There’s nothing quite as thrilling in cycling as a daring, all-out descent. But some are definitely better than others.

So much so, that it can even be made more of a deciding factor in victory than the way up the climb.

Two riders who have proven that in recent times are Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo). Both riders this year have used their daredevil descending prowess to help them secure monumental victories, but who’s really the best?

Here we take a look at a few pieces of evidence of just which of them really is the king of the descents.

1. Nibali chases back to the pink jersey group in the 2011 Giro

Having been distanced by the maglia rosa group ahead of the descent, then Liquigas rider Nibali sets-out to chase the race leader’s group down on the Passo Fedaia on stage 15 of the 2011 Giro.

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Not only does the Italian navigate his past those slightly slower pros on the way down, but he’s forced to pick his way through the motorcade which has amassed in front of him.

And if it wasn’t enough to seemingly catch-up with the pink jersey group with ease, he just rubs it in a bit further by taking a quick feed from his back pocket at high-speed.

2. Sagan shows them how it’s done at the Tour de Suisse

The most impressive part about this descent from Sagan is that he’s barely even pedalling and still putting distance into his rivals.

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Then riding for the Cannondale team at the 2014 Tour de Suisse, he pulls out his well-honed super-tuck skills to pull out a gap on the straights (hitting 80kmph), while he doesn’t even seem to slow down one bit as he takes some pretty tight corners.

3. Riding away at the Tour de Romandie

Though he couldn’t make this one stick, it was another master-class of descending by Nibali on the Cote de Lens descent on the first stage of the Tour de Romandie last year.

While the 2014 Tour de France winner seems to take the corners without flinching, a number of riders behind become severely unstuck by the tricky hairpins and the road towards Sion.


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4. That Col de Manse descent

So desperate was Sagan for a stage win at the 2015 Tour de France that he found himself in numerous breakaways as the race transitioned to the Alps.

But as Ruben Plaza of Lampre-Merida got away from the break on stage 16, Sagan was forced to risk it all on the descent of the extremely technical Col de Manse in order to catch him.

Simply sit back and enjoy some of the best descending you’ll ever see.

5. Descending to victory at Il Lombardia

Having endured a disappointing season, failing to place in either Grand Tour he contested, Nibali set out to make the final Monument of the season, Il Lombardia his saving grace for 2015.

And it looked like he’d planned it to perfection, slipping off the front of an elite group on the penultimate descent to put around 40 seconds into his rivals behind. He then had enough time to hold on up the final climb and down towards the finish to take the first major Classics win of his career.

6. Sagan gets a gap on descent to win the Worlds

While his attack on the final cobbled climb of the 2015 World Championships race was raved about, it was as much the descent the earned Sagan a year in the rainbow stripes.

With only a small gap coming off the climb, the Slovak gave himself a chance at holding off the chasing bunch by extending his lead with his trademark tuck, taking the corners without even thinking about the brakes. He was then able to hold on up the final climb to take his biggest career victory.

  • Jay

    Sagan seems more stable around the sharper corners. On the side, is there a reason why they take hairpins/ switchbacks where they clip the middle of the apex like that? This shouldn’t be the the quickest way around compared to motorbike racing, if we assume there is a straight track followed by the hairpin turn, the turn is usually a little further away from the apex and they take a sharper angle clipping the apex further back of the hairpin (as oppose to right in the middle like what we see here) in order to create a longer and straighter line on the exit. They take this line so they can put the power on much earlier to shorten ‘coasting’ time braking and full throttle.

  • David Sundheim

    I admit I am a huge Nibali fan. But all you Nibali haters on here… How can you type your comments with a straight face?

    I get it you… don’t like the guy, but can’t you even recognize enough talent to call a skill a skill? The guy is super skilled at it, and where credit should be given, the haters choose to nitpick and call it sketchy instead.

    News flash for you… All descents are sketchy! That why they know its a risk versus reward for the time they could gain!

    In my opinion Sagan is the better of the two, but its basically 1a and 1b with the rest of the peloton quite far behind these two. These guys could descend Gravel roads while eating energy bars and still get time on a majority of the peloton!

  • FPCyclist

    Nibs is just plain sketchy. Sagan for the win, hands down.

  • J1

    I’d say Sagan has had more sketchy moments. Both are brilliant though.

    Valverde and Sammy Sanchez always impress on the descents too. Sanchez descending one handed whilst warning the following riders of hazards on a technical descent in the Tour of the Basque country was unbelievable. He was still quicker than everybody!

  • blemcooper

    How long will it be before Specialized comes up with an ad campaign based on stability for descending rather than lightness for climbing and aero+super-stiffness for sprints or super-aero for TT? Or do they already have such ads?

    Of course, when they were on Liquigas-Cannondale, Nibali made a point in the media of testing a new model to find its descending limits, and Sagan used the custom, Daniele Bennati-designed extra long top tube geometry, which presumably lets him descend while sitting on the top tube more comfortably.

  • Dan

    Has to be Sagan, Nibali is fast but his line choice is often poor, so many sketchy moments on Sunday that could have lost him more than just the race! Saying that, they are both certainly godlike compared to us normal cyclists.