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OTHER CYCLING : Coaching Advice : Paddy Doran Last Updated: 19 Jul 2021 - 7:26:24 PM

By Paddy Doran
24 Jan 2011,

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Fast cycling in groups: Paddy Doran gives more tips for category 4 and 3 riders and females whose goals are to be upgraded this season and for people who are coming into cycling from other sports

The purpose of this article is, to help you improve your group cycling skills at higher speeds, improve your aerobic fitness, pace judgement and selection of optimum gears and cadence... Ok here we go, if you have followed the earlier article on group cycling (Posted on 4 Jan '11) you should now be more competent, comfortable and relaxed while cycling at medium speeds in groups. You should now be getting good shelter when in the group and going through to take your turn at the front as well as being fitter to cycle on the front for the required time of your endurance training session. It's now time to consider moving on to the next level of this skill.


When you look at professional races on television you will see the top sprinters teams allowing a breakaway group away and then by working together wiping out their advantage in the latter part of the stage by maintaining very high speeds on the run in to the finish. The smaller the breakaway group is the easier it is for the chasing teams to bring them back. A single rider usually has no chance against these combined chases, which clearly demonstrates the need for the skills of cycling fast in groups to be highly developed no matter how strong you may be physically.

Something to note about these chases are, that early on in the chase the riders chasing the breakaway are not going so fast, so they can do long turns on the front. As the chase gets faster and faster near the end of the race the turns on the front get shorter and shorter and only the really exceptional riders can sustain the high speeds at the front for more than 100-200 metres or so.


Ok so you mightn't go as fast as the pros!! However as your skill improves you can progress to cycling at progressively faster speeds in small and large groups and simulate the race formations of the pros. This training can be introduced as part of your group training sessions where the group rides at a higher pace in single or two lines for periods of time within the session.

If it is done correctly where the speed and time at the effort is controlled it will improve your fitness as well as your skill. You will go into the racing season much better prepared for the big racing groups which are a feature of early season racing in Ireland.


In most groups the fitness and ability levels vary somewhat. However if the difference in abilities is too wide the session will not be successful so try to get riders who are near enough to each other in regard to ability and fitness.


Respect everyone's ability and fitness level and work with it.

Keep the effort none competitive, its essential that this is agreed with the group before the session. If it becomes competitive and riders go faster and faster it will end up in a shambles with riders scattered all over the road, so discipline is important.

The stronger riders might stay on the front slightly longer to maintain the constant speed. Riders who are not so strong might just go through to the front and change immediately or do a very short turn on the front until their fitness improves.


You should practise working in groups until you master the technique, maintaining a constant speed and changing smoothly. Doing your stint at the front then getting back smoothly to last rider and recover before moving to the front again. Include some of this once or twice weekly for short periods of time. Try to practise with experienced riders and/ or a coach and you will learn very quickly.


The key to this session being effective is for all members of the group to maintain a constant speed and use similar gear ratios during the effort. The duration of the efforts could be for periods of ten minutes or so before resuming the usual cycling speed. This could be repeated a few times during the session or it could simply be carried out during the last part of endurance sessions for 20 to 30 minutes leaving 20 minutes or so to cool down on way home.

The formation for large groups is usually two lines. If practising in a large group, just shorten the turns on the front by each rider to 200- 300 metres and increase the speed slightly by the riders raising their gears (going to smaller sprockets) by one or two sprockets when on the front and maintaining the slightly higher speed for the duration of the effort. This would be most likely be on a gear of 53x 18-7 on the flat.

As riders change position from second to first place in the line, the constant speed should be maintained; the rider moving from the front position should do so smoothly and safely with a very slight easing off the pace to allow the second rider move into first position smoothly. The rider who moves into first place should maintain the group speed.

Moving from the line going back, to the line going forward. This is where one of the common and most unforgiving mistakes is sometimes made. If you are moving too slowly when dropping back to last position, the line going forward will fly by you and it's a sprint to hold the wheel or get dropped situation. A few of those efforts in a race will result in you eventually being dropped.


The formation for smaller groups is usually a single line and generally the length of time on the front will be longer than in the larger groups to allow riders time to recover when they finish their turn on the front.
The last person going back needs to be moving at about the same speed as the last rider in the line going forward so that they can just slot in behind the rider as they move up the line.


- This session could be organised midweek, as the evenings get brighter for local groups.
- The group should be riding similar gear ratios with no more difference than one or two sprockets between any riders.
- Concentrate on improving the skill, that is smooth changes getting back on to the wheel to go back up the line when you reach the end of the line. Get maximum shelter at all times except for the time you are doing your turn at the front.
- After a number of weeks when your skill is very much improved you can lower the duration of the turns on the front and the duration of the effort to 5 minutes or so. This will allow you to ride faster approaching race speeds for race preparation. These efforts will need to be combined with longer recovery times if you are to maintain the quality of the efforts.


- Try to do this with experienced riders if you are learning.
- If the entire group is inexperienced, practise on very safe roads or better again off roads in car parks or on the track.
- Walk through the sequence until everyone understands the routine..
- Begin with groups of two or three riders and gradually add more riders to the group as you become proficient.
- Have signals organised before the sessions for when stopping, slowing, turning, obstacles etc and communicate with each other.
- Look where you are going at all times.
Perfect practice makes perfect

Paddy Doran
Latest Headlines
Paddy Doran — R.I.P.
How to Recover and Get Major Benefits from the Ras
Deliberate Practice The Flanagan Brothers s Super Session

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