When The Paceline Stalls…

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I had an interesting experience on Saturday while racing the Warny.  After Feedzone #2 when the peloton split and the hard chase commenced I was rolling turns with all the big hitters of the race.   Everyone was driving hard and doing their share of the work nice and smoothly.  Then, all of a sudden I found myself in an unfamiliar situation that I’ve seen many times but never been directly a part of.

As I rolled through the paceline of riders I pulled off in front of the lead rider.  Another rider did the same and pulled off in front of me.  Then nothing.  There was no one else coming through and the whole chase effort had stalled.  The guy on the front was stuck there driving the pace while everyone else was sitting on.   I looked behind us to see what was going on and started to wave my arm so to initiate someone to come rolling through to get it going again.  Then I found myself being yelled at with everyone telling me to pull another turn.  What…Me?  I just did a turn!

I’m sure many you have been in the same situation where you’re rolling along smoothly with everyone sharing the work up front and then no one pulls through.

There are a couple things here:

1. Why does the paceline stall?

Sometimes the paceline stalls simply because someone at the back skipped their turn and left the guy in front with no one on his wheel.

However, quite often it’s not the rider who skipped his turn fault (the guy who decided to stay in the slower lane in illustration below).  It’s often the fault of rider who just pulled into the Faster Lane who isn’t pulling through smoothly and is dropping wheels.  This is the worst type of rider to be behind and often people will skip their turn in order to find a better wheel to follow.


Therefore, if you keep finding yourself at the front of the paceline and it keeps stalling with no one pulling through, it’s likely your fault that this is happening.  You may not pulling out of the slower lane into the faster lane smoothly and predictably.

However, many times the paceline stalls simply because riders are being lazy (or shifty) and/or someone got into the wrong position and disrupted the flow.

2. Whose responsibility is it to get the paceline moving again?

There is no easy answer to this one.  I had a good chat with Kristian House about the situation I found myself in and we both agreed that it would have been good if I had come out of my second position in the long line and pulled another turn (yes, I make mistakes too!).  It would have also been good if the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc rider did, but they clearly weren’t up for it.   Therefore I should have taken the initiative to pull through one or two more turns to get the momentum going again.  After a few attempts if nothing got moving again I would have done all I could do.  Of course there were 20 other guys in the line behind me who could have done something, but my second position in the pack was by far the easiest out of everyone to roll another turn since I only had one rider ahead of me to pass ahead of.

I hope this makes sense.  It’s a tough thing to explain but if you’ve been in this situation I think you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

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