Time trial countdowns harder than you think

Race officials have a tough job, even when it comes to counting on one hand.

After watching riders leave the start house this week during the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Va., we couldn’t help but notice the lead official’s difficulty in bending his pinky but keeping his ring finger straight as he counted the riders down from 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

It’s actually pretty hard to do – try holdling all five fingers out with your left hand, bending down your thumb, then your pinky, without bending your ring finger.

Why is it so difficult?

According to Psychology in Action, the difficulty comes from imperfections in the distinction between your fingers in the motor cortex of your brain.

The area that controls your pinky isn’t completely distinct from the areas that control the other fingers, so when you try to exert control on just the pinky finger there is some spill over effect to the other fingers, according to the organization’s website.

For musicians and others who must have control over every finger, it isn’t the case. But since those people who don’t use their pinky independently and often, “the brain doesn’t bother to strongly differentiate the control of that finger from its neighbors.”

You can see the difference in your dominate hand; if you are right handed, it likely will be easier to do the countdown on that hand.

We asked USA Cycling local race official Boris DeCourt about his experience with time trial countdowns and he suggested the following:

Thumb = finger #1; Pinky = #5:
  • All five fingers extended
  • Fold #1
  • Extend #1 and fold 4 and 5
  • Fold #3
  • Fold #1
  • Show start with #2