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"Descend Like a Pro" with Chris Baldwin



                *article first appeared on Bike Radar http://goo.gl/jqLwJ9

While descending recently, it occurred to Chris Baldwin, a former pro rider and now a pro coach, how little conscience thought he’d given this skill. As a pro, he always went on autopilot, relying on habits learned long ago, now ingrained into his subconscious, to get him down the hill.

This inspired him to mentally deconstruct his technique in order to pinpoint the basics, which he explains below.

The trip down the hill can be as pivotal as the climb up. Results at the Tour de France have been held in the balance thanks to swift descending and nerves of steel. Whether you are trying to win a mountainous race, want to save energy, or just wish to get down safely and smiling, these tips will help you.

Chris Baldwin (pictured centre at the 2013 Tour of California) explains how to improve your descending

Vision is everything

As in mountain biking, skiing and other activities, your body goes where your eyes are looking. If you stare at a ditch, guess where you’ll end up! Look ‘through’ the corner to where you want to go. It is amazing how your body will take over and get you there if your vision is correct.

Weight the outside foot

Your outside foot is like an anchor that will keep you centred and stable over your machine and keep your tires on the ground. Learn by exaggerating, driving the ball of your foot into the pedal.

Steer with your hips, not your hands

The saddle is your leverage point from which you push the bike into the corner. Practise this by actually pushing the bike into the corner by pushing the saddle with the inside of your thigh. On a safe stretch of road, practise ‘weaving’ a slalom course using this technique.

Choose a good line  

Give yourself the least acute line through each corner by entering on the ‘outside’ of the bend, cutting to the apex or ‘inside’, then exiting through the outside. This minimises the tightness of the bend. Stay in your lane on an open road, and be safe! 

While some races are won or lost on the descents, other riders use strong descending skills as a chance to conserve energy

Get low!

Give yourself the advantage by lowering your centre of gravity. Use the drops and bend your elbows. This drops your torso closer to the ground, increasing stability. Pay attention to your head, avoid craning your neck. Instead drop your head a bit, keeping your neck in line with your spine.

Bring the attitude

As in many things cycling related, seeing success in your mind is the first step towards actual success. I always drew confidence from those around me who may have had better skills. I told myself: “If they can do it, so can I!”  Keep your visualisation and thinking positive; excessive fear will lead to a tense style and bad technique.

In future articles, Ben Day and Chris Baldwin will continue to share methods for improving your cycling, whether mental, physical or just technique related. Do you have any methods for helping your recovery? Share them with the guys on Twitter – their handle is @daybydaycoachin.

Chris Baldwin recently retired from professional racing after 15 years. His results include two US national time trial championships, a Pam Am games silver medal and top placings in many stage races. Always a training nut and student of the sport, he now coaches with his friend Ben Day at DayByDay Coaching, sharing his experience and passion for all things cycling.

 

I am Ben Day – an experienced and seasoned cycling professional since 2002 and a successfulIn my time as an elite athlete, I have worked with various coaches from Australia, Germany, Spain, Portugal, England and the USA.  I have also had the privilege to have collaborated and learn from many great physiologists, strength and conditioning trainers, sports medicine doctors, sport psychologists and career advisors with the Queensland Academy of Sport and the Australian Institute of Sport, an internationally renowned sporting revolution, facilitating Australia’s great successes in cycling in the past 20 years.

My experience racing and training across the globe has equipped me beyond most coaches as I am not only current with ideas and methodologies, I am also understanding of what makes a cyclist good in this modern world of cycling. I have had some incredibly knowledgeable people all in my corner throughout this time, teaching me many things that contribute to making an athlete the best possible athlete he or she can be.

Already during my professional cycling career, I have had some incredible moments such as representing my country at World Championships and Commonwealth Games level with success, which has enabled me to learn about what makes a cyclist perform to the best of their abilities.

 

I am able to draw upon all of these experiences and knowledge in my coaching to make a better cyclist – day by day.  Based in Boulder, Colorado, USA, I work with athletes throughout the US, Europe, Australia and the World

Current Qualifications:

  • USAC Level 2 Cycling Coach (USA Cycling) with distinction
  • USAT Level 1 Triathlon Coach (USA Triathlon)
  • TrainingPeaks University Certified Coach
  • TRX Certified Trainer

Hello!

To me, coaching others towards their objectives and personal bests is just as fun, challenging and fulfilling as it was striving for my own goals throughout my cycling career. The process of guiding an athlete towards improvement and sharing the knowledge I’ve absorbed is a real thrill. My goal for clients is always the same, to help them become the best version of themselves possible! 

We all work out in search of that amazing feeling of strength, speed and top form, the zone where we can “do no wrong” and velocity is effortless. When I began cycling I craved this level of fitness. Now, after a twenty year education in the trenches of pro racing, I want to help others achieve it for themselves. 

Our “special sauce” at DBD lies in our ability to blend the latest science and research with hands on experience acquired in our 40+ combined years in elite cycling. I have always been a training and data "nut", staying abreast of the latest research, physiology, wattage and heart rate based training techniques. But my application of this knowledge to the real world is what shaped me as a coach.  The day to day nuances within the program are what make the difference between average and extraordinary.  Simply put, some things are best learned by doing! 

If you or anyone you know is interested in working with me, please contact us at DaybyDay Coaching!

 Current Qualifications: 

  • USAC Level 2 Cycling Coach (USA Cycling)
  • TrainingPeaks University Certified Coach
 


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