Cycling 101

Get cycling savvy

Don’t let lack of familiarity with cycling discourage you from attending the Tour of America’s Dairyland. After your first race or two as a spectator, you’ll catch on, and there will be plenty of people in the crowd who will be willing to answer your questions. In the meantime, here’s are some “Cliffs Notes”:

Believe it or not, cycling is a team sport, which is why you see groups of riders wearing the same uniforms or kits as we call it in the sport. Sure, it starts with skill, acquired after logging many many many miles and racing numerous times over the short days, weeks and months that make up our summers, AND more than a little sweat! In the sport of competitive cycling, practice makes close to perfect, but you also need teammates and a strategy. A highly strategic sport, winning races doesn’t happen by accident!

Take the Pro/1/2 Women’s and Men’s races, for example, the last two races each day during the Tour of America’s Dairyland. Teams can have up to eight riders in a single race. Just as all nine players of a ball team play a specific role, so does each racer. And on a cycling team, there is typically one designated team leader, for whom all other racers work to support to win the race. These riders really dig in to collectively defend the team. They do everything from going after breakaway racers, sheltering the leader from the wind, chasing down extra bottles and even giving up their own bike in some situations.

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And if you only remember one racing term prior to the race, it’s this one: “drafting”. When racers draft, or ride in the slipstream of others, they conserve energy, up to 30%! As you’ll be quick to see at any race; the riders exert a ton of energy in their race, so conservation where possible is a must. So teammates will actually surround their team leader to keep him or her out of the wind as much as possible to preserve as much of their energy and power to be ready to jump when needed to win the race!

Now you’re ready for the Tour of America’s Dairyland! If bike racing is new to you, it’s perfectly normal to have many other questions – our best answer, just go and have fun; you’ll figure it out! Or you can always look for one of our ToAD Race Ambassadors; they’re chock full of answers and maybe even a little tchzotkse to take home! See you at the races!

Cycling Talk

A list of commonly used cycling terms with definitions:

Abandon – When a racer quits during a race.

Attack – A sudden acceleration to move ahead of another racer or group of racers.

Big Ringing It – A “big” gear – when the racer has his chain on the larger of the two front chainrings – allows a racer to go for maximum speeds.

Bonk – Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride.

Bonus Sprints – On each stage, race organizers designate several locations along the route where bonus points are given to the first few racers that cross the line. These sprints create a “race within a race” during each stage.

Breakaway – One or more racers who sprint away from the peloton (main group of racers) in an effort to build a lead. Competing racers in a breakaway will often form uneasy alliances, working together and drafting to increase or maintain their lead. Those alliances break down, though, as they approach the finish. A team leader in a breakaway with multiple teammates has a decided advantage over a racer who has no support.

Bridge – A racer(s) who sprints away from the main group of racers (aka peloton) and catch the breakaway.

Broom Wagon – The vehicle that follows the race, picking up racers who have to abandon the race.

Caravan/Race Caravan – The official and team support vehicles in a race. Each team has a car in the official race caravan. The team cars follow the peloton and racers will often go back to their team car for food, extra clothing, or to speak to their team director.

Circuit Race – A multiple-lap race around a course of usually 1.5 miles or more. A spectator favorites!

Clincher – A traditional bicycle tire that is mounted on a rim with a wire or kevlar bead. Clinchers are easy to replace or repair but they and their rims tend to weigh more than a tubular.

Col – A mountain or climb, as in the “Col du Tourmalet” in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Criterium – aka Crit. A multi-lap, one-day race on a closed, short course (usually less than a mile).

Derailleur – A mechanism for moving the chain from one sprocket to another to change gears on a multi-speed bicycle.

Disc Wheel – A bicycle wheel with covers or a solid disc, rather than open spokes. Disc wheels are very aerodynamic – but heavy – and can turn into a sail in a strong crosswind.

DNF – Did Not Finish.

Domestique – A racer whose main job is to help the team leader win the day’s stage, or the entire race. A domestique may pull the leader up to a breakaway, or pace them up a steep climb. If a team leader gets a flat, a domestique may even be called upon to give up their front or rear wheel and wait for the team mechanic, saving the leader precious seconds.

Drafting – One or more racers ride single file behind another racer, taking advantage of that racer’s slipstream. By doing so the racer behind has less of a headwind and gets a breather. In a crosswind, racers may ride in a diagonal line, instead. Drafting is the lynchpin of most bicycle racing tactics.

Drop/Dropped – When a racer has been left behind by another racer or group of racers.

Echappee – The cyclist who escapes from the pack. The ‘escapee’.

Echelon – A staggered, long line of racers, each downwind of the racer ahead, allowing them to move considerably faster than a solo racer or small group of racers. In windy sections where there are crosswinds, a large peloton will form into echelons.

Equipe – Cycling team.

Field Sprint – A mass sprint at the finish among the main group of racers in a road race.

Gap – The amount of time or distance between a racer or group of racers and another racer or group of racers.

General Classification (G.C.) – The overall leader board in the race, representing each racer’s total cumulative time in the race. The racer with the lowest time is number one on the G.C.

Hammer – To ride hard; aka “put the hammer down”.

Jump – A quick acceleration, which usually develops into a sprint.

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Lacher – Drop out or let go.

Lead Out – A racer’s teammate(s) form a paceline in front of the leader, pulling hard for the finish. The supporting cast pulls off one at a time, leaving the leader rested and fast for the last sprint. Leadouts typically happen right before the finish line or sprint.

Mechanical – Problem with the bicycle.

Off the Back – When a racer(s) cannot keep pace with the main group and lags behind.

Off the Front – When a racer takes part in a breakaway.

Paceline – A formation of two or more racers who are drafting. Typically, racers take turns doing the hard work at the front of the line.

Peloton – aka The Pack. The main group of racers.

Prologue -One type of beginning for a stage race, which is a relatively short time trial.

Popped – aka Blown, Had it, Knackered, or Stuffed. Words used to describe the legs losing all power.

Puncture – Flat tire.

Road Rash – Skin abrasions resulting from a fall or crash onto the road.

Saddle – Bike seat.

Schwag – aka swag bag – free goodies competitors get, i.e. water bottles, food, or clothing.

Slipstream – The area of least wind resistance behind a racer.

Sprint – A quick scramble for the finish line or a mid-race king of the mountain or other competition. A professional road race sprint is fast, furious and tactical. Watch for racers to jockey for the second or third spot, or organize leadouts by their teammates.

Squirrel – A racer who is erratic while riding in a group.

Team Leader – The racer for whom the team supports in order for the leader to win a stage or race.

Technical – A descent or other portion of a race that is twisty, steep or otherwise challenging from the point of view of bike handling.

Time Trial – Pits a racer or a team against the clock. Individual time trials are grueling affairs, with each racer expending maximum effort.

Train – A fast moving paceline of racers.

Tubular – aka Sew-up. A high-performance racing tire with the inner tube sewn inside the tire. The tire is then glued to a low-profile rim. Tubulars offer weight and strength advantages, but are hard to fix and maintain. Plus a bad gluing job can mean a tire failure in a sharp turn, and an ugly crash.

UCI – Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling.

USA Cycling – United State’s governing body of cycling. USA Cycling supervises the activities of all cycling disciplines (road,mountain, track, cyclo-cross), and establishes criteria for the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team.

Velo – French for “bicycle.”