USA Pro Challenge: Terms you need to know to understand the USA Pro Cyling Challenge |

USA Pro Challenge: Terms you need to know to understand the USA Pro Cyling Challenge

The peloton heads toward Steamboat Springs during the 2013 USA Pro Challenge race.

— The riders in this year's USA Pro Challenge will come from a number of different countries and will be speaking a number of different languages.

You don't have to speak French to understand what's happening on the course when the race rolls through Steamboat Springs Monday, Aug. 17 and Tuesday, Aug. 18, but understanding a few of the terms that will be tossed around when the races arrive in the Yampa Valley could be helpful.

Stage — Despite Steamboat's strong western heritage, this term has nothing to do with the stagecoaches that early pioneers used to travel to town. The “stage” in cycling refers to one part of a multi-day race. This year's USA Pro Challenge will include seven stages. The Tour de France has 21 stages.

Time Trial — A race against the clock where riders are separated by a set period of time, and the rider with the fastest time across the course is the winner. No drafting or other race tactics are used in this race.

Circuit race — A mass-start road cycle race somewhat similar to a criterium in that it consists of several laps of a closed circuit.

Road race — A mass-start race on pavement that goes from point to point.

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Peloton — Now to the French: Peloton (meaning little ball or platoon in French) is the term used to refer to the main group of riders in a bike race. Cyclists form a large group to save energy by riding close and drafting off of other riders. In most stages, the group in front of the Peloton includes the race, or stage, leaders.

Pace line — A formation in which each rider takes a turn breaking the wind at the front before pulling off, dropping to the rear position, and riding the others' draft until at the front once again.

Parade Lap — A rolling start where cyclists take a couple of "warm-up" laps before crossing the starting line.

Attack — When a rider or a group of riders decides to ride away from the peloton.

Drafting — This is when a rider stays right behind another cyclist to make maximum use of their slipstream. This allows the rider to reduce the drag from the wind and maintain the same speed.

Counterattack — An attack that is made when a break has been caught by the peloton or chasers.

Slipstream — The pocket of calmer air behind a moving rider. Also called the draft.

Drop — A rider is dropped if he is left behind on a breakaway of the peloton at some point in the race. Normally, the rider cannot sustain the tempo required to stay with the group. The drop is a technical maneuver where a rider, or a group of riders, accelerates with the intent of leaving other riders behind and unable to benefit from drafting.

Bonk — Total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride.

Abandon — When a rider quits during a race.

Chase — A group of one or more riders that breaks away from the peloton in an effort to catch or join the race, or stage leaders.

Climber — A cyclist who specializes is riding uphill quickly. These riders tend to excel in mountain sections of stage races.

Sprinter — A road cyclist who can generate a large amount of speed for a relatively short period of time. The sprinter normally uses the slipstream, another cyclist or a groove of cyclists to conserve energy until it's strategically advantageous for them to make a move.

Domestigue — A team rider whose job it is to support and work for the team's top prospect.

Bonus sprints — A designated spot along the route where bonus points are given to the first three riders who cross the line.

Descender — A cyclist who excels at the downhill sections of the route.

Blocking — When one rider or a group of riders disrupts a chase by slowing down a paceline.

Feed zone — A designated area on a race course where riders can be handed food and drinks.

Mechanical — A mechanical problem with the bicycle.

Lead out — A rider or string of riders from the same team who lead the way for their sprinter, breaking the wind for him until the last few hundred meters of the bike race.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966