Sanderson balks at Econ-Bio bike race challenge

By Tyler Warner

The reputation of the University of Chicago department of economics took a significant hit this past Sunday, but it wasn’t its academic authority that came into question—rather, it was its athletic prowess. Allen Sanderson, senior lecturer in economics, failed to attend a bicycle race to which he had been challenged by master of the Biological Sciences Division José Quintáns.

The race was to be held at Sunday’s Monsters of the Midway bike race. Monsters of the Midway is a yearly biking event consisting of around 10 separate races, each based loosely on skill. Sanderson and Quintáns were set to race in the final event of the day, the “Citizens’” race. However, the competitors were to be engaged in a race quite different from the rest of the riders. Dubbed the University of Chicago Velo Club (UCVC) Bio Sciences–Economics Challenge, the showdown was intended to answer the question of whether economics or biology was the superior discipline.

There was some discrepancy over who issued the challenge. Quintáns claimed that Sanderson failed to show up to a challenge that the economist himself had made, while Sanderson maintained that it was Quintáns who gave him false information when issuing the challenge.

Dressed in red UCVC spandex shorts and a UCVC jersey, Quintáns looked the part of the cyclist as he berated his absent opponent.

“I don’t see any economists here, but I’m not surprised after they had seen my thighs,” he said.

In a response via e-mail, Sanderson offered a reason for his absence.

“José told me late Friday afternoon that mountain bikes, which I have, are not allowed,” Sanderson said. “Of course, I considered that he was lying and trying to cheat his way to victory, but I took him at his word. And he also said that helmets are required, and I prefer to ride au naturél, with the wind in my hair, Diet Coke in my hand, and I-Pod buds in my ears. So I didn’t take up this challenge.”

Additionally, Sanderson claimed that the timing of the event was decidedly in favor of the biologist.

“Holding the race on Mother’s Day also hampered us. Most economists spent the day talking to our mothers and grandmothers, Fed-Exing them expensive gifts, and otherwise reflecting on the importance of relationships in life, whereas BSD faculty and students, with the steel coldness of a stethoscope…were more likely not to be distracted and thus able to focus on the race.”

This is not the first challenge of the sort between the two academics. Last year, Quintáns allegedly issued a challenge to Sanderson to race up the stairs of the Sears Tower by giving him a dead fish wrapped in a copy of the Maroon. Quintáns was the victor of that race. According to Sanderson, Quintáns issued this year’s challenge by sending Sanderson “a photo of Paul Krugman weeping at Karl Marx’s tomb in London.”

At a little after 4:30 p.m., the race got underway. The course was a 1.1-mile loop around the Midway.

After the first lap, Quintáns had already fallen about 300 yards back from the lead pack and behind all but one cyclist. By the end of the race he had been lapped twice, although he claimed victory in the only race with which he was concerned.

According to Sanderson, another challenge will be offered soon.

“There will definitely be a gauntlet thrown down in the very near future, as soon as I can order one from a sweatshop in Bangladesh,” he said.

Asked whether he would accept another challenge were it offered by Sanderson, Quintáns responded, “Yes, but I will do it in a wheelchair.”