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Proper echelon form?

Old 04-03-11, 07:36 PM
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hshearer
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Proper echelon form?

Am I doing this wrong? How do YOU work an echelon?

I was in a race today, trying to work with a group of about 5 others. Ideally, I was hoping we could get a rotating echelon going. One guy finally decided to give me a break, and came up beside me on the sheltered side. As has always been my practice, once he was clear, I tucked in behind him, expecting the guy who had been following his wheel to continue on up in the shelter and take his own few seconds at the front, and so on, eventually shuffling me to the back, where I would pull out and start advancing back up to the front. And down the road we would merrily rotate the lead... But, the guy following my saviour went "whoa" and dropped back in behind me. I think I suprised him a bit. Was I wrong? Is there a convention for this sort of thing? As in, in a group of 6 or so, do you just pull until you're ready for a break and then coast straight to the back? It's too bad; nobody else ended up taking any pulls, and the group soon fell apart. Maybe they were red-lining and the guy behind my saviour has no intention of ever being at the front?

Asking because I'm in a new part of the country... don't know if the 'rules' are different in different areas. Also, this was a sort of road/cross-country/cyclocross race, so maybe not everyone in the group had much road experience. I sure don't have much cross-country experience! Well, or road experience either for that matter I guess, otherwise I probably wouldn't need to be asking this question.
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Old 04-03-11, 07:54 PM
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Apparently the pros can't even get it right:
Tilford's take - see point #2
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Old 04-03-11, 08:28 PM
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Aon't over-think it... pretty likely some of the guys in your group weren't real sure how to echelon, or if they do know, were willing to work anyway.
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Old 04-03-11, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by hshearer View Post
Am I doing this wrong? How do YOU work an echelon?

I was in a race today, trying to work with a group of about 5 others. Ideally, I was hoping we could get a rotating echelon going. One guy finally decided to give me a break, and came up beside me on the sheltered side. As has always been my practice, once he was clear, I tucked in behind him, expecting the guy who had been following his wheel to continue on up in the shelter and take his own few seconds at the front, and so on, eventually shuffling me to the back, where I would pull out and start advancing back up to the front. And down the road we would merrily rotate the lead... But, the guy following my saviour went "whoa" and dropped back in behind me. I think I suprised him a bit. Was I wrong? Is there a convention for this sort of thing? As in, in a group of 6 or so, do you just pull until you're ready for a break and then coast straight to the back? It's too bad; nobody else ended up taking any pulls, and the group soon fell apart. Maybe they were red-lining and the guy behind my saviour has no intention of ever being at the front? .
What you describe sounds like a paceline, not an echelon (a specialized form of a paceline).

Nope. Sounds like you did it wrong. In any group formation you always "hold your line". Sounds like you cut off the guy behind your "savior".

In any paceline, there are two lines: a "pulling" line & a "recovery" line. Sometimes, the "recovery" line only has one person in it. Sometimes multiple people. After you're done with a pull on the front of the "pulling" line, you move over into the "recovery" line and slowly drift to the back, and then move over into the "pulling" line and get on the last guy's wheel there.

It is the responsibility of the man in front of the "pulling" line to move over into the "recovery" line. You jumped on the wheel of the first guy in the pulling line, breaking the #1 rule of group rides to "Hold your line!", effectively cutting into the "pulling" line and riding dangerously (hence, the "Whoa!"). Everyone else found out what you were doing and were more than happy to accommodate your riding style and let you take multiple pulls--less work for them.

If your "savior" dude, after pulling through, immediately jumps over in front of you (into the "recovery" line so there's 2 of you), so the guy on his wheel (in the "pulling" line) pulls through, this is another specific form of a paceline called a "rotating" paceline.

(For more details, you could visit my blog.)
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Old 04-04-11, 05:33 AM
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Thanks mkadam... that's a good way to put it.

