood on the outer edge of the curve after convincing myself with some geometric arguments that it would difficult to shoot photos from the inside. Right across me was a press photographer, and he was the same guy I saw across me during the marathon.

Today’s cycling event

Last week’s marathon event

Most spectators were leaning on the barriers, some with hands dangling over it. Across the road, a kid was holding an empty green 750ml bottle that once contained a refreshing charge of Sprite. She managed to drop it onto the course.

The orientation of the bottle, the contour of the course, and the effect of gravity conspired to roll the bottle onto the racing line. The fact that the racing line was very close to the inner wall meant the bottle would be invisible till very late, potentially tripping up the cyclists. If the main group arrived at that moment, it would have catastrophic.

A few of the spectators who saw the bottle early and who still had clarity of thought tried to attract the attention of a pair of police officers but they were out of audible range. Presently, spectators upstream of the corner began clapping and cheering in a slightly lacklustre manner, indicating the imminent arrival of a small group of cyclists, none of which are Australian.

This might turn into a big moment. I was a little downstream of the bottle, and my line of sight towards the little troublemaker was tangent to the racing line. At the instant of the cyclists approaching the bottle, I would be facing them from the front.

I pointed the camera. From previous shots, it was already on high speed continuous shooting mode, auto focus was set to single region high speed AF and the exposure parameters were already fixed.

The bottle was already on the racing line and still rolling lazily. A trio of cyclists in red (possibly 2 Canadians and one Malawian) rounded the blind curve.

The spectators silently watched, transfixed. A high speed drama was unfolding before their eyes.

The bottle came into the cyclists’ view.
“Watch for the bottle!” the leading Canadian yelled at his team-mate.

The red trio tightened their lines perceptibly, missed the bottle by about 6 inches, and they went on their way.


In most circumstances, my error in handling the camera would have been trivial and of no great importance. However, if the cyclists had indeed tripped over the plastic bottle and I missed the shot, my carelessness would have been interpreted as catastrophic stupidity that would warrant the creation of a new subsection in the Master List of Stupid Things.

Turns out I did not turn the camera on.


Shortly after I arrived (about 2 hours after the event started), I saw 2 Malaysian cyclists breeze by in their garish orange outfits. If I’m not mistaken, they were Suhardi bn Hassan and Anuar bn Manan.

I told myself I’ll find a nice spot (which I did) and make sure I take their photos. It might get into The Star’s photo submission.

Subsequently, I did not see any more orange flashes. Turns out they picked up DNFs (did not finish) for themselves. All six of the cyclists!

It’s not as bad as it may seem. 138 competitors started the 166km race, and only 35 finished- 3 quarters dropped out. Still, the six DNFs is not something to be proud about.

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