In cycling, like many sports, there exists a distinctive lexicon. While cycling competitions may crown a single victor, the sport itself operates as a collective endeavor, with an individual team members win celebrated by the entirety of the team. Each cycling team comprises individuals with diverse strengths. Depending on the nature of the race – be it road race with hilly terrain or a flat, short course – the team strategically identifies the member best suited for victory.

Given the Tour of Somerville’s characteristics as a short and flat course, teams typically designate their strongest sprinter as the prime candidate for victory. In turn, fellow team members rally to “protect” their designated sprinter. This protection may involve forming a pace line, allowing the sprinter to conserve energy by drafting behind teammates for much of the race, thereby preserving stamina for the final sprint. Additionally, if the team’s designated sprinter gains a lead, other members may strategically impede opposing riders to slow down the main field. This collective effort significantly enhances the sprinter’s likelihood of success, underscoring the importance of teamwork and strategic execution in competitive cycling. Below, you’ll find a compilation of commonly used terminology in the realm of competitive cycling.

Attack: A sudden attempt to get away from another the field, the break or another individual rider.

Blocking: 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.

Breakaway: A rider or group of riders who have separated themselves ahead of the main field.

Bridge the Gap: When a rider or group of riders is attempting to reach a group farther ahead.

Chasers: Riders who are attempting to “bridge the gap” to catch the lead group.

Criterium: A multi-lap event on a course usually a mile or less in length and of medium total distance, usually 25-75 miles. In criterium racing, the first rider to cross the finish line after completing the designated number of laps is declared the winner. Additionally, criteriums may feature intermediate sprints, primes, or other competitions within the race to add further excitement and strategic elements for riders and spectators alike.

Drafting: Riding closely behind another rider, an air pocket called a “slipstream.” The lead rider expends up to 30 percent more energy than the following rider does.

Drop: To leave another rider or riders behind by attacking. Losing contact with the group in which they are riding will drop riders. When a rider is dropped, they are no longer able to keep up with the speed of the group and gradually lose contact, falling off the back of the pack. This can happen for various reasons, including fatigue, inability to match the acceleration of the group, or struggling with the pace set by other riders.

Echelon or Pace Line: A line of riders taking orderly, staggered turns at the front so that each rider will get maximum protection from the wind (see drafting).

Field or Pack: 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.

Gap: The distance between an individual rider and the field, a group and the field or the field and the break ahead.

Jump: A sudden acceleration, often at the start of the sprint.

Kick: The final burst of speed in a sprint.

Lead Out: An international and frequently selfless maneuver in which one cyclist begins to ramp up the pace with additional teammates on their wheel that continue the ramp of pace until the final teammate before the designated sprinter starts a sprint to provide a large enough acceleration to keep other riders from overtaking them, positioning the sprinter in the prime position to pick up more speed and accelerate further to hopefully take the win.

Prime: a special intermediate sprint held during a race where riders compete for a specific prize or reward. These intermediate sprints can occur at various points throughout the race course and may be announced in advance or decided on the spot by race officials.

Pull: To take a turn at the front and create a draft for the other riders in the field.

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

Pull Through: When a rider moves to the front of a pace line, from second spot, after the lead rider swings off to the front.

Sitting In: a strategy where a rider remains in the slipstream or draft of other riders, conserving energy by avoiding taking turns at the front of the group. This tactic is often employed when a rider wants to conserve energy for a final sprint or for later in the race when a breakaway opportunity arises. By sitting in, a cyclist can benefit from reduced wind resistance and expend less effort compared to those at the front of the group.

Sprint: A sudden burst of speed for either a prime or the finish of a race usually involving more than one rider.