Dashing downhill at over 100 km/h
… without a helmet…on a road with no guardrail
The bicycles, designed to be incredibly lightweight and equipped with tires only 25 mm or so wide, mostly navigate roads without guardrails. A road running along a cliff side may only have a curb. On these bewildering roads, riders kick into their highest gear to dash downhill at speeds of over 100 km/h, at times resulting in crashes, some of which are fatal.
Unless one can overcome the fear and control their bicycle with a cool head, one cannot win the Tour de France. You have to be like Bernard Hinault.
Yukihiro Doi became the first Japanese cyclist to enter the Vuelta a España, one of the three Grand Tours.
In Stage 7, he led the pack that helped his team secure a victory. In his book, Haiboku no Nai Kyogi (“The Competition Without Defeat”),
“The descent is fast. On that day, my top speed was 121 km/h. When you get that fast, you can’t hear anything, so you have to focus on your sense of sight. However, you can’t breathe in the wind, so you have to look down to inhale. As you do so, you just pray that the rider in front of you doesn’t have a fall. Naturally, I don’t want to even imagine what it’s like to crash at that speed.”
This book is a great one because it offers
a realistic portrayal of road bicycle racers.
Surprisingly, helmets weren’t mandatory until 2004
As you can see from these photos, Hinault did not wear a helmet. They didn’t become mandatory until fairly recently.
During Stage 2 of the Paris-Nice race, an accident occurred 40 km away from the finish line. Three riders crashed, but one of them was not wearing a helmet: Andrey Kivilev.
His head struck the ground, killing him. This sad accident changed the minds of professional cyclists who had been opposed to mandatory helmets, and they decided to start wearing the protective headgear.
Even so, accidents still happen. During Stage 3 of the 2011 Giro d’Italia, a rider looked back to check on a teammate while descending the Passo del Bocco. His pedal bumped the curb, and he went flying.
The rider received immediate first aid, but unfortunately, he became the fourth to die on a Grand Tour.
Professional road bicycle racers push themselves to the utter limit, controlling their bicycles under incredibly stressful conditions. They are indeed amazing people.
Last but not least,
we pray that all the challengers involved in such fatal accidents rest in peace.
Yukihiro Doi (2014) “Haiboku no Nai Kyogi” (The competition without
defeat) Tokyo Shoseki
L’Equipe (2005) “The Official Tour De France: 1903–2004”
Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd
Tatsuya Anke (2003) “Tour 100 Wa” (“100 Tour Stories”) Michitani