The strangest bike race you haven’t seen

Competitors in the Marymoor Crawl have to stay in a trackstand for more than three minutes before the race begins. If they don't, they're disqualified. Screen grab from video

Competitors in the Marymoor Crawl have to stay in a trackstand for more than three minutes before the race begins. If they don’t, they’re disqualified. Screen grab from video

Track cyclists need a whole lotta fast-twitch muscle fibers to win their short races. Roadies need some slow-twitch for their hours-long competitions. Marymoor Crawl participants? They need no-twitch—a.k.a. amazing balance—just to get to the starting line.

This bike race, which has been held annually in Redmond, Wash., since 2005, requires competitors to stay upright with almost no movement for at least three minutes. We say "almost" because the race starts in turn four of the 400-meter track and riders can't pass the start line before the starting bell rings. If they put their foot down, flat-out fall, ride off the track, or lean on another rider or the handrail, they're out before the race begins. To increase the risk factor, officials position themselves on the inside of the track, inching closer to the line and handing out cash prizes along the way as the clock ticks to lure riders ever closer to the start line—think the old carrot-on-the-stick trick.

The balancing act ends when the bell is struck: at an undisclosed time between three and four minutes. After that, it's an all-out one-lap sprint.

Watching these athletes struggle to stay upright is surprisingly fun to watch. And after the huge attrition rate, that sprint is damn fun viewing too.

Under the moniker "The Longest Lap," the race just made its European debut at the 2014/15 Revolution Series at the Lee Valley Velodrome in the UK. Clear your schedule for a few minutes and check it out; you won't be disappointed.

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