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Patron of the Peloton – My friend Brad coined this term and it’s come up in discussion a few times over the recent weeks. The “patron of the peloton” (POTP) essentially refers to the figurehead of any bunch ride. He’s not necessarily the best rider, but he is the most respected and the unspoken leader. He’s the guy who shouts “piss stop!” and everyone stops. He is the guy who is able to say “single up!” and everyone singles up. Nearly every bunch includes one rider like this and it’s always handy to know who this person is.
Why is this important to know? It’s especially significant when you’re new to a bunch ride. No matter how good a rider you are, when you join a bunch ride for the first time you should take note of who the POTP is, sit back, and follow. When you’re on someone else’s bunch ride it’s not the time to flex your muscle and show your stuff. This is one of those pieces of cycling etiquette that is never explicitly stated, but mess it up and you won’t be invited back.
I was reminded of this when we were riding in Adelaide last week. A few other locals had generously taken us out on some rides around Adelaide Hills. A gentleman named Mick was clearly the one who was leading the ride. It wasn’t an egotistical alpha male type of thing. He was simply the guy who took charge, led us for a cruise around his backyard, told us about the area and set a moderate tempo. This was not the time or the place for any of us to be ramping up the pace, riding off the front, or pushing for alternate routes. Unfortunately one of the less experienced guest riders wasn’t familiar with this etiquette and decided to break away at one point. Not so cool – especially when there were intersections everywhere and we could have been turning at any one of them. This just causes problems and undue stress for the group leader and subtly shows disrespect (even though I’m sure that’s not how it was intended). If you get a puncture, crash, or take a wrong turn, the POTP will ultimately be the person looking out for you and organizing your rescue.
Moral of the story: If it’s not your ride, stay with those whose ride it is.
Of course etiquette, respect, and common courtesy get thrown out the window in the Melbourne bunch rides. Time after time I’ve seen many people from weekend warriors to Olympic champions try to lead and talk some sense into the group rides with no success. I genuinely think this is a problem without a solution.