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11/05/2011 // INFO Leave a comment

The forgotten quality of a professional cyclist: Nerve

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Nerve of the peloton

The exhilaration as the road drops down in front of you and the bike accelerates away is extraordinary. The speed livens the senses. The thrill is intense. The sense of living on the edge is real; almost addictive.

That is the experience of an amateur reaching 70 km/h off mountain passes. The speeds that the professional riders descend are far greater. David Harmon, the Eurosport TV commentator, may be heard to describe a rider as descending like a stone. He will not be exaggerating.

Confront dangers

The ability and desire to descend at such speeds goes to the core of the character of a professional cyclist. The ability to confront the dangers of the road on a daily basis is vital for those numbered in the peloton.

The dangers faced on the road are well known by the participants. This is a sport where broken collar bones and “road rash” barely register as noteworthy incidents. Compare this to football and the great anxiety caused by minor injuries to players.

Nerve is key

As a result, mental strength and the willingness, no, the wish to take extreme risks is core to a professional cyclist.  Nerve is critical.

Cycling shares this characteristic with downhill skiing. Nerve and risk taking are central to the alpine winter sports. When lost the skier is redundant. This year Scott McCartney, the USA downhill skier, announced his retirement following a horrific crash in 2008 in Kitzbuhel.

Physically he had made a full recovery. Mentally he was shot. He could not allow his body to take the same risks that were required on a daily basis in order to compete. As a result he was no longer competitive.

Tragic death

Which brings us to the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt following a fatal crash as he descended off the Passo Del Bocco on stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia. By descending at such high speeds, within a large group of fellow riders, he was displaying the nerve that is required by all professional cyclists. A nerve that the mere mortals outside the peloton do not possess.

His death highlights to everyone the huge risks taken by professional cyclists and raises for all to see one of their great skills, qualities and attributes. Unshakable nerve.

See also:

The great road climbs of London: Swains Lane

Penny farthing racing hits the streets

from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

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