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Descendeur

Descendeur

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We close out the 6 Days of the Giro with our sixth and final installment.

A body at rest, stays at rest. A body in motion, stays in motion. Things get a bit more ambiguous when it comes to a body on a bicycle tearing down a twisty mountain descent at speed, particularly in the rain. But it is here, on the boundary between clarity and ambiguity, where things get interesting.

Cornering feels a bit like you’re stealing from Physics, as if you’re getting away with something. Momentum, as fundamental as it is, doesn’t know what’s good for us and stubbornly wants to carry us on its merry path. The faster we go, the bigger its influence becomes and the harder we push against it, balancing on the knife’s edge between our body’s lean and the bike’s pull. For those skilled in this craft, the bicycle and rider carve through the bend in perfect harmony.

I’m not particularly good at cornering, which is to say I’m not particularly good at descending. Its a shame, too, because given my size I’m not very good at climbing, either. The way to get better is to practice, and not to give Rule #64 too much thought. You will crash if you want to get better, but you mustn’t lose your nerve. A nervous descender is a bad descender and everyone knows where to find bad descenders.

The riders getting the most practice in this discipline must surely be les grimpeurs for it seems they would be riding down all those mountains they’re riding up. The surprising truth is that this does not always appear to be the case; one need look no farther than Andy Schleck to find evidence of that particular postulate. Furthermore, one would think that a professional, who by the very nature of their occupation is quite used to finding themselves on the tarmac, would be most able to come off and not lose their nerve. This, also, doest not always appear to be the case.

The Giro, known for its narrow mountain roads, is won as much on the descents as it is on the climbs. Who can forget the 1988 Giro, which was won on the descent of the Gavia, not its climb. Or the 2002 and 2005 editions when Il Falco used every millimeter of road as he swept through the hairpin bends to distance his rivals. This year, Brad Wiggins had already put himself on the back foot on GC when he came off on a slow bend and spent the rest of the stage riding like his tires were made of glass. On the same stage, Nibali attacked and came off on a high speed corner before jumping back on his machine and rejoining the leaders moments later. The difference is a question of not only skill, but fearlessness.

// Look Pro // Six Days Of // Unforgettable Rides

  1. @mouse Sorry seem to have pushed your buttons somehow…

  2. @RedRanger Awesome!

  3. @Beers

    @mouse Sorry seem to have pushed your buttons somehow…

    Nah, don’t worry.  My gripe wasn’t pointed your way.
    I’ll pass on my tale of woe to make it all clear. 

    A few months ago, I was riding in the Dandenongs (Melbs – Great climbing, etc) and after a great session of climbing, thought that i’d descend Belgrave Ferny Creek Road.  This has a sustained section of 12+%, levels off, then finishes off with a section that’s more than 20%.  Suffice it to say that when it’s dry and your balls are feeling particularly turgid, you can get up a significant head of speed.  As I was feeling particularly turgid on this day, I was looking forward to seeing how close I could nudge 100.  Problem was, at the top of the hill, i was passed by a complete cuznor in a red ute who thought it would be good fun to fuck with me.  He passed me, then slowed to 40 km/h.  This meant that I was having to ride the brakes quite heavily on the steep grade.  So I decided that I’d had enough and got out of the saddle to pass.  This resulted in a quick acceleration and swerve to keep me behind.  We did this for a while, then he turned off at the bottom with finger raised.  Did I mention that he was a Cu* – cuznor?

    Anyhoo, I got past the level off section and proceeded to the 20+% descent. Having to check my speed as there’s an intersection at the bottom, I ended up melting the braking track on my carbon front wheel.

    My life lesson is to let them go. Get a gap, then try to catch em.  Problem is, if they’re just being arseholes, there’s not much you can do.

  4. @RedRanger So 40-50 min climb for 12 min decent ?

  5. @piwakawaka no. It’s 2 hour climb for the very fit rider. 21 miles at 5%.

  6. @RedRanger

    Looks like a very nice mountain. We should get in some good descending on the Seattle Summer Cogal. I haven’t been up from the east side of Spirit Lake, hoping the road surface is good.

  7. @mouse

    Did I mention that he was a Cu* – cuznor?

    Did you know that word is derived from the Dutch work for butt, kont?

    You’re welcome.

