Conquering Peloton Position: Learn Your Way Around the Pack
Learn how to maneuver through the peloton on your own.
the middle of an echelon, preferably the first one. Likewise, it?s typically easier to move up when the peloton is riding on wider roads, so you don?t want to be at the back of the group when the roads get narrow.
Get a Move On
Knowing where you need to be and actually getting there are two entirely different things. Moving up through the field is much more efficient than pulling out to the side of the peloton and accelerating in the wind. To efficiently move through the field, you have to develop the ability to see passing lanes opening and closing around you. While you may be able to move up by going straight up in between two riders ahead of you, you?re more likely to find diagonal lanes to accelerate through.
The trick to moving up through a diagonal lane is to get your handlebars ahead of the rider beside you. If your bars are ahead of his, you control where the two of you go. As you accelerate forward and to the side, the rider next to you has to move with you in order to avoid hitting your thigh with his handlebar.
Moving up through diagonal lanes doesn?t mean cutting people off or riding recklessly. The best riders are so smooth they can move up through the field without being noticed. Once you decide a space is big enough and you?re going to accelerate through a lane, commit to the move and go. When you?re uncertain, you make riders around you nervous because you?re jerking your bike and head around as you decide whether you can make it through the hole. Keep your eyes on your destination and move steadily into that space; the riders around you won?t flinch because you?ve already made your move by the time they realize what?s going on.
In criteriums, the entry into a corner often provides prime opportunities to move up. If you can find a lane that will help you keep more of your speed through the corner, you can move up several places. You have to have confidence in your handling skills and brakes to pull this off safely. As the corner approaches, some riders will back off the wheel ahead of them slightly in order to float through the turn without having to hit the brakes as hard. This opens up passing lanes, but to take advantage of them you have to come into the corner with more speed and be comfortable passing people in close quarters. Again, you have to commit to the pass, get your handlebars ahead of the person you?re passing, and move confidently into the space. In this case, hesitating will likely mean getting stuck between two riders as the lane closes; not a good situation to be in while leaning into a turn at 30mph.
Practice Makes Perfect
Group rides and training criteriums are the best places to practice moving around the peloton. In order to stay near the front of a real race, you have to find and