I'm actually a bit shocked at this statement.
Schleck explained that he had already begun efforts to tweak his time trial position, but he was less enthusiastic about working on his descending, in spite of his travails on the road to Gap and Pinerolo last July.
"I don't really know how you should train descents. I think that it's a little too dangerous to train on," he said.
See, descending is free. It doesn't even require getting on a bike, at least not any more than what a pro regularly does for training and racing.
Descending is about cornering.
If you corner poorly you'll descend poorly, I guarantee it, especially on descents like those that affected Andy in 2011.
You can work on cornering whenever. In fact, I got some cornering lessons hammered into my head playing one of the versions of Gran Turismo. Early apexes kill you there, as does less smooth driving.
Andy could work on his descending after dinner, when he's resting, legs elevated, in the comfort of his house (or hotel).
Cornering takes no fitness. In fact I stand by my much earlier post about letting bike racers use other vehicles to practice cornering. Go karts, cars, even boats, they all teach you how to corner.
Really there's just one thing that virtually all racers need to work on - late apexes. That's a cornering line where you wait a long time ("late") before cutting in to the apex of the turn ("apex").
I know I've said it before, but it's one of those things that needs repeating:
Work on late apexes.This means take late apexes every time you go drive your car, whether it's to work or to pick up some much needed milk (or whatever).
All the time.
Every entrance ramp, every exit ramp, every right turn, every left turn, they're all opportunities for you to work on late apexes.
Heck, I have three opportunities to work on late apexes after I've turned into my housing complex, in about 30 or 45 seconds of driving. My 3 mile commute on quiet country roads, with just a half dozen turns, gives me about 12-15 turns and curves to practice late apexes.
Do I focus on driving?
Do I focus on cornering well?
Well, let's put it this way. If you go hot into a turn, do you want to decrease the chances of hitting the deck? Do you want to decrease the chances of wrecking your car?
Then your answer is yes.
And if you're unable to do so because you can't focus, then put down the food, get off the phone, stop fiddling with the music, and ask your passenger to "zip it for a bit".
When you're cornering at the limit (usually inadvertently, like in rain or snow), a late apex can literally be a life-saver. Late apexes give you more of an out, they give you the most room to maneuver once you realize you've underestimated the turn.
You can always attack yourself out of a late apex - it'll slow you down a touch if done over aggressively - but you'll be upright to do a surge.
I've been sitting on the trainer regularly, watching first the 2006 Tour (the Floyd fiasco), then the 2007 Tour (the Rasmussen fiasco) and now working my way through most of a 12 hour set of the 2011 Tour (the Schleck fiasco if you will).
The 2006 Tour illustrated just how poorly Rasmussen cornered - when Floyd spent the day off the front, Rasmussen was cornering so poorly that he totally disrupted the beautiful arcs of the peloton in a tight series of switchbacks, the overhead view from the helicopter.
He couldn't have messed it up worse if he tried.
Now we're seeing a similar pattern emerge from Andy Schleck. His descending performances are second to everyone. He spends so much time and energy working on taking time on the climbs but he gives all that hard work back, hand over fist, on the way down the other side of the mountain.
Only when he had a teammate guiding him, in a small group, did he descend anywhere near normal.
(And I can't imagine what his director was yelling in his ear on that one descent; it might have been more detailed navigation than a rally car navigator talking to his driver.)
If he's going to lose a minute on a short descent (like he did on one stage of the 2011 Tour), he should lessen his focus on climbing well. After all, if he's just going to give it back then he might as well focus on something more productive. All those training camps, all that reconning on the mountains, it's a waste of time if he doesn't figure out how to descend, and, in doing so, figure out how to corner.
Instead he can work on something else, like his time trialing.
Oh, wait, that doesn't work either.
Because, as you may have realized, in time trials you still go around turns.