While in a paceline on the road, the objective of the group is to work to maximize your speed to effort ratio. The first rider must work 30% harder than others drafting behind them, which ultimately allows the others behind them to save energy as the rider on the front is “pulling” and doing the additional work.
When it is your turn to be on the front, there are a few key things to remember.
A) Maintain the same speed the group was going before you became the lead rider. Often times, a rider will get to the front of the group and up the pace dramatically. While there is nothing inherently wrong with increasing the speed of the group, particularly if you are stronger and have more to give, by suddenly increasing the speed, you risk spitting people off the back of the group that are not ready for the sudden acceleration.
When a rider accelerates, a small gap opens up behind them to the next rider. This happens over and over between every rider, ultimately impacting the last rider severely. Since a revolving paceline places the front rider at the back after their turn, the last rider is likely the most fatigued from having just finished their effort on the front. When the new front rider accelerates, gaps form between all the riders who then surge to close them. This leaves the most fatigued rider with the job to close a large gap when they are tired.
B) Call out road hazards as you see them. Let’s say you’re pulling 10 riders down the road. They’re all in a paceline directly behind you, and thus their view isobscured of what’s ahead. Being on the front, you can see everything clearly, thus it falls on you to move across the path to avoid sticks, cracks, stop signs, a sudden need to brake, pot holes, etc, but to also point out and warn the others behind you of the oncoming hazard. They are relying on you to be their eyes during your turn.
C) If you must raise the pace of the group, do so gradually to avoid splitting the group in half, or spitting someone off the back. When you raise the pace slowly, you allow everyone to gain momentum uniformly, and to stay together.
D) Take your turn pulling at the front and doing the work for the group, but only expend 80% of your energy. The reason for this is when you roll off the front of the group (always to the left) you will hover on the left side of the group and slow a bit to allow the riders to pass you. When the entire group has passed, you will get behind the last rider and into their draft. If you don’t save any energy for this, you will possibly not be able to “latch back onto the group,” especially if the new front rider accelerates at all, you hit a climb, or a descent. Save a bit of energy so that when you drop your speed to allow the group to pass by, you have the strength to speed back up once the last rider has passed.
Those who are in the group have responsibilities as well, even though they aren’t doing the work on the front. Keep these in mind when you are waiting for your turn to pull at the front.
1. As the front rider relays information of upcoming hazards or stop signs/lights, make sure you repeatwhat they’ve said or pointed to in order to alert riders behind you who may not have seen or heard what the front rider indicated. This allows all riders to safely ride fully informed of what is coming up.
2. Maintaining proper spacing at all times is extremely important in keeping the group together. If you are looking around for a few seconds and let the gap to the rider in front of you open to say, 6-8 feet, you could suddenly be out of their draft and have to work hard to close that gap. Unless you close itslowly and gradually, you will leave the riders behind you having to accelerate to make up for your mistake. This becomes particularly exhausting, especially if you are trying to recover from working on the front, and you are accelerating over and over because some rider in the line cannot maintain a constant spacing.
If a gap starts to open on a climb and you are unable to close it, the polite thing to do is to get out of the paceline immediately. Simply move to the left and allow the rider behind you close the gap, and try to latch onto the back of the group. If you don’t move over, you then risk splitting the group and leaving all the riders behind you gapped off of the leading group.
3. As the last rider in a paceline, it is particularly important that you remain aware of what is happening behind the group. For most of us, traffic is present on the roads we ride on, and as such, it is the responsibility of the riders to share the road with cars just as much as their responsibility to share it with riders. As cars approach from the rear of the group, the last rider should yell forward to those in the group that there is a car approaching. A common phrase used is “car back”, or simply “back”. When a car is passing the group, it is important to alert everyone to ensure that no riders move out of line into the lane of the passing car. A phrase like “coming around” makes that clear. Similarly, if you are not the last rider, but hear such alerts being said by riders behind you, it is your responsibility to relay that forward by repeating it. This keeps everyone aware and safer.
Check back for part 3 on timing, dropping soon!
Miss part 1? Check it out below.