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When I’ve asked some of my friends why professional cycling doesn’t interest them, most tell me it’s because it’s portrayed as an individual sport when it’s clearly not. And they’re right; cycling is just as much a team sport as football or soccer. But if one takes the time to understand the dynamic between a team’s members, they would see the level of gratitude everyone shares for each other’s work.

A great example of this teamwork is the success of British cyclist Mark Cavendish, or as the analysts call him, the “Manx Missile”. Now, every cycling team is a hodgepodge of riders with different skills. There are climbers, sprinters, and all-arounders: people who are talented in every area. Because of Mark’s compact frame and explosive acceleration, Cavendish has become one of the sport’s greatest sprinters of all time. Just watch this clip of Mark winning the last stage of the 2009 Tour de France.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCUD0CPKJSM&feature=related]Mark Cavendish wins on the Champs Élysées - YouTube[/ame]

Impressive right? Well if you’re upset how it looked like he stole all the glory, Mark would be the first to admit that he wouldn’t be in a position to win that stage if it wasn’t for his teammates’ help. This example perfectly demonstrates the importance of the perfect paceline.

In the beginning of the above video when you see the two riders from Cavendish’s team break to the left of the leaders, you’re witnessing the formation of a single paceline. This is where a group of riders form a single line, maintaining a constant speed. In this case, coming up to the sprint at the finish, all three riders accelerate together with Mark in the rear conserving the most energy. As the rider in front tires, he pulls off to the side and drifts to the back of the line forcing the second rider to set the pace.

Outside of this instant, a single paceline is used when a road is narrow or congested with cyclists. Each rider will normally hold the front for a minute or two before letting the rider behind him come up.

There are also two other types of pacelines called the double and echelon. The double, also known as the rotating or circular paceline, consists of two lines of riders with one side moving faster than the other. If you’re in the faster lane you are on the side that is continually moving up, so when one reaches the front of the line they simply switch over to the slower side, keeping the whole process moving. Then when you reach the end of the slow line, you slide back into the fast one.

Sometimes though the wind won’t be blowing parallel to the roadway. This is where it’s best to form a general echelon. There is no concise operation to this process but it always seems to work out when you’re part of one.

Essentially, this technique is just a double paceline at an angle. To determine which direction you rotate, always move into the crosswind. This way the advancing line that is already working harder gets some protection from the wind. Since wheels often overlap one another while executing this system, you should never practice it on a busy road.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQhj20S2PAM]Sand Hollow Paceline 3 12 10 - YouTube[/ame]

A difficult part of executing a double paceline is finding a rhythm everyone can work with. Not every rider is likely to be in the same physical condition or ride at the same cadence, so some compromises must be made. Generally though, you’ll find yourself leading a double paceline for no more than 30 seconds.

Another aspect that isn’t always clear is how far away you should be from the nearest cyclist. In order for a paceline to be efficient, riders must be grouped as tightly as possible to reduce air resistance for those in the rear. A good rule is to remain within elbow bumping distance. So in other words, if you can’t reach your buddy’s shoulder you’re too far away.

Let people know if you’re tired. They will often let you hang on the back for a few rotations while you recover. Also, never slam on the brakes. If you need to decelerate, try sitting up to catch some of the wind. And remember to always keep your attention several yards on the road in front of you.
 

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Comfortable in a paceline, only done a double once or twice and never an echelon....that I ever realized anyway :)
 

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I kinda wanna try this, but I'm absolutely petrified that I'll do something that takes out everybody else!
 

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No cycling isn't racing or if it is its semi fixed. Answer this honestly. How many team members on a cycling team have the opportunity to actually win the race no matter how well they perform? Answer 1. Unless the team leader crashes only one guy would be given the chance to win. If there are 20 teams in the race, 20 riders have a chance to win and everyone else is just in the friggen way and losers. After all 2nd is the first loser.

It's racing or its football. You don't give individual winner trophies in football. The whole team wins and gets to stand on the stage when they do win. In cycling its not that at all. Loads of riders are ordered to drop back to fetch something for the leader, give up there bike, and be a rolling barrier to keep someone else's mistake to getting to the team leader. Lance Armstrong got all the glory of winning Le Tour, but how many people know the rolling barrier for him was George Hincappie. No matter what happens George wasn't going to be allowed to win. How do you think fans would feel if Dale Earnhart Jr. was ordered not to win to let Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon win? Well maybe not such a good example except at plate tracks.
 

