Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Breaking away–The Echelon

Many of the strong riders were out of town last weekend, either racing or recovery. I sent a quick email the night before to see who would be at the Saturday group ride. There was not much of a response but there was enough to get me to load up the bike in the truck.

I knew that Ron from the coast would be there. We happen to ride the same bike and work in the same industry. I held his wheel quite a bit up the hills at Red Bluff last year and he invited me to participate in my first crit.


When I got to Winn Dixie Dennis and Baron were also present. The temperature was (and continues this week) to be unseasonably cool. It was not cool enough for arm warmers but considering the temperature was in the 90’s last weekend it was a wonderful reprieve.

I have not been south of town since last year and I do not know the routes well anyway. However, I did have a route saved from last year in my Garmin 305. I loaded up the route and we headed out. I route in question was 47 miles. I really did not need directions; Dennis knew the way and no turns were missed.

Although the temperature was pleasant, the same could not be said for the wind. Baron was racing the next day and dropped off pretty quick. Therefore, this left the three of us to the blustery ride. Do not get me wrong, the ride was awesome. The day was beautiful.

What the wind did do is allow us to practice forming a breakaway echelon. Similar to a pace line but much faster rotation. It was three of us circling constantly; only taking the full brunt of the wind for a few seconds. We rotated in a clockwise fashion meaning that we passed the lead rider on the left (this is dictated by the direction of the wind). As soon as there was room, the lead rider said clear and you moved to the right. You only backed off the pace for a split second and then yelled clear as the next rider moved in front of you. You then jumped on the wheel of the rider to your left. A full revolution was completed in about 5 seconds. This allowed us to go several miles faster than if we were solo or even in a formal pace line. Unfortunately, we were not very smooth. Every time someone jumped on the wheel in the draft there was a surge. We rode along in the echelon for several minutes. The thousands (hundreds) of surges took their toll. It was hard to ride in the echelon mentally and physically.

Straight Echelon

Crosswind Echelon

A better explanation from another blogger:

The simple, straight echelon is somewhat similar to a simple pace line, in that there are two lines of racers. However, the first difference is that there is no distinct pull by the lead racer…he comes into the wind and rotates off (into the direction of wind). The second difference is that the lead racer rotates off and into a line of receding riders. An echelon places the lead rider in the wind for only moments.  The rates of movement for the two lines is also different. The line going up is slightly faster than the line going back; the idea is to keep the rates constant.

It was a beautiful day for a ride.


Tri4Success said...

I've found in small groups like you mentioned that if the echelon isn't very smooth then we're better off treating it as a standard paceline with short pulls. Sure, we're not quite as fast and we're fighting the wind a bit longer from the front, but it's not as mentally taxing as such a quick rotation.

Heidi Austin, PT, DPT said...

love your new profile btw coach :) that stuff is complicated... especially the crosswin echelon...

Jim ... 50after40 said...

I think we've got a cross wind this weekend at my race, but only about 13-15mph, so not horrible. Nothing compared to trying to do it on a bike.

Kurt @ Becoming An Ironman said...

I have a feeling I'd end up killing someone if I tried that!; most likely myself. haha

It'd be fun to try though.