You could easily be fooled into thinking that hills are what make bike races and training bashes fall apart at the seams, forcing the strongest riders to the front. That’s true, but only to an extent. In everyday riding conditions the cyclist’s worse enemy is the wind. It doesn’t generally crop up just once or twice in a ride to shake things up, it’s there all the time. Like hills, sometimes it’s stronger and tougher than at other times, and there’s no escaping it.
Some of the toughest bike races in the world are held on the flat, open roads of Northern Europe, and Belgium in particular. Time and again we see the wind-strewn spring classics blasted to bits in the fields of Flanders. Classic vistas of weaving line after line of echeloned riders gritting their teeth and fighting through the wind, dropping off one by one until only the elite are left.
When it comes to riding and profiting when the wind blows, it’s the Belgians who rule the roost. Riding in these gritty conditions day after day forces you to learn, and learn fast, how to ride in the wind. It’s a tough game, and one where experience is key. Being in the right place at the right time is all-important, because when the pressure’s on into the wind you ain’t going nowhere but backwards.
We caught up with the Davitamon team as they prepared for the early season classics, and they lined up to demonstrate the art of echelon riding and cycling into the wind. Afterwards, we spoke to their director sportif Hendrik Redant, a man with more than his fair share of experience as a pro rider. He took us through the key elements of survival in the wind, and showed us how his team handles situations to make sure they stay up front when the going gets tough.
These principles can be learned from, and adapted into, almost any cycling situation to help make your life that much easier.
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