The sprint World Champ has figured out his role. I have the luxury of a common language with the Dutch, so my first pro Six has gone fairly smoothly. They've acted as translators for VIP schmoozers, organizers and announcers, and I'm endlessly grateful. However. They nor I speak anything close to French, and Bauge speaks about 10 words of English, so that line of communication has been iffy. High-fives, shrugs and smiles only go so far.
But finally, after a few touch-and-go evenings, the massive french champion really Gets It. Before the kierin we are all relaxing in the cabins, mocking some awful song the DJ has chosen, when Bauge throws down a fierce French rap. Yondi immediately makes for the announcer's booth, smiling wickedly.
As you wind up for your 200, it's equally important to wind up the crowd. I ride my 200 while the previously mentioned "Born In The USA" plays at maximum volume, with the first two laps at the rail no-hands, clapping to the beat and willing the crowd to cut loose. So far, the DJ's have chosen some lifeless techno song for Bauge to wind up to, but tonight is different. He rolls up the track with his usual World Champion game face. Deadly serious. A true professional. There is a moment of silence as he climbs the banking and the song cues up. The chorus of 50 Cent's "In Da Club" erupts from the speaker stacks and the crowd absolutely loses it. Bauge smiles wide and for the first time seems to be enjoying himself, bobbing his head and dancing with the crowd on lap 2.
We are circus animals in colorful clothing, brought here to play to our national stereotypes and entertain the patrons. Winning the race and destroying your competition is secondary to the much more difficult task of winning the crowd.
They will know immediately if you are over your head. These people have watched cycling like football their entire lives, and there are no excuses worth their time. So make it a good one. Get out of the gate like you mean it, don't disrespect someone with rainbow stripes and give it everything for the show. There is no UCI or USCF rapping your knuckles for headbutts or chops. If we raced like they want us to at US Nationals, spectators would leave their seats and never again slap down 30 euros to watch a bike race. No reward without risk.