Going downhill fast is an art form
Descending at over 100kph remains one of road cycling's greatest tests of nerve
Posted on 17.01.2019
“There’s a certain moment where you do suddenly realise how quick you’re going, and I think it’s the moment as you hit 100 kph,” says Robbie McEwen, whose stellar career encompassed 12 Tour de France appearances and three green jersey wins.
“There’s a certain moment, where you think, ‘Wooooh, I can’t afford for anything to happen now because there’s no coming back from it’.
“You get this adrenalin rush and there’s a moment where if you’re not fully confident you can tighten up. You’re not as loose and flowing, nothing’s as smooth and when you’re not smooth, you’re not far away from making a big mistake.
“Cause I mean, one mistake, a blowout of a tyre, a lock-up at the wrong moment, coming in on the wrong line, you could be off the edge of a cliff and it could be 500 metres … to death.”
The fear of mortality is not mere hyperbole. Experienced riders have died on fast descents.
Italian Fabio Casartelli fell and hit his head during a sharp downhill section of the 1995 Tour de France. In the past two years, two professional cyclists — American Chad Young, and Frenchman Mathieu Riebel — died in similar circumstances.
And there are hundreds more injured. Australian Richie Porte saw his promising 2017 Tour ended after a painful fall at high speed.
The risks are known but no less frightening for that.
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