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No cycling isn't racing or if it is its semi fixed. Answer this honestly. How many team members on a cycling team have the opportunity to actually win the race no matter how well they perform? Answer 1. Unless the team leader crashes only one guy would be given the chance to win. If there are 20 teams in the race, 20 riders have a chance to win and everyone else is just in the friggen way and losers. After all 2nd is the first loser.
This again?! Really? Show some respect, man. Everyone else is just losers? I normally am pretty mellow, but to call professional cyclists losers is just too over the top to not set the record straight. It's actually freaking ridiculous and I'm getting tired of reading the same inane arguments over and over. I guess you fail to realize there were 21 individual stage wins in the Tour, plus winners of the Green, Polka Dot, and White Jersey competition as well as the overall winner. In addition, there actually IS a team competition in the TdF. Each individual competition is quite prestigious and brings a lot of coverage to the team and their sponsors as well as monetary prizes.

Hushovd is a loser? Gilbert is a loser? Cavendish is a loser? Sanchez? Rolland? PLEASE! Riders from that list won 10 of the 21 stages with Cav taking 5 of them himself. Not to mention it includes 2 world champions, an Olympic champion, and the current #1 UCI ranked road cyclist in the world.

You seem to foolishly be looking at the overall Tour winner and extrapolating conclusions about the rest of the race based on that. Even with that perspective, Europcar this year at the TdF was a prime example of a flaw in your reasoning. Early in the race they never assumed Voeckler was going to do as well later as he did, and they were not working for him. They were constantly throwing men into breaks with the hope of bringing individual stage wins. Even when Voeckler grabbed yellow, they still were concentrating on stage wins. Know who won probably the most prestigious stage on the Tour with the finish at Alpe d'Huez? Voeckler's teammate Rolland. And who was Movistar working for? They seemed to have a rider or two in every break going for individual glory.

In addition, let's assume there was an outstanding rider on a team whose goal it was to protect a GC winner. Do you not think they would likely eventually move to a team where they can be the leader? Cadel has been riding the TdF since 2005. He's done his fair share of work for others.

Not racing?! Remind us your credentials for this statement. Are you a local racer? National? International? In addition, perhaps you would like to tell us what is racing? NASCAR? Really? Do you honestly believe that Jimmie Johnson deosn't get preferential treatment within the team? What about his pit crew? How many times does he take them on the podium? How many trophies does his fuel-man have in his house? How about his engineer? What's his name? I guess J.J. is a one man team and he does deserve to be the one getting all the glory.

Also, though a huge F1 fan, I have no doubt that some teams have a #1 driver. Think of Schumacher's days at Ferrari. Look at Vettel getting updated parts straight off of Webber's car last year. So F1 is not racing either?

Any other examples of racing?

This is a cycling forum and to see the sport of professional cycling racing trashed by someone who has no business doing so, especially with such weak arguments, required an educated retort.
 

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Simple Xela. Are they holding a trophy??? If not they didn't win and they lost. It really isn't that complicated. Respect for their abilities, absolutely. Respect for the system. Absolutely NONE. No I expect the absolutely best out of each rider EVERY time out trying to be the first guy cross the line or the fastest on the clock. When you job is to be a crash barrier for the likes of Lance, you are not competing. You are following orders. In a way I have less respect for those in that they don't tell the team you are number 1 and go ahead and try to win anyway. No I don't want to have them move to a team where they can be a team leader. I want EVERYONE out to win every race. Why should Evans have to wait for someone to grant him permission. Just go beat them and teams will somehow want you. Funny how that works. Why should Thor, Cadel or Mark have to wait their turn??? IF they were good enough to win (and they are) why shouldn't they be allowed to show their gifts rather than have a role to play. With this system how many total unknowns no matter how gifted they may be would be allowed to win the tour? None they would be too busy going back for water bottles, food or have to drop back to help a team mate struggling in the climb.

F1 for a while was about the only form of racing Vegas wouldn't take a bet on. (though I think its started again) Why? It had something to do with a 6 car race a while back. Schumacher to me is as low as the cycling system. Why? He considered it a perfectly acceptable method to win a championship by knocking your rival out. Not hitting someone trying to win a race, and doing that intentionally to win is bad enough. Hitting Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve were intentional and part of what he considered an acceptable method to win the title. He also got a number of wins in which his team mates were in the lead, and the team ORDERED the other driver to let him by, not pass him on track.

No I don't consider F1 the pinnacle of motorsports but of politics. Remember just a couple of years ago they tried to ban team orders only the team with the red cars only embarrassed the FIA by ignoring it. Though it happens somewhat in US open wheel racing, most of the time team orders are much like what Chip Ganassi uses. Race each other hard, but don't take each other out.

