It’s easier and faster riding in a group on the road, but everyone needs to know the rules, as Andy Cook explains …
On the front
Pedal smoothly and efﬁciently on the ﬂat, and if you do have to get out of the saddle, say for a short climb, try your utmost not to shoot your bike backwards as you stand up.
Steady as she goes
One of the biggest mistakes people make is overreacting to hazards – either ones they’ve spotted or had pointed out. Just remember that there will be people riding just as close to you as you are to the rider in front. So don’t haul on the anchors – feather your brakes and try not to make any sudden movements. The further back you are in a chaingang, the less time you are likely to have to react.
Nose blowing, eating, drinking, chatting, etc, is best saved for further back in the group – not for when you’re on the rivet, pulling on the front.
How close is too close?
If you’re a pro or you’re experienced and riding with riders you draft regularly, then your front tyre needs to be inches from their back tyre to get the most beneﬁt. But don’t trust just anyone. On sportives, where there are often large groups of fast, over-excited cyclists riding in close proximity to each other, this is where most accidents happen.
On the wheel
If you do ﬁnd yourself in the middle of a strong, smooth chaingang, enjoy the rest, but don’t lose concentration or just stare at the wheel in front. Unless that wheel belongs to a trusted riding buddy and you know the road you’re riding on, ride slightly offset, preferably outside and behind the wheel in front. That way you’ll still be able to keep an eye out for any potential problems further up the road for yourself.
Sitting up and moving
When you’ve done your turn, don’t suddenly stop pedalling or sit up. Keep up your pace while you pull out – after a ‘life-saver’ (see below). That way the rider on your wheel can get a pull onto the wheel you’ve been drafting. Once you’re out of the way, then you can sit up and drop back.
Look where you’re going
Before you move, put in a ‘life-saver’ glance down the side of the bike in the direction you want to move. Following riders will see your head movement and know you’re about to move.
Know your limits
If the group starts pulling away, don’t destroy yourself trying to stay in touch. In a sportive, you’re better off conserving your energy and waiting for the next group behind to come through so you can ride along with them instead.
About the author: With decades of British Cycling coaching behind him, BC Club Coach Andy Cook has run training camps in Mallorca for 15 years. Ex-chairman of the CTC, he is also the man celebrities David Walliams, Davina McCall and Fearne Cotton turned to for coaching on how to night ride for their Sport Relief End-to-End event. To contact him, visit www.andycookcycling.com.