Riding around Sydney on your road bike, even on your own, is fun and good exercise. Add in a couple of riding buddies and you get the opportunity to have a bit of a chat. But add in another 20+ people and you have a peloton. This is when it starts to get serious.
We’ve all watched big cycling road races like the Tour De France, where the pack sticks together and chases down some poor lone rider who has dared to strike out on his own. Even when race teams are competing against each other, the peloton is used to move everyone along at a faster pace. The load is shared in order to get through the distance in the most efficient way.
Riders in organised road races have the luxury of a road closed to other traffic. Training for the Westpac Tour 200 on the roads of Sydney is a different kettle of fish altogether – and the peloton is force to be reckoned with. Get 20 riders in formation, 2 by 2, riding tight on each other’s back wheel, and the peloton takes up the same space as a semi trailer on the road, having the right to a whole lane. But riding in a peloton requires intense concentration and the ability to speak a whole new language – both verbally and in hand signals for when you are too tired to talk. (Read the Tour De Cure etiquette guide for more detail if you need it!)
Some calls are obvious – a shout of “hole middle” meaning there is a hole in the road you might like to avoid – or “car back” meaning a car is coming around the group. Others are plain confusing until you get used to them – “Over” means over to the RIGHT – but only gets called from the BACK of the peloton where there is visibility to the front that all is safe. And the signal for moving to single file, holding your hand straight up on your head, is bizarrely the same as the signal for “SHARK” if you’ve ever been scuba diving…..
The true power in the peloton is the fact that as a group, you are more powerful than on your own. Stronger riders rotate through the front, driving the speed and buffering those behind from headwinds. Weaker or struggling riders travel directly behind this “engine room” in what is known as the armchair or “business class” – taking full advantage of the wind break and drag from the engine room in front. Bringing up the rear is another set of stronger riders who ensure the peloton stays together and make key calls as other vehicles come past.
Riding in a peloton reminds me how individuals can be organised to make a difference to each other. Charities such as Tour De Cure are based on this principal – an idea to raise funds for cancer research started over a coffee chat has resulted in funding for key research breakthroughs in treatment. I’ve also been fortunate to be involved with another fantastic cancer charity, the Nelune Foundation, and I will be dedicating a day of my Tour 200 ride to the amazing Nelune and Anna,the Nelune Foundation founders.
I can’t do credit to Nelune and Anna’s story here, but this clip from a few years ago will give you an overview. The reason I will ride for them is to honour their commitment to making a difference, to finding areas which are gaps in the system, and rallying support through their networks to fund ever increasingly ambitious projects. The power they call on is simply to engage people in the story, and to develop genuinely human relationships which create a groundswell of support for their causes. From grass roots patient transfer services for chemo treatments, right up to world class cancer centres, the Nelune Foundation seeks to help patients fight cancer with dignity. They have previously benefitted from Tour De Cure grants for their projects and I hope will again in the future.
The human relationships being formed during the Tour 200 will enrich our lives for a long time to come. The power of our peloton is people power, and together we ride stronger than on their own. The power of Tour De Cure & the Nelune Foundation is also people power, everyday human beings striving hard to make a difference. Sure, there’s a lot of emotion in that statement, but also a lot of facts and real results to show this is worth all the effort.
Donations to this ride will got straight to Tour De Cure where the next breakthrough can’t be far away – 18 cancer breakthroughs have been directly attributed to research funded by Tour De Cure.
EyesUp and feel the power…..