If you look around the Internet, you will find plenty of instances of people creating art out of falling dominoes, carefully stacking them one by one before knocking one over and having the rest of them fall, creating pictures or flying off elaborate Rube Goldberg machines, all in the service of both chewing up a lot of someone’s free time and entertaining the people who then watch the results on video.
The trouble is, when you’re stacking up all of those dominoes, all it takes is your hand slipping and knocking one over to undo all of your hard work as the reaction is set off prematurely.
Which brings us to the “Mountain of Hell” bike racing competition in France.
“Mountain of Hell is France’s most famous marathon downhill race and takes place in Les 2 Alpes every year,” Newsflare reported.
The principle of the event is simple. Take a long, icy course that drops from 11,000 to 3,000 feet in elevation, add human foot power, and then it’s, “Ready, set, last one down the hill’s a rotten egg!”
As a sport, it’s as simple as simple gets.
But as the video of this year’s event on June 30 shows, nothing is ever that simple.
Everything started out innocently enough. Some of the riders at the front of the pack got a good initial push-off and started heading down the mountain with quickness, a clear hierarchy forming the way one often forms at a marathon between the elite runners and the folks who are just there to say they ran 26.2 miles in one go.
But as the elevation gets lower, the course gets narrower, creating a funnel like the rush hour traffic merge from hell.
At the finish line, the winner got across with plenty of room to spare, and a good 40 or 50 more riders in about seven or eight tiers went across the line as well without incident.
Then everything went horribly wrong as a rider a bit farther back became the first domino in what quickly became that hobbyist’s nightmare.
Making matters worse, the crashing rider veered sharply sideways, thereby blocking the natural lane people on the outside of the funnel had to avoid crashing. And it wouldn’t have mattered if they had brakes that could stop time — there was no stopping the events that were put into motion.
As Adam Savage said on “Mythbusters,” “Gravity. Not only is it a good idea, it’s the law.”
Eventually, bikes started getting separated from their riders, and they became floating obstacles in the demolition derby, which riders who had been trying to slow down then ran into and wiped out on.
And once those riders wiped out, riders behind them wiped out, until the only people still upright were those 40 or 50 lucky souls who beat the traffic like Dodger fans leaving a game in the sixth inning.
Up mountain, there were no dodgers, only crashers and people who were luckily going slowly enough that they didn’t have enough momentum to find themselves in the pile. They were just stranded like a commuter trying to get to work with a 3,000-car pileup on the interstate.
The walls that defined the course were higher than the camera made them look as well. Some of the riders tried to simply go through the barrier as the course narrowed, finding to their chagrin that hitting the half-height wall at speed only succeeded in launching them off their bikes as their forward momentum was enough to carry them forward unimpeded to a painful landing.
Eventually, the jam got cleared, and a bunch of riders, no longer interested in racing down the mountain but simply getting home safely, proceeded in something resembling an orderly fashion at a far safer speed.
It doesn’t appear as though anyone was seriously hurt. The reaction of the people shooting the video is never one of horror, only of slight amusement at the silliness of the spectacle they’ve just witnessed, but things could have gone a whole lot worse.
So laugh at the absurdity of a “Mountain of Hell” living up to its name, then remember, kids:
Don’t try this at home.
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