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I have to confess I am really enjoying the nightly Tour de France Highlights programme on ITV4. Normally I am completely faithful to Eurosport for cycling coverage as the commentary is better (particularly if Magnus Backstedt has been persuaded to get off his bike and come into the studio) but the ITV4 Highlights show has excellent special features and analysis from Chris Boardman. The interviews by Ned Boulting are also a welcome relief from the Eurosport (or should that be Eurotrash) presenters!
I regularly mention that I needed to improve my descending skills and as if he had heard my plea Boardman did a special feature on descending last week which you can access via the ITV website here:
Now a lot of it is really analysing techniques pro cyclists should be employing to descend at speed and in a peloton but there were still a few tips in there for mere mortals.
When he talks about aerodynamics (1.30 in) I think we can all agree the safest descending position for an amateur is what he calls the traditional heads down, bum up position. Sitting on the crossbar is definitely best left to the professionals and the underarm grip position to Peter Sagan!
The section I found most useful was the breakdown of the sections of the corner into – deceleration zone, freewheel zone and acceleration zone (1.57). I tend to still be breaking as I go around the bend which is highly undesirable.
Also notice how the riders switch their weight to the outside leg as they go around the corner. This is fundamental to safe cornering and you must put your full weight on this outside leg. I realised recently I hadn’t been putting enough weight down through this outside leg to stabilise my cornering. I have been concentrating on this recently and feel much safer.
He also mentioned well known hazards in the wet i.e. do remember to avoid cycling over white lines on the road (and manhole covers) as these surfaces are extra slippy in these conditions. And don’t break when going through the water
If you are, like me, not the most skilled descender on a bike the story of Thibaut Pinot may be of some comfort. Identified as one of France’s future grand tour winners his Achilles heel has been his self confessed terror of descending due to a bad crash when he was younger that led him to question his place on the Tour last year.
Pinot spent time in May in a training camp in the Pyrenees to banish his descending demons and also reportedly retrained his approach to corners by driving a racing car. Whatever he has done he has demonstrated it is possible to get over a fundamental fear as in the 2014 Tour he is no longer losing time on the descents.
Does anyone have the number for the Stig?
Since taking up cycling I have found it really useful to have a big goal ahead both to keep me motivated and to take me out of my comfort zone.
I have always been very careful about locking my bike, whenever I’d pop into town, or used to leave it outside work – I’d D-Lock, cable lock you name it, that lock was on it. They were all over my bike! I blame my husband, he is Mr Security and it’s rubbed off on me. After all, I’m only talking about my old mountain bike here – a bike that could probably fetch fifteen pounds on ebay.
As for my ‘proper’ bikes, they don’t get locked. Why? Because they don’t leave my sight, that’s why. At home they live IN the house, as our shed is not deemed secure enough. When out on one, I’m physically sat on it at all times. I’d like to think that makes it fairly safe.
This is proving to be a difficult decision.
Tomorrow sees the Mens and Ladies National Road Race Championships down in Abergavenny. It’s about an hours drive from where I live – so very accessible. I’d love to go down and watch the racing, both the ladies (Lizzie Armistead is defending her title) and the mens, which has a really strong lineup this year, even with the recent withdrawal of Mark Cavendish.
The problem is it would mean missing my Sunday bike ride.