Fast Starts


At the championship cycling race during my senior year in high school I planned a breakaway with two other riders with the hopes of riding away at the start.  We had already race three stages over two-days so all the competitors were a bit fatigued.  We had confided our plans with a member of another team who we asked to join our efforts to eliminate other contenders by surprise them from the start.  He agreed and we dispersed ourselves across the front of the starting line.  Since the final road race was 60-miles there was no real urgency to race from the gun.  The starter’s pistol sounded and the two other riders accelerated forward.  I clipped into my pedals and then proceeded to unclip immediately.  I hesitated, attempted to rengage the cleat and pedal only to flail.  After three attempts I was finally secure but the element of surprise was long gone and my two conspirators were on their way.  I found myself completely paralyzed, having prepared to race full out from the start I was now sitting in the middle of the pack obsessing over the failed shoe and pedal routine.  My breakaway companions were eventually caught more than halfway into the race, clearly missing an additional partner to share in the effort of staying off-the-front.  The pack stayed together to the end and the sprinters rejoiced in the mass rush to the line.

The experience stays with me as a reminder of the importance of being prepared if a fast start is your strategy.  The small details of clipping into a pedal separated me from participating in what would have been a memorable adventure.

Quick Starts

A visit today to a kid’s science discovery center reminded me of an interesting concepts.  A fast start can lead to an insurmountable lead.

Three balls are released at the same time.  The track furthest from the camera has a steady downhill grade, the middle one has a steeper grade with an uphill finish.  The track closest to the camera drops immediately and then curves upwards towards the finish line.  As you can may be able to discern the ball on the track closest to the camera is clearly in the lead.  It gains so much momentum in the first second that the balls on the other tracks have no chance to recover from their slower starts.

Perhaps the math riddle from grade school is another demonstration.  A bridge is two miles long and if a car travels 60 MPH the driver will reach the far side in two minutes.  The driver and car travel the first mile at 30 MPH.  How fast must the driver and car cover the second mile in order to reach the other side before two minutes expires?

The answer which you immediately recognized is that the car has already taken two minutes to cover the first mile and driving 90 MPH or 120 MPH is not going to overcome the slow start.  

Planning is important but scheduling the right itinerary is critical to success.  How do you ensure your enterprise has assumed the right pace to be successful?  If it is worth engaging into a enterprise.