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September 15, 2008
With the recent weather, the theme of today’s post is CROSSWINDS. Even A-Grade riders can get confused about how to ride in a group in the crosswinds. In my last race there were several direction changes in the road and the pack had to adjust its position on every corner. Not always an easy task when your heart is pounding at 180bpm and you can’t think clearly. Many guys made mistakes by either not understanding the concept, or not paying attention to the direction of the wind.
PULL OFF INTO THE WIND is the thing to remember. Geese do this exact same thing when flying in groups. This is the most efficient way of using the groups energy to cut through the wind and maintain a high average speed .
What to do in an echelon:
The riders in the echelon will rotate through from the sheltered side to the front and then pull off back on the windward side. When riding in an echelon you want to keep things smooth and together. You should NEVER take a big long pull on the front. You will always rotate through taking short 1-2 min pulls. When you get to the front of the echelon you will ride to just in front of the lead rider, gently pull in front of him and maintain his speed. DO NOT pull through hard and continue going faster than him. If you do this then the poor guy will have to punch it to get onto your wheel after just doing his pull. When riding with experienced riders, you’ll find yourself a few bike lengths in front of the echelon hanging out there by yourself.
What NOT to do in an echelon:
The echelon can only be as wide as the road so in a large pack there will be a number of riders in single file behind the echelon. This is the absolute WORST place to be. It’s easy to get tricked into thinking that by being in the "gutter" as it’s called, you’re not doing any work by avoiding rotating through. Trust me, it’s much easier being in the echelon doing a hard pull once every minute than being in the gutter hanging on for dear life. Note: This wouldn’t be the case in a headwind but a crosswind is completely different. Once one person in the gutter drops the wheel in front, its very difficult to get back on and close that gap. And if you’re the one to drop that wheel, you’ll have a lot of pissed off riders behind you!
On the other hand, there are a number of effective strategies to intentionally drop other riders in an echelon. We’ll talk about these in future posts.