We all know that the pros climb way faster than the rest of us mortals. Heck, Lance rode the Powerline climb at Leadville without putting a foot down. Everyone else walked at least part of it. I think I walked most of it.
Here’s the thing, though, the pros aren’t just faster on the up, they’re faster everywhere. They just do everything better. I read an account on Red Kite Prayer a while back that mentioned Hincapie’s phenomenal bike handling skills.
Typical response would be to read that and say “sure, makes sense, these guys are on their bikes all day every day—they’re going to get good.” But one wouldn’t necessarily think that the skills would transcend disciplines. Specifically, you’d think the roadies would be best on the road, and the mountain bikers would be best on dirt.
A lot of talk before Leadville was that it was a course well-suited to a roadie because it’s not particularly technical. The assumption being that Lance was at a disadvantage on a mountain bike, particularly descending.
Yet Lance didn’t just win Leadville on the climbs, he won it descending too. Take a look at his split from Columbine to Twin Lakes, pretty much downhill all the way. A lot of it is smooth dirt road, but the upper section is about as technical as anything else I’ve ridden in a XC race. I’m a descent descender on the MTB, and my split was 34:34. Lance did it in 26:40. The next fastest guy was Max Taam, nearly two minutes back. A grand total of five guys, including Lance, did it under 30 minutes.
I was going balls to the wall on that descent—as fast as I dared. I felt my tires drift a couple times and backed it off to make sure I stayed on the course. I can imagine taking more chances and going 10% faster. But 25% faster, and I think everything would have gone plaid.