I don’t think it’s just me because the French folks on France 3 are talking about it, too: there have been quite a lot of crashes in this 2nd part of the 2020 season, many of which have been on descents, of course.
We all saw the horrible images of Remco Evenepoel diving over the parapet and into the vide, as the commentators called it. My stomach sank as I saw the video nearly live. When you see a bike leaning up against a low wall with no rider attached to it, the imagination takes you places, especially when you’ve descended down hundreds of roads like this.
Remco is alive and more or less well, if you call a broken pelvis ‘well’. Of course it could have been much worse.
Today, John and I went into our local mountains for a loop that included a dodgy (even by Cévennes standards) descent on a very narrow road with not even the appearance of some safety in places, like the wall above. Just a road that drops freely into the vide.
But here’s where things get complicated. I – and I know I’m not the only one – love these kinds of descents. I of course love safer ones, too, but it could very well be that the more dangerous the road, the more I feel ‘alive’. The great Alain Robert (that ‘spiderman’ guy who has been free-soloing tall buildings for decades) has said the same thing about his many solo climbs and I’m sure that some of you will agree, at least to some degree. It’s the antithesis of the slow death march that I often feel I’m engaged in when climbing to the top of steep hills.
I should say that I’m no daredevil and that I nearly always descend ‘safely’. That said, I don’t fear it at all, which I realize could be a problem someday, but I long ago decided to not ‘race’ a downhill. I did have some close calls when I first started riding and quickly realized that the risk-benefit ratio was quite high when riding too hard down mountains.
Which brings me back to Evenepoel. I think that Vincenzo Nibali had put in one of his famous descending attacks in Lombardia yesterday and Evenepoel had lost a little time on the Nibali group. He was, naturally, ‘racing’ the descent, which is completely normal because, well, he’s a bike racer. There is another blog article in here about whether ‘dangerous descents’ should be included in races (there have been complaints about the descent above, as well as one yesterday in the Dauphiné), but all I want to say about this is that bike racers are fearless monsters. If you want to see what I mean, check out Sivakov’s crash today in the Dauphiné. He lost control of his bike, fell hard and hit his head on the pavement, got up and chased Alaphilippe down again at the front of the race. Not a moment’s pause.