    @RedRanger

    @piwakawaka no. It’s 2 hour climb for the very fit rider. 21 miles at 5%.

    Wow, that kind of climb is right up my alley.

  8. @frank I keep saying that. Tucson isn’t a bad place to vacation in the winter. It’s not Hawaii but its not bad. You’ll find many a pro team having their winter training camps here. You can do a Frank vs the Lemmon series.

  9. @mouse

    Nah, don’t worry.

    I’m glad, never my intention to annoy people would rather quit posting, tongue always firmly in cheek, and noted your post here on the YJA article. I too had a similar experience to you, which gave purpose to my comment here, was a tool driving a v8 that passed me too close at the top of one of my fav descents… We are so much quicker through the tight stuff than them, which is what I was trying to get through, even though I’m no pro, I can feel better than a car driver coming down a hill..

  10. @Beers

    @mouse

    Nah, don’t worry.

    I’m glad, never my intention to annoy people would rather quit posting, tongue always firmly in cheek, and noted your post here on the YJA article. I too had a similar experience to you, which gave purpose to my comment here, was a tool driving a v8 that passed me too close at the top of one of my fav descents… We are so much quicker through the tight stuff than them, which is what I was trying to get through, even though I’m no pro, I can feel better than a car driver coming down a hill..

    First day of rain here in a while, roads slick with diesel and other nasty things. Started a long twisting descent with a yellow school bus behind me. I barely – BARELY – dropped it. I descended like a Wiggins for sure.

    Roads can be fucked when it hasn’t rained in a while.

  11. HOW DID WE MISS THIS ONE? BRR EVEN POSTED IT FOR US. V demerits all around.

  12. @frank

     I descended like a Wiggins for sure.

    And rightly so! Yeah that first rain is a total bastard, went down one day on an intersection I have ridden hundreds  of times (literally) in such condtions…

  13. @RedRanger

    @frank I keep saying that. Tucson isn’t a bad place to vacation in the winter. It’s not Hawaii but its not bad. You’ll find many a pro team having their winter training camps here. You can do a Frank vs the Lemmon series.

    I dunno: I suspect Jack Lemmon coulda kicked Frank’s ass…

  14. @Steampunk Ah, there he is.

  15. @frank

    …or we could rename the Frank vs. the Mountain “A series of unfortunate ascents.” That might take parents or younger members of the community to work out. We get a lot of teams around here that head down to Tucson for some winter training, though. It looks like a great place for it (I drove up Mt. Lemmon several years ago as part of a forest fire tour, but I’ve not ridden it).

  16. @Steampunk

    Did you get an ear infection on the way down?

  17. @frank  what do you mean ” we” white man?

  18. @piwakawaka

    @frank what do you mean ” we” white man?

    Me and the mouse in my pocket. Why, did you post it?

  19. @frank nah , great historical series tho, well worth looking up.

  20. @frank

    No. Why? But I did get an ear infection coming down Haleakala many moons ago…

  21. Here’s a link for the Bucket List

    12 of the Most Winding Roads Around the World

  22. @frank

    @piwakawaka

    @frank what do you mean ” we” white man?

    Me and the mouse in my pocket. Why, did you post it?

    Eh?

  23. @mouse Similar happened to a small groupo descending to Montrose.  5 of us (a good V bunch?) following this twerp who wouldn’t let us pass.  Near the bottom he stopped hard in the middle of the road and then flicked on the right indicator.  We were too close.  My bro rode the spoon drain on the left side, one made it around the left.  J Buskes bumped the back of the car and went over.  I rode around the right with another.  Buskes picked himself up and the driver moved to the sideroad on the right, stoopidly with the drivers side window down.  WHACK.  Buskes gave him something to remember…  Ah, what memories.

  24. @sthilzy

    Here’s a link for the Bucket List

    12 of the Most Winding Roads Around the World

    Thanks awesome, best get some hill repeats in!

  25. @Tobin To correct or, better, prevent speed wobbles, relax your grip on the bars. Give the bars a fraction of millimetre of slack in your hands, and loosen your arms. Allow these slightly loose hands and arms to thus absorb the vibration.

    Otherwise, vibration will go through a tight grip and risk resonating in your stiff arms, thus amplifying the vibration and leading to head shakes/wobbles.

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