never ride at the front

I have said it, and I see that others are posting articles or info about it. The problem is maybe too many people are taking it too far.

Do not ride on the front should not be confused with NEVER ride at the front.

Too many people seem to just sit-in – on ever ride, year around. Bah!
Too many people never do any work – whether they are afraid they will get dropped, feel they aren’t strong enough.

Sometimes you need to move, do something, stir things up. Sometimes that is for the group & sometimes that is just for yourself & your training.

It’s interesting how the group dynamic of a ride can change – week to week and sometimes during a single ride.
Not long ago, at the ‘Wednesday night World’s’ the group was being shy. There were only a few people rotating & it was often that if you rotated you would have to sit on the front for awhile before someone else would come around.

What happens next is that the stronger riders and/or opportunists attacks the group. Sometimes this is enough to stir things up, sometimes the ride will continue along in the same manner watching that person increase the gap until they are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. As this keeps happening all the stronger riders & some opportunists are ahead on the road and there isn’t enough people strong enough or willing to work to bring them back.

I watched this happen a couple times and tried to shake things up myself by rolling past the group on a downhill and along the uphill on the other side – what this caused was the group finally sped up and started getting more aggressive.

Remember, “Don’t ride on the front” is different from “Never ride on the Front” there are good reasons to rotate and pull-through, and there are good reasons not too. Sometimes the group is hammering along and you should conserve your energy for later. Sometimes you should rotate just to get others to rotate also, sometimes it is to keep the group going.

One of the best ‘team blocks’ I had ever witnessed was by Scotty Weiss – we were racing a 1Km pan flat crit in N.C. His team mate jumped the pack with another racer and they were rolling up the road – well most team mates would go to the front and soft pedal or not even pedal at all – but not these guys, Scotty went to the front and kept the field going at a steady pace. He knew if the group slowed down too much there would be attacks and his team mate would have less chance of winning the race. So, he kept the pace slow enough that his teammate was still going faster than the group, yet just fast enough that no one would attempt to attack the group! At that time I was a fresh Pro1,2 rider and at first I was bewildered that his own team mate was on the front doing the pace-making. It took me about 5 laps before I realized the plan.

Most everyone knows the basic tactics, but when you can mix things up that is when you are racing intelligently!

Conserve energy by Drafting

Drafting is a way of conserving your energy by allowing a rider ahead of you to separate the wind while you stay in their slip stream. By doing this they say the second rider can use about 20% less energy to go the same speed.

I have read articles that say ‘don’t over-lap wheels’ and ‘don’t break’ when drafting, but when you are drafting properly you are at most about 6″ from the wheel in front of you. Now add in variations of effort, grade, and rider energy into the mix and there is no way that you can not either over-lap wheels or touch your brakes at some point!

Which of the 2 you do, I would suggest, is based on the rest of the group around you. In all situations you should first attempt to adjust how much pressure you are putting on the pedals to best adjust your speed. I will also use gearing to assist in this process. When I’m attempting not to brake I will spin an easier gear w/ higher cadence – when I’m going too fast, I first stop spinning as fast (but keep the legs turning when I can).

This was best learned at the velodrome where the bikes do not have brakes, only fixed gears (so no coasting). When you don’t have brakes on the bike you become very alert to your cadence and the ability to adjust your cadence based on how close you are to the rider ahead of you.

Working Man's Madison | Day 2

In a group of less experienced riders I would suggest NOT overlapping wheels! Less experienced riders tend to move side-to-side more than experienced riders. In this situation I would first try adjusting speed by not pedaling as fast, then if necessary by lightly feathering the brakes. As you get better your use of the brakes should become not as strong, just enough to add some drag.

Racing at the Dick Lane Velodrome

Although it is the responsibility of each rider to not hit the rider ahead of them, it is also good to keep in mind that you have other’s well being in your hands based on your actions. No one is perfect, but there are some riders I will avoid or go around ASAP! Yet, there are some riders that I have no problem drafting behind them as long as possible.

When other riders are involved what can happen is that the whole or parts of the pack can do a paceline. A pace line is a way for the group to maintain a higher speed using Drafting, by alternating who gets to draft, while giving each rider a chance to recover from the brief effort of speed.

If you are in the paceline and you are having trouble keeping up the pace, it is OK to sit-on and take a break for awhile! When you are pushing beyond your limits is when fatigue sets in and accidents happen. And when pace-lining, your accident can involve several other people.

Remember the group is only as fast as it’s slowest member (weakest link). If the group is going too fast for a rider then that rider either will not be able to pull through very much or they can sit-on the pace-line.