A bike race is generally won in the mountains. Some of the most impressive climbing performances have been cemented as legend, but oftentimes an equally spectacular descent doesn’t quite get the credit it deserves. Sure, gravity does a lot of the work, but flying down narrow mountain roads at speeds reaching over 100 kilometers per hour takes some serious bike handling skills, not to mention, nerves of steel.
Like climbing or time trialing, not all cyclists in the pro peloton are known for their death-defying descending skills. But the risky feats of those that are are mind blowing. From Peter Sagan in the Tour de Suisse to Chris Froome in the Tour de France, here are some of our favorite professional cycling descent videos.
Chris Froome: 2016 Tour de France, Stage 8
Many critics of the sport have blamed Team Sky for the more conservative, à la boring, style of racing that has developed over the decade or so. Additionally, these same critics have lampooned Chris Froome for his awkward presence on the bike, as well as his poor bike handling skills. Froome proved his naysayers wrong in the 2016 Tour de France when he attacked down the Col de Peyresourde. Tucked in his ultra-dangerous and ultra-aerodynamic riding position on the top tube, he ultimately gained 13 seconds on the day after separating from the field.
Cadel Evans: 2014 Tour Down Under, Stage 3
This, folks, is what expertise looks like. The Corkscrew climb and descent is one of the most iconic climbs in cycling, and Cadel Evans (a local Australian) knows every inch these roads. His solo descent secured a Stage 3 win, and after seeing these images, there’s no surprise Evans’ strong background in mountain biking has helped him as a road cyclist.
Lance Armstrong: 2003 Tour de France, Stage 9
While this may not be a “pure” descent like others on the list, this evasive maneuver has become one of the most jaw dropping saves in Tour de France history. When Joseba Beloki crashes on a fast descent, Armstrong is forced off the road and through a grass field where he runs down the bank and regroups with the other riders. Unfortunately Beloki never fully recovered from his crash, but this video has gone down in infamy due to Armstrong’s amazing bike handling skills.
Peter Sagan: 2014 Tour de Suisse, Stage 6
Nobody questions cycling superstar Peter Sagan’s bike handling and sprinting skills, but many may not be aware of his descending prowess. He showcased his otherworldly talents in the 2014 Tour de Suisse, as Sagan created a gap between himself and the field as he expertly navigated the Suisse switchbacks. His casual style on the bike makes his potentially hazardous maneuvers look like a casual ride through the park.
Vincenzo Nibali: 2015 Giro di Lombardia
Vincenzo Nibali is a cyclist who can do it all and is widely considered one of the best descenders in the pro peloton. If he doesn’t drop you on the climb, he’ll likely drop you on the descent, as he did in the 2015 Giro di Lombardia. After masterfully carving his way down the Civiglio, Nibali crossed the finish line 15 seconds ahead for the win.
Santiago Botero and Alexandre Vinokourov: 2005 Tour de France, Stage 11
The descent down the Col de Galibier has a storied history in the Tour de France. This specific example,—Santiago Botero’s chase of Alexandre Vinokouov through the French alps—is a masterclass in descending. This era may be the dark age for cycling, but some of these old-school descents continue to wow.
Fabian Cancellara: 2009 Tour de France, Stage 7
What happens when the yellow jersey gets a flat tire in the Tour de France? After a wheel change, Fabian Cancellara displayed one of the greatest descents of all time, weaving through the team cars and camera crews on the way to the back of the peloton. It looks almost effortless, and Cancellara lost no time overall due to the puncture.
Primoz Roglic: 2017 Tour de France, Stage 17
There’s a reason the Col de Galibier is included for a second time on this list–its descent is long, fast and technical, making for some guaranteed fireworks and mid-race drama. The 2017 edition of the Tour de France proved no exception, with Primoz Roglic blasting downhill and time-trialing to a solo Stage 17 victory. Roglic’s aerodynamic tuck and superb handling skills made for an exciting (and well-deserved) finish on one of the race’s most recognizable stages.
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