Vocabulary – What are they talking about?

Whe you start cycling you may hear some new words, terms, and references. Hopefully, some of them will be expained below.

A sudden attempt to get away from another rider


When a rider tries to get in the way of other riders, usually done as part of a team strategy to slow down the main field when other team members are ahead in a breakaway


Known as "hitting the wall" in marathon running, this is when a rider completely runs out of energy

When a rider or group of riders is attempting to reach a group farther ahead

Bridge the Gap

When a rider or group of riders is attempting to reach a group farther ahead

Riders who are attempting to "bridge the gap" to catch the lead group


A multi-lap event on a course usually a mile or less in length and of medium total distance, usually 25-75 miles

The mechanism that moves the chain from one gear to another

Director Sportif

Pronounced "Director sporteef" this is the manager of the team


A rider who sacrifices any individual honors to the team leader who is in contention to win

Riding closely behind another rider, which creates a slipstream, or air pocket. The lead rider expends up to 30 percent more energy than the following rider does

To leave another rider or riders behind by attacking. Losing contact with the group in which they are riding will drop fatigued riders

A line of riders taking orderly turns at the lead and staggered so that each rider will get maximum protection from the wind. Also called a "pace line"

At some point during a long road race it is necessary for riders to replace expended energy. Riders are given a "musette," a small cloth bag, containing food and water bottles. Riders grab the bag from the team support personnel, remove the contents and put them in the pockets of their jerseys to eat when most convenient. They generally prefer high-energy foods that break down quickly.

The main group of riders, also known as the "pack," "peloton," or "bunch"

Field Sprint

The final sprint between a group of riders, not necessarily for first place

Force the Pace

When one rider goes harder than the pack to increase the tempo

The distance between individual or groups


Very steady, strenuous pedaling. Also called "jamming"

Hanging On

Barely keeping contact at the back of the pack

When one rider, either on purpose or by accident, uses his/her rear wheel to hit the front wheel of the rider behind him/her

A sudden acceleration, often at the start of the sprint

The final burst of speed in a sprint

Lead Out
An international and often sacrificial move where one rider begins a sprint to give a head start to another rider (usually a teammate) on his rear wheel, who then comes around at an even faster speed to take the lead

Cycling’s term for a rookie at the professional level

Pace Line
See "echelon"

See "field"

See "field"

Pronounced "preem." A race-within-a-race where riders sprint for prizes on a designated lap or at a certain point in a race, i..e., the "sponsor" Teamwork Challenge

To take a turn at the front and break the wind for the other riders in the pack

Pull Off
To move to one side so that another rider can take a turn at the front

Pull Through
Move to the front of a pace line, from second spot, after the lead riders swings off to the front

Sitting In
When one rider refuses to take a pull and break the wind for the group in which he/she is riding. A derogatory term is "Wheel Sucker"


The pocket of air created by a moving rider, just as in automobile or motorcycle racing. See "drafting"


Pronounced "Swa-neur" Comparable to a trainer in other sports, this person gives massages and watches the physical health of the riders along with the team doctors


A sudden burst of speed for the finish of a race involving more than one rider. Also a 1000-meter event on a bicycle track called a "velodrome"

Stage Race
A series of individual races- time trials, road races, circuit races or criteriums – grouped into one event that lasts several days. The rider who has the lowest accumulated time for all stages determines the winner. The most famous stage race in the world is the Tour de France, which spans 2,500 miles in 21 or 22 days.

Take a Flyer
When one rider goes off the front of the pack, usually alone

Time Trial
An individual race against the clock, often called the "race of truth"


An oval banked track, usually 333.33 meters in length. In general, track riders and road riders compete in separate kinds of events. The difference in training and ability is similar to the difference between sprinters and long-distance runners.

Wheel Sucker
A derogatory term, referring to a rider who always sits in and never expends any energy by taking a pull at the front.

This article and accompanying pages here with credit to USA Cycling.