Well lets look at this years Tour. How many other racing series this year have had cars hit competitors? How many allow people not involved in the event on course during the event. The images of fat guys in spandex in the way of those riders trying to compete in a climb was maybe routine for everyone else, but for goodness sakes let them race. Any other sporting event they would have been arrested.

Jimmie at times may have gotten some advantages, but Jeff Gordon has never been ordered not to do his best, not pass him or even not to race them hard. The last couple of years they just haven't been fast enough. In fact though Jeff brought Jimmie into the sport years ago, they were major po'd a couple of years back. Though you are correct the driver gets the trophy, ever see a Nascar victory lane?? The entire team IS there, not just the driver as in F1 or many other series. They do get a ring at the end of the year.

Yes this is a cycling forum. I have a great respect for guys that got up out of a ditch and pulled barbed wire out of their body to continue on to finish cut to pieces, but I can have no respect of a sanctioning body that put them in that barbed wire fence in the first place.
 

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Mark, man, that barbed-wire comment, though it seems like good prose, only further shows a lack of basis for your argument. Hoogeland was a rider on a team who had no clear leader and who would never compete for GC. He was leading the competition for King of the Mountains. You know, that competition which awards the Polka Dot jersey, or as you have referred to as not a trophy. He, Flecha, and 3 others were in a breakaway again going for individual glory and a stage victory. The comment about the sanctioning body taking them out makes no sense at all. And if you try to make it make sense, you are only contradicting yourself. This was a breakaway going for individual glory as you say you want to see more of. It was a media car that took them out. I'm not sure what the Tour organizers or the UCI had to do with it.

You also don't seem to be accepting that cycling is a team sport. Having protection for you team leader is no different than an offensive line in US football. Tell me the last time a quarterback won MVP of the Superbowl and acknowledged any of his linesman.

Do you not realize that the Green Jersey, the Polka Dot Jersey, and the White Jersey are "trophies" just as is the Yellow Jersey? Do you not realize that the entire professional cycling community considers stage wins as just that; wins? Do you not see all the Garmin-Cervello boys beaming with pride on the Champs-Elysees as the winner of the team competition is announced?

Study your F1 history, too. Why was it a 6 car race? Because Michelin couldn't properly interpret their data from the same track the year before when teams raced with Michelin rubber then too and make a tire that could safely negotiate the banking of the last turn at Indy. Because of this, they asked that a special chicane be built or that all the cars agree to slow in this corner. When the teams with Bridgestone tires refused to agree to this, Michelin cried and told their teams not to race. So if Ferrari et al. would have agreed to "slow down" so the Michelin tires could handle the loading, that would have been racing? I was there, BTW. And I got an apology letter the next year from Michelin with a refund for my ticket price. Seems they agree it was their fault.

Wow, we are WAY off the paceline topic. Sorry, all.
 

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Yeah we are way off topic and I realize and we will have to agree to disagree. Yea I know about the jerseys, and frankly it is like a trophy for winning the 3rd quarter or part of an event. To me its just not something that is that appealing, though I know it has a long history.

I do know some F1 history. The 6 car Indy race was because of the red car team. The track had it been the same as the year before Michelin would have likely been just fine, but it wasn't. The track had been diamond ground and was a totally different. Bridgestone figured that out with some other series and their brand Firestone which also had trouble building a tire for the IRL there after the grinding. Goodyear had the same problem at Charlotte with Nascar sending a car in the wall with a tire failure predictably every 30 laps. That track too had been diamond ground. Michelin knew this and was willing to give up the points to put a chicane so the tires would hold up. When that was blocked by the other teams, rather than have men take a corner at 200+ on a tire they KNEW by that time would not withstand the stresses they had the courage to withdraw and pay for the decision just as you got your money back. A chicane would have slowed the cars to where the tires would have held up and the race could have continued. They admitted it was their fault that day, but not totally. There was a no testing policy so in reality, how could you absolutely know for sure.

Yes at the end of the stage is the closest thing to something I enjoy of the entire event. At that point all the bull is over and its one or two guys trying to get to the line. Man and machine vs man and machine and the best one wins. Sad thing is its usually only a few at the front. The rest of the pack gets the same time and no reason to compete. You get the same result. Better to just ride in the paceline.
 

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Yeah we are way off topic and I realize and we will have to agree to disagree.
Okay. Onwards and upwards.

Back to paceline comments. For me, it's one of the most exciting parts about group riding. It takes multiple individuals and forces them to work as one. That being said, it can also be quite intimidating. However, once you learn the rules and routine, it's is a blast!
 
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