– By Chris Carmichael –
I have a feeling that Discovery Channel was hoping for exactly that scenario because George Hincapie was perfectly positioned at the top of the final climb to help Contador hang on to any advantage he might have gained on Rasmussen during the climb. Hincapie is a great descender, and from what I have seen and heard, so is Contador. Rasmussen can hold his own on the downhills, but he’s not the best, and if Contador could start a descent with a strong teammate and a headstart, he would have had a chance to take back some time on the yellow jersey.
Racing downhill takes a combination of skill, confidence, and courage, and even if you may not get the chance to bomb down a long, twisting descent that’s closed to traffic, the same techniques that keep the pros on the road will help you go downhill faster and safer.
To gain confidence, stability, and speed on descents, there are a few principles everyone should understand about going downhill:
1. Think and look far ahead. Traveling at 60mph, you cover approximately the length of a football field (300 feet) every 3.4 seconds. With corners, rocks, potholes, etc. coming at you that quickly, you have to pick your lines early.
2. Brake before the corners. Almost all of your braking should be done before you enter a corner, using both brakes, so you are complete control of your speed. If you go into a corner too hot, grabbing a fistful of brakes will send you sliding off the road.
3. Look through the corner. Your bike goes where your eyes are pointed, so look through to the exit of the corner. Don’t focus on the potholes or the slick, melted tarmac unless that’s where you want your wheels to go.
4. Plant your weight on your outside foot. To corner safely, you need your center of gravity to remain over your tires and your weight distributed appropriately across both wheels. With your body weight planted on the pedal facing the outside of the corner, you’re increasing the traction your tires have on the road.
5. Lean your bike and not your body. This is relative. When you ride into a corner, both your body and bike lean to the inside of the turn, but you should lean the bike more than you lean your body. To do this, plant your weight on your outside leg and extend the arm facing the inside of the corner. As you extend your inside arm, you’ll notice the bike drops into the corner and your body weight feels like it is divided between your outside leg and your inside arm. This is a very stable position, it provides a lot of traction, and enables you to see further ahead to the next turn.
That is some nice descending form…
When you’re racing down to the finish, you’re not just coasting and letting gravity do the work. You’re going to have to brake in the sharp corners, but it’s essential to jump out on the pedals as you exit each turn in order to get the bike back to maximum speed as quickly as possible. On long straightaways, a chasing rider won’t gain much ground because there won’t be that much difference between his maximum speed and yours. It’s through the corners that you can make up or lose a ton of time. It takes a lot of practice, but the best descenders brake late and just shave off enough speed to stay in control. Then they start accelerating as soon as possible as they exit the turn so they spend more time at maximum speed.
Today, a fast descent and strong riding in the final rolling kilometers to the finish helped Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen increase their leads over the men behind them in the overall classification. Right now, it looks like Contador is the only person with a chance to stop Rasmussen from winning the Tour de France, except for Rasmussen himself. A rest day sometimes throw riders off balance, especially when it’s sandwiched between two big mountain stages. If the Dane has a bad day on Wednesday, there are four riders ready to pounce on him.
The next audio workout in the Do The Tour… Stay At Home™ series is Stage 1515, a workout designed to prepare you for a fast finish after a long climb. Download it to your Ipod at TrainRight.com.
• Chris Carmichael coached Lance Armstrong throughout his 15-year cycling career. For more information on Carmichael Training Systems’ 9+3 Coaching Offer, the Do the Tour…Stay at Home_ audio workouts with Lance Armstrong, and our free Tour de France Newsletter, visit TrainRight.com.