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Road Cycling

The discipline of road cycling takes place on paved roadways. Considered to be the most traditional and popular form of racing, road cycling takes on many different forms. Cycling events contested on the road include time trials, road races, stage races, criteriums, omniums, team time trials, and circuit races. The Olympic Games feature two of these events: road race and time trial.

Stage Races

Stage races are multi-day races that string together several stages. The rider with the lowest cumulative time after all stages are complete is declared the winner. The most popular example of a stage race is the Tour de France – a 21-day race every July that is considered to be the most prestigious competitive cycling event in the world.

Mountain Biking

Modern mountain biking got its start in the late 1970’s and today serves as a popular form of recreation, as well as competition. Like other disciplines of cycling, mountain biking encompasses many different formats including cross-country, short track cross-country, ultra-endurance, downhill, dual slalom, four-Cross, super D and observed trials.

Cross-country is the only mountain biking format contested at the Olympic Games.

Mountain Bike Overview

Mountain bikes are made for traversing technical, uneven terrain and feature specific characteristics for a unique type of competition. Mountain bikes are typically made of steel, aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber or a mixture of materials. Notable components on a mountain bike include wide, knobby tires, suspension systems and shock absorbers, disc brakes, clipless pedals and a multitude of gears. Riders generally customize their tires for specific terrain and conditions in order to achieve maximum traction whether they’re climbing a wide, dusty logging road or descending down a wet, slippery single-track trail full of rocks and roots.

Most cross country mountain bikes are equipped with front suspension systems that absorb shock and help make for a smooth ride when racing over uneven ground.

Because mountain bikers usually race in muddy and dirty conditions, disc brakes are typically favored over traditional brake pads and calipers which can malfunction in wet and adverse conditions.

One of the most unique attributes of a mountain bike is the wide, knobby tires that give a rider additional traction when riding over rocks, roots, loose gravel and other obstacles. The added surface area and tire patterns give a rider more stability as he navigates the off-road conditions.

Cycling Terminology

Like most sports, competitive cycling utilizes a unique set of terminology. Whether it’s road cycling, mountain biking, track racing or BMX, there are many terms one should be familiar with. Below is a list of the most common terms used throughout the sport of cycling.

  • Attack: A sudden attempt to get away from a rider or group of riders
  • Berm: An embankment on a BMX track
  • Biff: Another term for a crash
  • Black Line: A 5-centimeter-wide line at the bottom of a velodrome track which defines the length of the track
  • Blocking: When a rider impedes the progress of another rider, usually done as part of a team strategy to slow down the main field when a team member is ahead in a breakaway
  • Blue Band: The section between the racing surface on a velodrome and the infield. Technically, it’s not illegal to ride on the Blue Band, but it is illegal to advance one’s position while riding on it
  • BMX: Abbreviation for Bicycle Motorcross
  • Bonk: When a rider completely runs out of energy
  • Breakaway: A rider or group of riders who has separated themselves ahead of the main pack
  • Bridge the Gap: When a rider or group of riders attempt to advance from a group of riders to one further ahead
  • Caravan: The line of cars which typically follow a road race; includes team cars, race officials, media, medical, VIP and neutral support vehicles.
  • Chasers: Riders who are attempting to advance to a rider or group of riders ahead
  • Chicane: A series of tight, technical turns
  • Criterium: A multi-lap road race on a course usually a mile or less in length
  • Director Sportif: The traditional name for the team manager
  • Domestique: A rider who typically rides in support of a designated team leader
  • Drafting: Riding in the slipstream of another rider ahead. A rider drafting off another generally expends 30% less energy
  • Drop: To leave another rider or group of riders behind by attacking
  • Echelon: A line of riders positioned behind one another to receive maximum protection from the wind
  • Endo: A crash which results in a rider going over the front handlebars
  • Espoir: A French term used to describe the Under-23 category of riders aged 19-22
  • Etape: A French term for a stage of a stage race
  • Feed Zone: A designated section on a road course where riders can receive food and water from their soigneur.
  • Feeding: When riders receive food and liquids throughout a race, usually from a team car that follows the race or a soigneur positioned in the feed zone
  • Field: The main group of riders, also known as the Pack, Peloton or Bunch
  • Field Sprint: The final sprint between the main group of riders in a race, not always for first place
  • Gear Ratio: The combination of gears used between the front chainring and the rear gear cluster
  • Granny Gear: The lowest gear ratio on a multi-speed bicycle, smallest chainring in front and largest in back
  • Hard-Tail: A mountain bike which only has front suspension
  • Hole-Shot: Taking the lead position out of the starting gate going into the first turn, used in BMX racing
  • Jump: A sudden acceleration, often at the start of a sprint
  • Kick: The final burst of speed in a sprint
  • Lanterne Rouge: French for Red Lantern, as found at the end of a railway train. Used to describe the last-placed rider in a race
  • Lead Out: A team-oriented move in which one rider begins a sprint to give a head start to a teammate riding in his draft
  • Moto: Used to describe a heat of a BMX race
  • Musette: A bag filled with food, water and energy drinks distributed to riders in a feed zone
  • Neo-Pro: Cycling’s term for a rookie at the professional level
  • Peloton: The main group of riders during a road race
  • Prime: A mid-race contest in which riders sprint for points, cash or prizes during a criterium, sometimes used to animate a race.
  • Prologue: A short individual time trial at the beginning of a stage race; used to assign a leader’s jersey for the first stage
  • Pull: To take a turn at the front of a paceline and block the wind for other riders in the pack
  • Pull Through: When a rider moves to the front of a paceline and takes his turn blocking the wind at the front
  • Pull Off: When a rider moves to one side of a paceline to allow another rider to pull through.
  • Sag Wagon: A vehicle that follows a race and picks up riders who are unable to finish
  • Singletrack: A narrow off-road trail which is only wide enough for bikes to ride in a single-file formation
  • Sitting In: When one rider refuses to take a pull and break the wind for a group in which he’s riding
  • Slipstream: The pocket of air created by a moving rider, just as in automobile or motorcycle racing
  • Soft-tail: A mountain bike that has both front and rear suspension
  • Soigneur: A French term for cycling’s equivalent of a trainer. A soigneur usually looks after the physical health of a rider and gives massages
  • Sprint: The sudden burst of speed before the race’s finish or an intermediate sprint point
  • Sprinter’s Lane: The space between the Black Line and The Sprinter’s Line on the velodrome. A rider leading in this zone cannot be passed on the inside
  • Sprinter’s Line: A 5-centimeter-wide line 90-centimeters above the Black Line
  • Stage Race: A multi-day event which combines several races. The rider with the lowest cumulative time is declared the winner
  • Stagiaire: An amateur rider who gets an opportunity to compete with a professional team during the season in order to gain experience at the pro level
  • Tech Zone: A section on a mountain bike course where riders can exchange parts or receive mechanical assistance from others
  • Take a Flyer: When a rider attacks the main pack and creates a solo breakaway
  • Time Trial: An individual or team race against the clock
  • Velodrome: An oval, banked cycling track used for track racing• Track Stand: A technique used in track racing in which competitors come to a complete standstill in order to force their opponent to take the lead
  • Wheel Sucker: A derogatory term used to describe someone who rides in a pack without taking a pull at the front and blocking the wind

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