Peloton tactics: 'X' marks the spot

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A common mistake made by many road racing teams is that team members sometimes tend to clump together in one spot in the peloton.

This occurs from the lower amateur categories all the way to the top Euro pros, and often causes entire teams to be taken out of the event by a crash, or a split in the field.

A good way to approach positioning in the group is to have the team members spread out into an "X" formation (roughly).

The riders at the back of the X should still be in the front half of the peloton. They are in position to be the "eyes" of the group. If they see a pending attack or a dangerous rival preparing for a move, they can call or radio to the other team members.

The riders at the front of the X are in position to cover or attack. They should be near the front, but not at the front, so they are not working unnecessarily in the wind. Since most attacks come from a side and near the front, they will be perfectly placed to go with a break, neutralize an aggressor or make an attack.

The "protected" riders of the team should be in the middle (but still in the front half) of the group where they are sheltered from any wind. When the time is right, they can position themselves for the finish or a decisive attack.

Andy Applegate is an elite-level road, cyclo-cross, and mountain bike racer. He is also a USA Cycling and Ultrafit-certified coach. He may be reached at aapplegate@ultrafit.com.

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