Echeloning: communication and collaboration
Echeloning is not just a matter of the legs. The group is working effectively and efficiently only by communicating intensively. For example:
Coaching the lead riders (“Bit left”, “Bit right”).
Joining in front of you (“In between”).
Riding more compact ( “Closer”).
Keeping your line ( “Line”).
Dropping any gaps ( “Bridge”)
Ensuring that there is no acceleration in taking or handing off the lead. ( “Keep the pace”).
Signaling that a rider should join behind you. (“After me”)
Seeing that a rider has problems taking the lead and pushing him/her into the lead (which (s)he hands off right away).
Indicating that someone has to pass a turn, because otherwise that rider will be dropped too soon.
Indicating that you’re taking a final, long turn, and then drop from the group.
Signaling that a rider should take his/her last long turn at the front, and then drop from the group.
Pushing a weaker rider at the rear of the echelon to keep that rider aboard.
It’s all communication and collaboration.
Planning and implementing
In communication and cooperation there is a big difference between theory and practice. Before the start, good plans and agreements are made in a civilized manner. But when the hammer is being put down, with lots of wind, noise and other distractions going on, communication and cooperation is not all that easy. Rather, it is getting out of control :).
It is an art and a skill that must be learned to communicate clearly and efficiently with a burning pain in your lungs and legs.
What happens to you if are gapped by a meter when trying to join? Do you get in the fighting mode, “That bastard in front takes the lead way too hard.” Or are you being humbled, “Shit, I can’t do it”. Learn from those emotional reactions to respond functionally correct and coach your fellow riders. Call: “Easy!!” or “Hold!!”
The art for the weaker rider in a group is to still use their mouths in time, under the motto “Weak legs, big mouth!” That is not easy to do for many, but that’s what you can do and should do. If you do it well, it delivers you much and can make a group of weaker riders ride faster than a group of strong riders who cooperate and communicate less well.
For the strong, there is another challenge: being ego-less by putting yourself in service of the group. Riding next to a group and encouraging or yelling at the others who are already spent might give the impression that you yourself are a very strong rider. Good for your ego. Sometimes for your public relations. But in fact it is of course a disqualification of yourself as a rider as you had to take much longer leads in the group.
TTT Vuelta 2016 Team Sky
Last few hundred meters, Froome at a gap.
In the last few hunbdred meters, a gap develops in front of Froome.
Why did that gap develop:
- Was Froome too weak?
- Did Froome take too long a turn?
- Had others not done enough?
- Not considering that last hill?
- Not considering the differences in anaerobic capacity of the various riders (used in the final sprint)?
- Anything else???
As an outsider, it’s hard to judge why that gap developed.
In any case, it’s clear that communication broke down, both among the riders as well as from the team car.
See also: Communication and cooperation / coaching each other
See also: Mindset and group dynamics