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Old 07-13-09, 09:39 AM   #1
Equinox
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Descent from the Col du Tourmalet

Holy crap, how do they do it? Plus there was that guy trying to zip up his jersey while descending at over 50mph. I would be scared stiff...and that's when accidents happen. It looks like a relatively narrow road with no guard rails and a sheer drop off. My wife has been on similar roads and she says the people drive like madmen on those roads. And La Mongie is a ski area so they are driving in snowy conditions, too. Are there a lot of accidents, and how do they do rescue and recovery? Are you pretty much dead if you go off the road? In my wildest dreams, I would like to climb the Col, but there is no way I would want to descend. Do people ever do that? Can you get a "safe" ride back down? Maybe I'd walk.
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Old 07-13-09, 09:47 AM   #2
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Also remember that yesterday was a very hot day and some of the tarmac was melting (slippery). Plus, UK Eurosport referenced Steven Roche (TdF winner in '87) as saying that the road conditions are generally bad, with patches having loose gravel, etc.

You can get a safe ride back down by applying brakes--at least that's what I'd do . These guys were racing.
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Old 07-13-09, 09:47 AM   #3
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I guess so. But the thing is to keep your cool and adjust your body as you go down. Although some parts are very technical, others aren't - they are just a long straight descent.

The scariest descent I've ever done was at the West Point ITT. Climbing up was tough enough but going down at almost 40mph with cars driving up towards you ....
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Old 07-13-09, 09:57 AM   #4
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An amateur rider wrote about ending up on a descent at the same time as the riders during the TDF. He was decending at about 45 and was terrified. A few pros then flew by him like he was standing still. The amazing thing he said though was that one of the riders was sitting up and putting a jacket on. No thanks.
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Old 07-13-09, 10:02 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Equinox View Post
Holy crap, how do they do it? Plus there was that guy trying to zip up his jersey while descending at over 50mph. I would be scared stiff...and that's when accidents happen. It looks like a relatively narrow road with no guard rails and a sheer drop off. My wife has been on similar roads and she says the people drive like madmen on those roads. And La Mongie is a ski area so they are driving in snowy conditions, too. Are there a lot of accidents, and how do they do rescue and recovery? Are you pretty much dead if you go off the road? In my wildest dreams, I would like to climb the Col, but there is no way I would want to descend. Do people ever do that? Can you get a "safe" ride back down? Maybe I'd walk.

Try doing it in L'Etape de Tour when you're racing with 9,000 of yourr closest friends.
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Old 07-13-09, 10:03 AM   #6
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I have ridden a bunch of the TDF climbs and descents. I understand they are pros and have a lot of guts, but once I get over 35 MPH I start soiling my pants! I start thinking of blowing tires, or missing a turn and the resulting pain and road rash. More than climbing or suffering, I respect these riders the most for how fast they can go downhill.
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Old 07-13-09, 11:06 AM   #7
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We have some nice 50mph descents in the hills around here - long sweeping turns, sometimes ending in hairpin ones so you can get on the brakes before the next climb. Descending is the only time I feel like a pro rider.

I certainly don't feel like one climbing back up
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Old 07-13-09, 11:07 AM   #8
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I have ridden a bunch of the TDF climbs and descents. I understand they are pros and have a lot of guts, but once I get over 35 MPH I start soiling my pants! I start thinking of blowing tires, or missing a turn and the resulting pain and road rash. More than climbing or suffering, I respect these riders the most for how fast they can go downhill.
So what's it like? To me, honestly, it doesn't look do-able? Hairpin turns, sheer drop offs. I'd be on my brakes so bad. I wouldn't even want to drive on those roads.
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Old 07-13-09, 11:17 AM   #9
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So what's it like? To me, honestly, it doesn't look do-able? Hairpin turns, sheer drop offs. I'd be on my brakes so bad. I wouldn't even want to drive on those roads.
Driving the roads are a hoot. They are scary at speed on a bike but I think a lot of the shots from the TDF are from the air so that perspective makes it look scarier.
I saw people of all abilities riding those roads including a couple climbing Mt. Ventoux on folders with 20 inch wheels, baskets and flat shoes! They took their time but the made it.
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Old 07-13-09, 11:17 AM   #10
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I've gone down the Col De Aubsique (where Wim Van Est crashed out of the Tour) which is pretty comparable to the Tormalet, as well as otherr HC climbs such the Galibier, Ventoux, and the Izoard.

Down the Izoard, I was chasing an Italian amateur racer. We were above 80kph. I don't think I would gone quite that fast if I didn't have his line to follow.

The year I did L'etape, I was careful coming down the Aubisque given the Van Est history, and the dramatic dropoff in places. My approach was to be conservative in turns I couldn't see the exit, and bomb it as long as I could see the exit of the turn. I also tended to favor the uphill side of the road.

The competitive drive also kicks in. So I went faster than I really wanted to in order to start rolling up other riders, and assemble a group to work with on the flats after the descent.
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Old 07-13-09, 11:20 AM   #11
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Also the grades on the big HC climbs are not that steep. Usually in the 8% range and rarely above 11%.

There are many steeper, faster descents in the Eastern US, as well as in europe. (some of the lower category climbs are steeper, but shorter)

One difference however, in the US we tend to have better guard rails, and at least in the East, fewer sheer dropoffs.
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