Specifically : Rotating vs Single pace lines
How many times have you been in a race and in a small group doing a rotating pace line and it feels like you NEVER get a rest? That might be because you don’t have enough people to do a rotating pace line. For some reason riders always default to the rotating pace line even when it is the wrong choice.
I was recently in a race and got into a five man break away towards the end. We were all pretty tired and to put it kindly not everybody was all that good at riding a steady pace. You’d take a pull, swing off and then have to hit the gas again to get on the back and then, BAM, you’re on the front again. We weren’t getting any recovery between pulls.
Finally I convinced them that we should ride a single file pace line with each rider taking 15-20 second pulls on the front. When your pull is over you sit up, go to the back and get a nice long rest before you hit the front again. MUCH better! Not only do you get more rest, but there is a lot less jacking the pace around as different riders hit the front or you go over a roller, etc.
So, what is the dividing line between a rotating and a single file pace line? Good question! I always think about team time trials. “Back in the day”, the 100km, four person team time trial was a national championship, world championship and Olympic event. The four person TTT is ALWAYS ridden in a single pace line. On the other end, if you watch a Tour de France TTT with nine riders they usually use a rotating pace line. So, the line sits somewhere between four and nine. I would probably prefer at least six riders if I was going to do a rotating pace line, but here is the important point. YOU NEED TO THINK about what is going on and make a decision. Do a rotating pace line if you have decided that it is the best pace line for the current situation! Don’t do it because that’s just what you always seem to do, or if it’s what everybody else defaults to. That doesn’t make it right!
I will add on to this discussion later when I talk about Echelons.