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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

You know the old joke: Two cyclists walk into a bar. Then they get on stationary bikes and pedal like crazy. OK - it's not an old joke. It's actually a form of racing called goldsprints, and it's a social event as much as it is an athletic competition. Vermont Public Radio's Angela Evancie reports from the city of Burlington.

ANGELA EVANCIE, BYLINE: Ingredients for a goldsprints event: Two bikes, front wheels removed, set into a metal frame.

(SOUNDBITE OF CREAKING)

EVANCIE: The back wheels go on rollers. A little music...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

EVANCIE: ...and an emcee.

HUNT MANLEY: All right, everybody. Coming at you now, we're going to have Craig on your right, riding the black bike.

EVANCIE: Hunt Manley brought goldsprints to Burlington a few years ago. The sport started in Europe and has spread to bars in most major U.S. cities.

MANLEY: We're going to have Chris on the left, riding the white bike.

EVANCIE: Goldsprints racing is both extremely intense and extremely informal. All the racers here are in jeans and sneakers, or winter boots. But when they get on stage and start madly pedaling, the competition definitely heats up.

MANLEY: Here we go, let's count them down from three.

CROWD: Three, two, one, go.

EVANCIE: A goldsprint is a short sprint - 250 meters. That's .15 miles. Since the riders aren't actually going anywhere, a computer program tracks their progress. A giant screen shows who's in the lead. The crowd can see it, but the riders can't.

MANLEY: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

EVANCIE: And after 15 seconds, it's over. Waiting for your turn? Have a $3 beer while Matt Boulanger sets up the next race.

MATT BOULANGER: Goldsprints racing and generally consumption of alcohol have gone more or less hand in hand.

EVANCIE: Anything to beat the winter blues, right? Note the trashcan in front of the bikes, in case you overdo it.

BOULANGER: Most people who are, quote-unquote, "seriously training" probably wouldn't see it as serious training. It's more for fun and to see how fast you are against your friends and that kind of thing.

MANLEY: All right, here we go.

CROWD: Three, two, one, go.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

ERIC NEWBURY: This is like the most ridiculous sport I've ever seen.

EVANCIE: Eric Newbury rides with the cycling team at the University of Vermont.

NEWBURY: I've never been to this before, and I walked in and people are just flailing on these bikes. It's not really what you'd do if you were racing in a road race, but it's kind of fun to do because everyone wants to do it at heart, so.

EVANCIE: This is also Corey Burdick's first time.

COREY BURDICK: It was tougher than it looks. They said it was only 15 seconds but feels a lot longer.

EVANCIE: Burdick is a runner, not a cyclist - but she still leaves with a prize, like everyone else: water bottles, beer cozies, artisan coffee beans. The winner of the night gets a nice, warm helmet for winter riding of the outdoor sort. For NPR News, I'm Angela Evancie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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