Cycling 101


Cycling Terms

Attack – When a rider or riders decide to ride faster than the rest to ride away from the bunch, it is called an attack or ‘break-away’. Usually this is done with the intention of getting away from the bunch and riding to a placing at the finish.

Abandon – When a rider quits during a race.

Blocking – When one rider, or a group of riders disrupts a chase by slowing down a paceline.

Bonk – Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride.

Bonus Sprints – On each stage, race organizers designate several intermediate points along the route where bonus points are given to the first three riders who cross the line.

Break/Breakaway – A rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind.

Bridge/Bridge a Gap – To catch a rider or group that has opened a lead.

Bunch Sprint – Bunch sprints occur when a group of riders approaches the finish line as a whole and all speed to the finish line.

Cadence – The number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed. Also called pedal rpm.

Chasers – Riders who are trying to catch a breakaway group.

Circuit Race – A multi-lap event on a course usually two miles or more in length.

Criterium – A multi-lap, one-day race on a closed, short course, typically one mile or less.

DNF – Did Not Finish.

DNS – Did Not Start.

Domestique – A team rider who sacrifices his individual performance to help a designated teammate. Duties can include giving up one’s bike for another rider, supplying refreshments to teammates, and catching breakaway riders. French for “servant.”

Draft – To ride closely behind another racer or vehicle thus saving energy by using the racer or car as a wind break. Riding in front is very strenuous but affords a great energy-saving advantage to the rider behind.

Drafting – Riding closely behind another rider or vehicle to take advantage of the windbreak (slipstream) and use about 20 percent less energy.

Feed Zone – A designated area along the route where riders can grab “musette bags” filled with food and drinks as they ride by. There is an unwritten rule in the peloton that riders should not attack the field while the riders are going through the feed zone.

Field Sprint – A mass sprint at the finish among the main group of riders in a road race.

Gap – The distance (usually measured in time) between individuals or groups.

General Classification (G.C.) – The overall leader board in the race, representing each rider’s total cumulative time in the race. The rider with the lowest time is number one on the G.C.

Grand Tour – Refers to the three-week major cycling stage races: Tour de France, Gyro d’Italia (Tour of Italy), and Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain).

Hammer – Riding hard, going all out.

Jump – A quick acceleration, which usually develops into a sprint.

KOM – King of the Mountain. Award for the Best Climber.

Lead Out – A cyclist sacrifices himself by riding fast in front of a teammate who sits in close behind to gain the advantage of the wind block. The front rider, usually a domestique, will ride as fast as possible toward the finish line with the other rider (usually the team leader or team sprinter) right behind. Just before the line the front rider will pull off to the side allowing the rider behind to race through to the finish.

Mechanical – Slang for a mechanical problem with the bicycle.

Mountain Climb Classification – Large mountain climbs are normally classified according to their difficulty. Category 4 is the easiest, followed by Categories 3, 2, 1, and the Hors-Categorie (French for above classification), which is the most difficult. Mountain climbs are classified according to their length and the average gradient of the road’s incline.

Off the Back – Describes one or more riders who have failed to keep pace with the main group.

Off the Front – When a rider takes part in a breakaway (see breakaway).

On the Front – When a rider or team leads the peloton or rides at the front of the peloton for extended time.

Paceline – a group formation in which each rider takes a turn setting the pace at the front before pulling off, dropping to the rear position, and riding the others’ draft until at the front once again.

Peloton – The main field, or pack, of riders in the race. Peloton is French for a group moving forward. When the group is strung out, long and thin, the peloton is traveling at a fairly high speed.

Prologue – Short individual time trial to begin a stage race.

Pull – To take a turn at the front of the group, maintaining the same speed of the group.

Puncture – Flat tire.

Road Rash – Large abrasions on a rider’s body caused by a crash, particularly on asphalt.

Saddle – The bike seat.

Sitting In – A rider who does not take their turn at the front of a pace line.

Sitting up – When the rider is no longer tucked, or riding in the most aerodynamic fashion.

Slipstream – The area of least wind resistance behind a rider.

Soigneur – French term meaning “to treat” or “to care for.” Soigneurs provide massage therapy for riders during competition, prepare feed bags and water bottles and drive team support vehicles.

Stage Race – A bike race held over successive days, with a different course each day. Stage races last anywhere from three days to three weeks. The rider with the lowest total time (or accumulated points) after completion of all the stages wins the overall race.

Switchback – A tight, zigzag or hairpin turn on the face of a mountain. Can mean either uphill or downhill.

Team Captain – The member of the team directing the riders’ strategy during a race. Usually the most seasoned rider in the team.

Team Car – This car, with spare bikes on the roof, follows its riders in the peloton caravan throughout a race. The vehicle is driven by the team director with the mechanic in the back seat with spare wheels, food, drinks and medical supplies.

Team Director/Directeur Sportif – This person manages the racing tactics of the team during a race; he chooses the riders for the team and for each race; he decides the races in which the team will participate. He is the boss of the team.

Team Leader – The rider designated as the team’s best chance for a stage win, overall win, or jersey.

Tempo – Brisk cadence.

Time Cut – On each stage all riders must finish within a certain percentage of the winner’s time to remain in the race. Those who are unable to make the cut are disqualified from the race.

Time Trial – An individual or team race against the clock whereby one rider or the whole team starts one at a time. The rider or team with the least time over a set distance is the winner. Riders can pass each other on the course but are not allowed to draft off each other.

Train – A fast moving paceline of riders.

UCI – Union Cycliste Internationale, the international governing body of cycling.

Cycling Canada Cyclisme – the mission of Cycling Canada Cyclisme (CCC) is to create and sustain an effective system that develops talented Canadian cyclists to achieve Olympic, Paralympic and World Championship medal performances.

VELO – French for bike.