I should have specified that: the fellow coming up first actually did pull over as he was coming around the front, and I adjusted slightly to get in behind him... it certainly wasn't a big move on my part, nothing dramatic (a couple inches). I think guy #2 was more suprised that guy #1 had moved over and that I had taken 'his' spot (#2 was still slightly behind me and well off to the side). Who knows, maybe the 'whoa' was just a comment on how close my front tire was to #1 as I slipped in there (it was a very conversational tone, but still, not something I wanted to hear). However, I probably should have waited to see if #2 was going to pull through, considering the kind of race it was. I just got excited and thought 'finally, echelon! do it!'. It's easy to fall into old habits when your brain is oxygen-deprived. I'll have to work on making some new habits.
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Old 04-04-11, 05:43 AM
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Doggues, I read your link. One commenter brought up the question of numbers. I always figured 5 or 6 was a good number for a double echelon (an advancing/retreating line). The commenter said a single echelon is just as good unless you've got more like 9 or 10 guys. What are everyone's thoughts on that?
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Old 04-04-11, 07:39 AM
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the width/depth of the echelon will be decided by the width of the road.
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Old 04-04-11, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by hshearer View Post
Doggues, I read your link. One commenter brought up the question of numbers. I always figured 5 or 6 was a good number for a double echelon (an advancing/retreating line). The commenter said a single echelon is just as good unless you've got more like 9 or 10 guys. What are everyone's thoughts on that?
A rotating paceline allows more recovery for riders. Meaning: If only one person is in the recovery line, s/he is still fighting the wind as they move to the back of the pulling line. If there are riders in the recovery line as well, then they benefit from a draft in the recovery line and not only at the back of the pulling line. I would say 10-12 riders needed for a rotating paceline. This translates to: more rested riders = faster pace.
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Old 04-04-11, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Doggus View Post
Apparently the pros can't even get it right:
Tilford's take - see point #2
I don't know that I agree with this guys point about 4 guys doing a double paceline.

Racers do it because they a) want the group they're in to stay away until the finish, and b) want to conserve energy, so they get off the front as soon as they get there. It may not strictly be the fastest way to get to the finish line, but it works for conserving as much energy and still getting there quickly. And, so it's a "square". So what? A rotating paceline with 12-guys is a "rectangle". So what?
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Old 04-04-11, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
I don't know that I agree with this guys point about 4 guys doing a double paceline.

Racers do it because they a) want the group they're in to stay away until the finish, and b) want to conserve energy, so they get off the front as soon as they get there. It may not strictly be the fastest way to get to the finish line, but it works for conserving as much energy and still getting there quickly. And, so it's a "square". So what? A rotating paceline with 12-guys is a "rectangle". So what?

I think Tilford's point is about speed and energy cost. He's saying, 4 guys are as fast or faster in a single line, and the energy cost vs double is same or lower.

I seem to recall one of the pro teams did some studies a few years ago about TTT's and came up with a series of rules of thumb as to when you should be single vs double... but watch a few TTT stages and you'll see they are mostly single, even when they have enough road to be double.
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Old 04-04-11, 09:09 AM
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Yeah, I understand that, and it's a valid point. For TTT's.

But, when you have riders from different teams, they don't want to be sitting on the front giving it their all. They're trying to save something for the finish. A TTT--riders are giving it they're all because they're on the same team.
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Old 04-04-11, 09:10 AM
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Doesn't an echelon specifically refer to a cross wind situation?
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Old 04-04-11, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
Yeah, I understand that, and it's a valid point. For TTT's.

But, when you have riders from different teams, they don't want to be sitting on the front giving it their all. They're trying to save something for the finish. A TTT--riders are giving it they're all because they're on the same team.

which, reinforces Tilford's point - if he's right about the aerodynamics and energy cost, then a single line is better for all the riders; the break has better chances and their energy cost is less.
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Old 04-04-11, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
which, reinforces Tilford's point - if he's right about the aerodynamics and energy cost, then a single line is better for all the riders; the break has better chances and their energy cost is less.
Only if everybody in the break is contributing the same. But in real world, somebody will taking shorter pulls, somebody will skip a rotation, some will be forced to do longer. So what ends up happening is everybody takes the shortest pull possible and then they don't worry about putting out more energy than the next guy.
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Old 04-04-11, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by jfmckenna View Post
Doesn't an echelon specifically refer to a cross wind situation?
Yes.
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Old 04-04-11, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by hshearer View Post
I was in a race today, trying to work with a group of about 5 others. Ideally, I was hoping we could get a rotating echelon going. One guy finally decided to give me a break, and came up beside me on the sheltered side. As has always been my practice, once he was clear, I tucked in behind him, expecting the guy who had been following his wheel to continue on up in the shelter and take his own few seconds at the front, and so on, eventually shuffling me to the back, where I would pull out and start advancing back up to the front.
Sounds like the 2nd guy in line was already in the draft spot, and you pushed him out of the way.

When you stop taking a pull, then you drift to the back. You don't "tuck in" or get "eventually shuffled" to the back. You are still in the wind but no longer pulling. While you are drifting you provide some additional draft for the other riders, and when you clear the last one you move over so you are in the draft.
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Old 04-04-11, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
Yes.
therefore the multitude of vectors will dictate many variations of e-shlongs.
road witdth/(crosswind speed*bicycle speed) ie final vector+ mentality of riders= final echelon coefficient where 1 is side by side and .0001 is nearly out of side draft. you get the idea.
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