We all sometimes imagine what it would be like if we were part of the Tour peloton, riding the grandest stage of them all as part of an elite team, each with their specific tasks. But how would you fit there? What will be your role? Will you be the Mark Cavendish of your team or maybe the Peter Sagan? Can you be Tadej Pogačar or Fabian Cancellara?
If you are rarely pulling the group and almost always staying somewhere in the goldilocks zone (not too much in front but not that far back either), you have the potential to be the Sprinter. But, of course, hiding and skipping a pull is not what defines the Sprinter. It’s the explosive power you possess. Yes, you rely on your teammates to do the work, shelter you from the wind, block the competitors, and open you a launch path but when push comes to shove, the whole race depends on you. The last 200 metres are all up to you and your ability to put these 2,000W on for 10-15 seconds.
However, that glorious outlook of your strengths is appreciated only when racing. When you are just on a Sunday ride, you are just being selfish. So, don’t be a Sprinter when there is no sprint.
Typically, cyclists are almost see-true. When you burn 6,000-7,000 calories per ride, it’s not very easy to put up some muscle mass. Well, not you. You look more like a bodybuilder than a cyclist – with broader shoulders and larger legs. As usual, your looks are not what makes you the Puncher of the group but your willingness to pull hard on short climbs. You are the one who gives their maximum effort on every steep hill along the way, be it on the 50th mile or the 170th. However, if the climb turns out to be a bit longer than your comfort zone, you will most likely slide back into the pack, and if you miscalculated your effort, you might even drop out entirely.
Generally, you are a delight to ride with. You are always keen to pull on the most brutal parts and laid back on the flat areas, except when someone tries to pass you on a short climb. Then your instincts kick in, and you dash away, never to be seen again (until the end of the ride).
Talking of climbing, let’s mention the ruler of the mountains, the goat of the team, the one who is most likely to hit 200 bpm on their heart monitor. If you are passing cars on a climb because they are too slow to keep up with your tempo, you most probably are the Climber of the group. While the terrain is flat, you are pulling your weight. You take turns at the lead, you switch, and you genuinely play nice. Once the grades start hitting the double digits, though, all bets are off. You wave goodbye to your group and wish them luck. The only downside is that you’ll have the time to drink three beers while you wait for them at the top, and after three beers during the descent, you will swiftly transform from the Climber to the Stuntman.
If you are the personification of the ‘one-rider-one-bike’ myth, the open road is your home, and your only goal is to beat your previous time on the same trail, then you are most probably the Triallist of your group. You are a true powerhouse when it comes to putting in wats. You don’t need the group, and you don’t put up with its moods. You love the constant rhythm and you don’t break it for anyone and anything. Well, at least until the rolling hills turn into mountain slopes. Then you quickly get back in the peloton, and you hide there until the stars align again and the road once again becomes flat.
You are not built to ride in a group, and groups don’t love riding with you. You feel best on your own, and whenever you are having a ride with your friends, you are usually the one who dashes away and waits for them at the end destination for the well-deserved beer.
You are strong, fast and have the stamina to spare, yet you are nothing without a group. That’s why you excelled in giving the orders all around. Every group needs a leader to optimise their performance, and that is your role – the General Classification (GC) rider. You are fast but not as fast as Sprinters. You are resilient on climbs, but not so as Climbers. You are good on your own but not as good as the Triallist. What you are brilliant at is tactics.
You know how to bring out the best of everyone and to make sure your team is always on top. You know when to attack, when to close a gap and when to simply let the climbers be themselves. You make sure your team wins the day. Whether it would be the Sprinter, the Puncher, the time Triallist or yourself, it doesn’t really matter all that much to you. You rarely win separate stages but you are always there, in the top 5. That’s why you are always competing for the overall win in tours and championships – a place befitting a team’s captain.
In a friendly ride, you are like the “parent” of the group, giving advice, scolding someone if they are skipping a pull, dictating the tempo. You are genuinely a pleasure to ride with since you always put the group’s well-being in front of yours.
If you are the youngest one in your ride group, the one with excessive amounts of energy, always ready to keep the more established riders happy, then you are the Domestique. It’s a truly ungrateful role. You do all the work, yet you are never under the spotlight. The Domestique is the one who does the dirty job in a race. They go back to pull teammates who were left behind or bring water. Yet still, they push forward to get to the front and drag the Sprinter through a climb, close a gap, start a counterattack or swipe the competition when there is a fight for position. The Domestique is the sacrificial lamb of the team who never gets the win, although they do most of the work. They are integral for the team, though, and well-respected among their teammates.
You are often the first to be called when a ride is being organised. Many would reject the offer if you won’t be there since you are a true superstar. Although you are the youngest, you typically care about everyone in the group. In one moment, you are way back, helping a friend with a climb, then you sprint to the front to tell the Triallist to take it down a notch. After that, you are pulling the whole group, and often you bring an extra gel or two, just in case. You share your water, your food, and you are holding the spare parts and tools. You are a one-man superstar, and everyone loves you. You can be the last one, who gets to the well-deserved beer at the end, yet everyone will wait and have a seat ready for you. It’s good to be the Domestique in a friendly ride. In a race – not so much.