By Mark Deterline © 2009
Charting a Path
One of the most important precepts in group cycling and particularly in bike racing is holding one’s line of travel. This is essential as multiple riders naturally form one or more moving columns in order to benefit from the aerodynamic slipstream formed by the rider in front of them. This tendency also serves to keep the group as compact as possible, whether it’s hurtling along the edge of a busy road or filling the width of a designated race course devoid of public traffic.
Holding one’s line is a concept easy for motorists to grasp if they consider how dangerous it would be to swerve out of their chosen lane on the freeway toward other cars. In a bike race, where participants can travel at close to 30 MPH while sporting nothing but Lycra and a grimace, straying off one’s line toward other riders is equally perilous and can more easily cause a devastating chain reaction. Bike racers not only intentionally tailgate one another (they call it “drafting”) to stay out of the wind, but in their efforts to save energy behind other riders and to cover one another’s accelerations, they ride in airshow-tight formation, which often includes overlapping one another’s wheels. If a rider swerves out of their own line and across another, but competitors’ front and rear wheels don’t cross, calamity can be avoided. Elbows, handlebars and hips will often brush or bump, but the more experienced the racers the less such instances of contact result in anything other than a slight adjustment in position or an angry word. However, if a rider comes off their line and crosses wheels with someone else, mass crashes and injuries can result.
Holding one’s line becomes increasingly important – and difficult – as roads curve and bike racers push themselves deep into a realm they simply refer to as pain. Many people can go fast on a bike, but going hard while holding their line through turns in a dense pack of riders requires as much mind as body, as much brain as brawn. And we don’t even have room here to discuss team race strategy, which is one of the most compelling aspects of bike racing and something Team PROMAN has always excelled at. Perhaps another time.
Holding one’s line in the face of challenges, supreme exertion and even hardship serves as a nice metaphor for the path that the PROMAN Women’s Cycling Team has chosen and that – despite outside skepticism – has proven not only successful, but immensely satisfying for its riders and fans alike.
Now in only its fourth year, the PROMAN “Hit Squad” has amassed numerous national and international-level wins and high finishes, and simply could not be deterred after deciding to launch its Junior squad at the end of last year. (PROMAN’s blossoming Junior Women’s program has racked up multiple wins itself and is now officially part of the USA Cycling Junior Development Program.) Some of the following I’ve recounted before, but please indulge me as I do so again, because you just can’t make up stuff like this…