Hotchillee Ride Captain Group Riding Tips
We hope you’re getting as excited as we are in the build up to the LONDON PARIS by Tour de France. A massive part of this amazing 3-day experience is the camaraderie, shared achievement and, at the pointy end, some good-natured competition of riding in your seeded group.
The culmination is when, for the final run-in to Paris, all groups come together to form a group that’ll be over 2km long – a real spine tingling event!
Your enjoyment and safety are the main priorities of the Hotchillee Ride Captains and a huge part of this is pacing and controlling their groups.
Here are some top tips of what you can do to help them out.
Two by two
Most of the time you’ll be riding two by two – not in a constantly moving amorphous peloton. There will be times when you may be asked to single out or, if you’re in Groups 1 or 2 where race sections are live, be permitted to break this formation but this should only happen when instructed to do so by the Ride Captains.
A sacrosanct rule is to never cross the white line marking the centre of the road. This is essential for your safety and allows support vehicles and outsiders to easily move up and down the groups.
You should also never pass the lead car unless instructed to do so by the police or marshals and, apart from during race sections for relevant groups, not pass the lead Ride Captain either. Equally, if you find yourself at the rear of the group, you will not be allowed to drop behind the rear Ride Captain.
The Ride Captains will ensure that your group will rotate throughout the day, so you’ll get a chance to ride next to and get to know all of your fellow riders.
You’ll have been seeded based on your preference and the information you gave us.
Especially if you’ve done most of your riding solo or in small groups, a lot of the time on the flat it will feel as though we’re taking it too steady.
Also, on climbs, you may have to grit your teeth a dig in a bit.
Trust the pace the Hotchillee Ride Captains are setting – we know what we’re doing!
Ride smoothly and predictably
The key thing to remember is that any deviations you make in direction or pace will be magnified back through the group. Keep it smooth, hold your line and don’t be grabby with your brakes. Also, if you stand up out of the saddle, don’t allow your rear wheel to kick back and be aware, if the road does start to rise, that the rider ahead of you may do this so give a bit more room just in case.
Good group riding is all about good communication up and down the group. If you’re not already aware, you’ll soon find out that there are a number of signal and shouts which you should learn the meaning of and always pass on. There are some subtle regional variations, and each group will have their own quirks so, if in doubt, just ask a Ride Captain.
Look through the bunch
Don’t fixate on the backside of the rider in-front or their rear wheel. Look through the bunch to the front and ahead down the road.
This will allow you to anticipate how the bunch is going to move, give you much more time to react to any changes of direction and give you a heads up for shifting and braking.
Keep looking forwards at all times. This may sound obvious but, if you’re chatting to a rider next to you or hear an unexpected noise behind, it’s easy to be distracted, turn your head and this often leads to an unexpected change in your line.
Don’t overlap wheels
It’s fine to ride to the side of the rear wheel of the rider in-front, especially if you’re building your confidence in following a wheel. However, never allow your wheel to overlap theirs.
If they have to move to avoid something, there’s a good chance that they will clip your front wheel and possibly bring you down.
You may well find yourself on the front of the group and half-wheeling is a big no-no. Half wheeling is where, if you’re riding as a pair on the front, you constantly edge ahead of the rider next to you and, in doing so, ramp the pace up. It can cause splits and chaos in the group behind you and is bad for group cohesion.
How close is close enough?
A tightly grouped bunch of well-drilled riders is a beautiful thing to behold but don’t feel pressured to stick limpet like to the wheel ahead. Ride as close as you feel comfortable with, but bear in mind that you only really get a draft benefit within a bike length, and this should really be the maximum gap on the flat but can be let out on descents. As you build confidence in your own ability and in the riders around you, close the gap a bit at a time.
If you have a mechanical problem or a puncture
If this happens, raise your hand so that riders behind can see that you are an obstacle and can avoid you. If it’s a front tyre flat, keep both hands on the handlebars and let someone else signal for you, especially when going downhill. It is very dangerous to take a hand off the handlebars when you have a puncture in the front. Use the back brake predominantly to slow yourself.
Don’t stop until the bunch has completely passed you. Move to the side of the road. If it is the rear wheel, put into the smallest sprocket, remove the wheel and raise it so that the service vehicle sees you. They will either change the wheel for you if they have a suitable spare or fix the puncture in the vehicle and drop you off ahead of the bunch again.
Slowing and stopping
There may be a reason for the group to stop – junctions in the UK and even when we’re in France with outriders, train level crossings and similar. Keep your position in the group and don’t use it as an opportunity to overtake riders that have slowed or stopped in front of you.
We will only be stopping the group – unless there’s an emergency, at designated water and feed stations. These are your opportunities to take a comfort break and to make any adjustments to your kit and clothing.
For sticking to timings, we can’t afford unscheduled stops and they just put pressure on the whole group.
Think ahead and do what you need to do at the planned stops.