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Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 5/5
Section - 9.32 Riding in echelon

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Date:    Fri, 13 Sep 1996 16:47:03 -0700 (PDT)

The "fan" you guys are talking about is called an echelon.  It is
something that even a lot of good cat 1 and 2 riders can't do properly.
It looks something like this:  (Each "|" is a rider.)

Wind from the left                 Wind from the right
||                                              ||
  ||                                          ||
    ||                                      ||
      ||                                  ||
        ||                              ||
          ||                          ||
           |                          |
           |                          |
           |                          |

The single file guys at the bottom of the picture are "in the gutter".  
Though they may be behind another rider they are getting almost no draft 
and their days are numbered unless they can get into the echelon proper.

The riders in the echelon will rotate through from the sheltered side to 
the front and then back in the windward side.  i.e.  With wind from the 
left you rotate counter clockwise and you rotate clockwise when the wind 
is from the right.  If you are riding in a echelon and you want to keep 
things smooth and together you will NEVER take a big long pull on the 
front.  You will always just rotate through.  If you take a big pull at 
the front, the previously pulling riders will continue to drift back.  
Especially since the last guy to pull is still in the wind waiting for 
you to swing over and give him a draft!  What you'll end up with is a 
single file echelon.  This is bad because the number of riders that can 
fit into an echelon is determined by the width of the road.  If you go 
single file, then only half as many can fit into the echelon and you've 
got a lot of pissed off riders pushing the wind.  

A strong team (like ONCE) can cause a lot of damage in a cross wind.  By 
putting the whole team on the front and making the echelon just wide 
enough for the team, they can drive the pace up front hard enough to 
shatter the field.  Smart riders will start forming second and third 
echelons behind the original.  This is the best thing to do.  
Unfortunately there are two problems.  First, as soon as you get close, 
some moron will try and jump across to the first echelon.  This is 
usually stupid because the reason you are in the second echelon is 
because they're no room in the first one.  So the offending moron will 
often find himself stuck in the gutter unless he can muscle his way into 
the echelon.  (A lot like trying to knock Abdu off of his leadout man 
with 300 meters to go.)  The second problem is that most of the stronger 
riders are probably already in the first echelon so you're at a 
horsepower disadvantage.

Often, early in a race, the field might encounter a strong cross wind and 
break into as many as eight or ten echelons.  Each echelon will be within 
50 to 100 meters of the next one.  They will continue like this until the 
course turns either into or with the wind and the group will reform.  
Just because you aren't physically connected to the front group in this 
situation IS NOT NECESSARILY A REASON TO PANIC.  If there are only ten 
miles to go however, feel free to panic. :)

There's nothing about an echelon that makes it faster than a regular pace 
line.  The reason it will break the field up is that only part of the 
field will fit in an echelon.

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Top Document: Rec.Bicycles Frequently Asked Questions Posting Part 5/5
Previous Document: 9.31 Group Riding Tips
Next Document: 9.33 Mirrors II

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