Tips for New Dude in the Front Group

In almost every race, sportive, century, or just a training group ride, there tends to be someone who bites off more than he can do. Oh, his intentions are good. He loves the sport of cycling, reads Velonews religiously, watches all of the pro races, trains as often as he can; but experience is a wise teacher, and many times the student doesn’t attend class like he should.

In the Glassner Century I rode last weekend, I met a training partner of mine. As the event began, he and I hovered between the front group and the second group. Why? Simple. The new guys in that front group can be dangerous. Many of them are full of fire in the first 15 miles, but many do not understand high-speed riding in a mass. True to fact, almost 11 miles into the ride, my friend and I (still keeping a watchful eye on the front group) watched a crash occur at an intersection . . . bikes everywhere, bodies on the ground, people upset. Seeing that no one was seriously injured, we went around the chaos and joined the riders pulling away from the incident. Here are five tips for the new cyclists with an itch to scratch in the front group:

  1. You are not riding in the Tour de France.  Sure, you want to prove yourself and show that you have been training, but be patient. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Pedal and concentrate. If it fees to hairy, don’t be afraid to drift to the back and wait on the next group.
  2. Don’t overlap wheels. A common mistake in riding bikes is too overlap, especially for inexperienced riders. Too many things can and most of the time do go wrong. If your front tire meets someone else’s back tire, you will be the one to crash 9 out of 10 times. Pay attention to the pace and terrain, and you’ll have more control.
  3. Keep your hands near or on the hoods in a tight bunch. There is a special place on the handlebars where a person has the most control. It is usually the hoods. It is where most of your time is spent. For the inexperienced, being in the drops in a tight group who is hammering it out is not good.
  4. Quit doing everything on the bike but paying attention. Digging in your jersey, sucking on your water bottle, adjusting your shoe or chin strap, or anything else in tight quarters is a recipe for disaster. Focus. Do all of that in the back after you pull the group. Being in control of your bike is the number one priority. Being inattentive is what causes a rider to panic and jam the brakes . . . a HUGE no no.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Ego can be the cause a lot of problems. If you don’t know how long to pull up front, ask. If someone mumbles a suggestion in your direction, listen. If have jumped to the front group only to realize that it wasn’t the place for you, drift away. Spend just enough time in the front group to pick up a few things.

Everyone had to start somewhere. Learning how to do things is part of the experience. Reading articles or watching the Worlds on television isn’t the only answer. It’s being on the bike, trying to apply what you’ve read or seen. But remember this: articles and television include professional riders. You won’t be able to do what they do, but certain aspects are good to try and emulate.


11 thoughts on “Tips for New Dude in the Front Group

    1. Over here, as the sportive settles in, groups form . . . front group (fastest), next group forms farther back and so on and on. Most of them run in average speeds, like front group (23ish mph) then second group (20ish) then third group (18-19ish). This is mainly because of the various levels of riders that show up for the events.

      1. I think the Sportives round here seem a bit different to me. Quite hilly with constant ups & downs so if you lose a group going uphill it can be hard to get onto another as we tend to be strung out.

      2. You’re right, FC. It really depends on the terrain. If it’s fast rollers, we can have segmented groups with a few caught in between. If it’s mainly a climbing sportive, there are a lot of loners. 🙂

  1. 6. Be predictable. The success of the group depoends on everyone being on the same page, which means the rider ahead of you and the rider behind think you would do exactly what they would do if they were in your position. No sudden swerves, no weaving in and out, no rapid accelerations or decelerations.

    7. Keep your line. I guess this is similar to the above, but if you ever have to change your line for any reason, anticipate it and let those know around you.

    8. this is actually what I call “Rule #1”: If You Do Not Know Where You Are Going, STAY OFF THE FRONT!

    1. Thanks, DC! You’re so right. Yeah, all of my five things had an underlying theme of paying attention. One of my peeves is when someone is pulling and starts freewheeling down a hill! Pedal your bike! 😀

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