There are 30 miles to go in the Sunday group ride. You're in a driving crosswind that's bringing a thunderstorm closer by the minute. You're taking pulls but having trouble latching back on after your turn at the front. What do you do?
I'll tell you what you do: Think like a domestique. The workhorses of the peloton can find a draft off a bumblebee; they're the ones hopping curbs to avoid hitting the brakes. They're not the most powerful riders, but they know how to offset their limitations. Here are some tips I've learned from racing as a domestique in the Tour de France—and over decades of Saturday-Morning World Championships.
The bigger the rider in front of you, the less air resistance you'll have to overcome. Also, make sure you're on the side of the wheel that's out of the wind.
Pull Off Before You Blow
Having trouble staying with the pack? When it's your turn to lead, pull through, then immediately pull off. Don't slow down too much as you drift back; accelerating to get back on will sap your strength.
If you need to avoid the front altogether, corners and stoplights are good places to let a few people by. Slide back into the line as the group reforms.
Jump Back In—Maybe
Skipping pulls can be a blow to the ego, and you may be tempted—either by pride or because you feel recovered—to jump back in. If you're close to home and want to go out with a bang, it's fine to take pulls until you're spit out the back. But if a storm is brewing and you have an hour to go, concentrate on conserving your energy and save the heroics for another day.