In my post from the Alps, I mentioned the Hill of Death. This is the UCI Downhill course that was carved out of a steep mountain side for the Swiss round of the series, in the resort of Champery. There is a summary of the race weekend on Steve Peat’s website which gives you some idea of what the course and conditions were like:
â€˜STEEPâ€™ is the word to summarize this downhill track which twists itâ€™s way through the trees down a serious, slippery slope. Even in the team managerâ€™s meeting it was brought up that one risked breaking both ankles to attempt to walk the course. In fact, during a walking inspection Greg Minnaar slipped and dislocated a tricky shoulder, so it was no joke. The only way to get injured riders off the mountain was to pluck them off the mountain with a helicopter, which was fondly called â€œCarcass â€˜Copterâ€ and â€œYard Sale Collectorâ€.
Peat says, â€œThe track is easy for half the field and hard for half the field. I like it, a lot of people donâ€™t, but I liked it from the first practice. If it rains it will be a horrible mess. If it stays dry it will be good to race. The turns are blowing out now, and when it comes to finals tomorrow weâ€™re going to have to be a little cautious. (Saturday afternoon brought a heavy rain shower).
â€œItâ€™s a tough track and you need to relax in practice but that is tough because itâ€™s steep and you donâ€™t know the track for the first few runs. Itâ€™s a good track and it challenges everybody. Itâ€™s good the guys clipped in can see the advantages of flat pedals. Yesterday a bunch of guys ran out and bought 5 Ten shoes and trained on flats,â€ said Rennie.
Tire changes happened each run as riders tested the traction and they ran bigger rotors for better stopping to manage the steep track. The sounds of the beating helicopter blades were heard repeatedly though the day plucking up course casualties.
It’s a beast of a course. Certainly the steepest thing I’ve ever tried to ride (it wasn’t much of it). In the dry it was difficult to walk down most of it so god only knows how the top riders raced down it in the wet. Hang on I’ve found the answer on You Tube – many of them didn’t. Helmet Cam footage of the course (dry weather run) in this video.