The organisers of the Giro d’Italia announced recently that the race would feature a ‘best downhill rider’ prize. This mini-competition would encourage the riders to ride down Italian mountains as fast as possible, for cash.
The internet, as you might imagine, had a view on this.
Some people on social media were rude to some other people. Lots of pro-riders had their say, quite rightly – most of whom thought it a dangerous addition to an already dangerous way to earn a living.
The downhill competition was then cancelled.
Essentially, we (the people) concluded that the dangling carrot of hard cash makes riding a bike downhill more dangerous for a pro cyclist. The implication being that they would naturally be thinking about the money, instead of the huge drop on the other side of the safety barrier.
But that carrot is not usually available to us amateurs.
The dangers of descending for us are related to the weather, the road conditions, our talent, or our enthusiasm for maintaining our bike properly.
And perhaps most importantly, what goes on in our head. More than anything else, it’s a mind game.
So, here’s couple of tips – things you might want to avoid thinking about.
Don’t think about the small print on your life insurance
Life insurance is right at the top of that list of things in life that are unbearably dull, but incredibly important.
Just completing an application has been shown by clever scientists to reduce the human lifespan – the very act of considering your own mortality at the same time as completing a Direct Debit form induces, apparently, a kind of suicide pact between the brain cells responsible for those two tasks.
Think about life insurance too much and, ironically, your IQ drops and your life becomes correspondingly less valuable.
In short, I’m saying that you need to think about life insurance at an appropriate moment, and for an appropriate length of time.
I understand that rattling down a stretch of steep tarmac on a bike might have you wondering idly whether you ticked the right boxes to ensure a payout for your spouse in the event of a reckless bike crash.
But you’re probably best staying focussed on the job in hand.
Don’t think about that time Geraint Thomas head-butted a telegraph pole
Watching Geraint Thomas head-butt a French telegraph pole was, undoubtedly, hugely entertaining. Largely because of the slow motion slapstick of the crash, and the fact that he emerged unscathed.
As anyone who knows anything about the happy-go-lucky Welshman will surely agree, he has the air of a man to whom stuff happens, but who always comes out smiling the other side.
We all remember the kid at school who would fall off a roof, or slip into a canal, or get chased by a swarm of bees, seemingly for the entertainment of everyone else.
That kid was probably Geraint Thomas.
Most of us are not Geraint Thomas.
For us, the moment we think about sliding off the tarmac of a sketchy alpine descent we lose our nerve, over-think things, panic, and generally make a right pig’s ear of it.
We get so stressed we break bones.
This is what YouTube is for.
You can contemplate the comedy of G’s little mishap relaxed, in the comfort of your home, at the touch of a button, dressed in full Team Sky regalia and Geraint Thomas face mask if you wish.
Just don’t let the telegraph-pole-head-butt pop into your head whilst out on the bike.
Don’t, whatever you do, think about p________
The p-word occupies the same place in the cyclist’s lexicon as ‘Hamlet’ does in the pre-match superstitions of a theatre actor.
Utter it, or even think it, and it will happen.
Or so the superstition goes.
If you are reckless enough to contemplate a p_______ whilst descending, quickly, with testicles mere millimetres from your back tire like Marco Pantani in his prime, then you are in trouble.
That is only going to end badly.
I, of course, see superstitions as the ramblings of a feeble mind, and would never let my thoughts or actions be guided by them. I’m just saying that if you were superstitious, this might be the sort of thing you’d avoid.
Particularly the testicles thing.
(Image: By Gabri80 at it.wikipedia (Transfered from it.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
If a p word described my descending it would be Pinot. I go so slowly now I don’t even think of the other p word.