Ways of the Windblown
57“On a really windy day it is very difficult indeed to move up from echelon to echelon, and so your finishing position may already be decided by the echelon you’re in.” Rebecca Bishop, Pro Cyclist
Matter-of-factly, my Dutch director gave only one strategy for my first European classic, “Ven ja leaf da citi center, ja moostbe en da front. De vind vill sort it out an de ras vill be over der.” (When you leave town, be on the front or the race is over.) Sure ya well, I’ll be ready.
So we started as he said, and did our round about the city. Passing through downtown, we headed into narrow straat toward tulip fields racing 5k so far. One more block of perfectly manicured village, I sat 15th in the sweet spot, thinks I.
Past the sheltering row, we rode into a wall of wind. The first echelon formed in seconds. It went across the road with dexterous velocity and put a gap of impassible space between the next line. Fifteen riders couldn’t fit across that path so I was in the second echelon. The race for first was over for all but the front dozen.
Afterwards, my director and I looked at each other and I said, “Ya well, now I know what you mean en da front.” In the howl of Holland’s winds as if I’d never raced before, the roar of any March lion previously known seemed like a house cat. It wasn’t enough to know it was coming, you had to learn its ways.
It’s wicked hard in an echelon. Even in sheltered crosswind, the riding is resisted. If wind gusts laterally, there’s still air ahead to slice with no slipstream to protect. Of course, the road is always turning so the echelon is like covering yourself with a sweater in a gale – inadequate shelter.
Usually guttered, the final position in the echelon is the worst – providing less side and no drag protection. So a trick to rest can be to take more pulls nosing in front before the last wheel rotating or to sit mid-way behind, constantly nosing your front wheel in and out of the moving middle. No one seems to mind if you do this for a rotation – the Dutch are winsome even if their winds are not, but still this is a time when doing the lion’s share of the work is definitely rewarded.
Prayer for Echelon Skills
“We made slow headway…and had difficulty arriving…when the wind did not allow us to hold our course.” 58Acts 27:7
We are thankful for a way to sail on bikes. We ask for skill to slice air in the boomerang of windy pacelines.
Ponder Do I train in winds with others to learn its ways? Affirm If I must take the path of most resistance, rest and rewards can still be discovered. Watch the wind’s direction for clues to find a semblance of the sweet spot.
57“Peloton Riding,” skills by Rebecca Bishop, Scottish pro, posted on www.easycycling.com
58The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson