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Eleanor Wins the Death Road Descent

posted 20 Mar 2018, 15:14 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 20 Mar 2018, 15:14 ]
(By Elanor Digby - Sun. 18th March 2018)   
In January of this year I set off to explore South America on a trip that took me from Peru to Brazil. As a fair weather cyclist I couldn’t wait to don my Lakeside Wheelers jersey after being absent from the wet Irish roads for over three months. Luckily for me my travel companion had no objections to a cycle tour and so, I signed both of us up for a trip down the infamous Death Road on two wheels.

The North Yungus road connecting the Bolivian capital La Paz to Coroico averaged an annual death toll of up to 300 people until 2006 when a new tarmac road was opened. Since then the predominant commuters down this thrilling descent of 2,000 metres through the Amazon Rainforest, waterfalls and clouds, along a three metre wide dirt track have been tourist cycle tours, locals living in the immediate area and a BBC Top Gear crew. 
This fair weather rider was in for a shock when the journey began at 4,800 metres above sea level, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. My Wheelers jersey was quickly forgotten and covered over by layers of ski gear offered by our guides.

Eleanor Digby descends the Death Road in South America.
Eleanor Digby descends the Death Road in South America.

Our group was split into experienced and inexperienced cyclists. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t been seen in ‘the gear’ as it resulted in me being pushed into a group of French, German and English lunatics who were hell bent on descending at break neck speed, oblivious to the 900 metre sheer drop immediately to our left. This descent was along a road with very few barriers but plenty of reminders of vehicles that had plunged into the valleys below us. Nonetheless, being the only female in the group and having worn the Wheelers jersey, I was determined to represent. I also thought it would be useful to have someone behind me to witness my fall if the worst were to happen and call for help! 

We travelled 64km on our bikes, 40km of which was along death road, until we arrived in Yolosa, a small village which was to be our pick up point.  By this time the temperature had risen by 20 degrees to my delight, the road ahead of us was uphill. Up until now I had been chasing these experienced mountain bikers without much chance of passing them out but all of a sudden they hit the hill like it was a brick wall. My climbing experience kicked in straight away and to their disgust I passed them all out in the final kilometer to arrive across the finish line first. Officially, the tour is not a race down the hill but I decided that it must be, because why else would anyone pedal frantically downhill for 40kms? 

Despite the odd scare on this famous road I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend this “spin” to anyone!!!