Monday, June 27, 2011

Making Face...

that's right, making face. But, let me explain. While this may be meant as a vaguely humorous post, don't take it to mean that I am belittling, or making fun of anyone. In fact, when you get right down to it, the exact opposite is the case. This is closer to a tribute of a riders' dedication and effort than anything else. Obviously I am not talking about faces made in an attempt to be funny, faces consciously made to illicit a reaction. No, these faces are made in the heat of a moment, individual reactions to a moment of intense activity. What is interesting is that not everyone reacts the same, given the same situation. Take the above photo for instance; three racers at basically the same place at the same time. Three different faces - one seemingly calm and relaxed, one very dramatic and intense, and one in the middle ground.

More often than not, the making of face happens during a sprint, though I suppose face could be made during an especially strenuous climb as well or, even going flat out on a fast, flat stretch of road. Making face is an involuntary response of facial and neck muscles, which occurs when a rider is producing maximum effort. Or beyond maximum. There is no thought process involved, it just happens.

When a rider makes face, he, or she (because making face is equal opportunity), might be in the middle of a chase or pursuit, pushing the biggest gear, leg muscles screaming, mouth so wide a bird might mistake it for a nesting hole, as the rider tries to suck in as much air as possible. A very hot day might produce the same kind of face; so might a steep climb, especially one at higher elevations. For my money though, the best faces are made during sprints. My first experience with this was in a six man sprint; we were perfectly even across the road. I had never put so much effort into a sprint before. Though I only managed fourth best I knew immediately that the face was there, and afterward it was like "cool, I made face." I never knew what it looked like - there was no one taking photos, but I knew it was there, and most importantly, I knew I had put everything I had into the sprint because I made face.

There are different degrees of face-making. For instance, you can go out and do intervals, giving 100% effort for short periods of time, but by yourself and without the added incentive of competing against another rider. Your mouth might be agape, your neck muscles taut. But, it is different in the heat of competition. The guy, or gal, next to you is also giving 100% effort. To win, you have to find someway to dig out a little bit more, to go beyond that 100% mark. That is when truly great faces are made. And the wins that often accompany them.

I wonder if you can make generalizations connecting certain face-types to specific activities. Are wide open mouths more common to chases and time trials? Are grimaces and clenched teeth more common to sprints? One common statement that can be made is that faces reflect the intensity of the moment. The more intense the moment, the more that intensity tends to be exhibited in the making of face.

Clearly this was a very visual oriented piece, so thanks to everyone who in the process of doing what they love, provided some great faces.

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