Those high-def images took me way back to sweating blood (in a car – the legs don’t ache half as much) on matching roads, and to much earlier when we once used to rush home from school as quickly as possible just to catch the Shell Film Unit ‘Coupe des Alpes’ movie – on the 1958 Alpine Rally – being played as a trade test transmission during the run-up to BBC 2. There were the likes of Bernard Consten, Keith Ballisat, Edward Harrison, Peter Harper, Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom slipping and sliding their way over some of these Alpine roads confined today to the occasional Historic ‘raid’ or the deadly serious business of professional Grand Tour cycle racing. If it appeals, you can find the movie today on Youtube.
But one of the things which struck me most when considering the risks the cycle riders were taking, whizzing down the Stelvio at 50-60mph, was the frontal area minimizing riding position that many of the top men now adopt – backside down off the saddle onto the crossbar, rump up, head down, weight way forward over the front wheel and that all-consuming unreal confidence of the top competitive sportsman – “It will hurt all the others when they crash – but not me, because I am too good to hit the scenery”… you get the picture?
That streamlined, low frontal area concept is of course what top racing car designers obsessed about for donkey’s years, before they really came to appreciate the benefits that could accrue from really harnessing the airflow around their moving car, and especially between it and the road surface beneath – instead of trying merely to bullet their way through that resistant fluid.