Procycling

ZEN AND THE ART OF GOING DOWN HILL FAST

The distance between the best climbers in the world has shrunk considerably in recent years. A dozen riders finished within 34 seconds of the first rider home on the HCranked Col de la Grand Colombier in last year’s Tour, for example.

Tactics aside, climbing is a matter of a rider pushing him or herself to their physical limit and staying there. So where to make the difference? In modern cycling, descents have increased in significance. They’ve occasionally been battlegrounds in the past, but they’re now an opportunity to be seized. Just ask Chris Froome, who laid the foundation of his 2016 Tour de France win on the descent of the Col du Peyresourde.

Descending is technical, intuitive: it’s an art. If climbing is a fight with the body, descending is a fight with much more - brain, limits, insecurities… Overconfidence leads to crashes. Fear leads to time losses.

The great descenders are viewed as either gifted or mad. Riders must be clear-headed as they exceed 80km/h down twisting roads. Each corner is a potential trap. The slightest mistake can turn into a career threatening injury, or worse, a question of life and death.

“I’ve tried waking up in the middle of a descent, thinking, ‘If I hit that lamp post or ride off that cliff, I’ll die.’ You have to silence those thoughts quickly,” says Matti

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