A Bit of Everything
Cycling is unique among sports in the range of skills required. Riders face a little bit of everything, and a to be a true contender you must at least hold your own in a variety of circumstances. Recent Tours de France have featured gravel roads, cobbles, climbs, and yes, descents. It remains self-evident that what goes up must come down. That certainly was the case today, with the final descent into Pinerolo.
Just as the best climbers have a chance to shine on big mountains, and the sprinters have their days when the road is flat, the best descenders should be allowed their day as well. Those who are not good descenders complain, when in reality they just need to practice.
If you always stay in your comfort zone, you will never become a better bike rider. Just as you push yourself to see improvements in your climbing and time trialing, you should push yourself to become a better all-around rider. You may not love gravel roads and steep, twisty descents as much as I do, but you should at least be able to navigate them competently. In addition to opening up new routes and new events to yourself, your every day riding, and perhaps more importantly your emergency riding, will be greatly improved when you’re comfortable with these skills.
What is emergency riding? It’s when there’s a sudden patch of gravel or sand in the middle of the road that you can’t avoid, an obstruction that causes you to suddenly shift your line in a turn, or any number of scenarios that can and do present themselves on the road, or even on a hike & bike trail. Yesterday’s stage passed perhaps the most famous example of emergency riding in recent history, when Lance went cross-country to avoid the fallen Joseba Beloki. Be like Lance, be a complete rider who is ready for anything, because I can promise you that the road won’t always be flat, straight, and dry, no matter what the Schlecks may prefer.
Steen A. Rose is an elite cycling and triathlon coach. He started coaching in 2003, and has been an Elite Coach with Training Bible Coaching since 2009. Steen is also captain of the Sun & Ski/Subaru Cycling and Triathlon teams. He has been racing since 1997, holds a Category 1 license, and has 13 state championships, 3 national medals, and 4 international podiums to his credit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org