Parasites of the peloton


[par-uh-sahyt] noun

1. an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.

2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others.


Straight up let me just say I am not against drafting (aka ‘wheel sucking’) per se. I’ve written about it before ( and I know it works. I know it’s part of our sport. And I know it’s a tactically shrewd and highly expedient way to approach your racing, be that on the professional roads of Europe or the potted crit tracks and velodromes of club land. Yes, I even do it myself.

But the longer I’ve been racing the more something has really begun to irritate me: serial club racing wheel suckers, a scourge you could argue is even worse than sandbaggers of this world. I don’t mean people who do it every now and then. Nor do I mean those who pull a turn in the breeze, then take a well-earned rest for a few kms. I don’t even mean those who sit back in the bunch and get pulled along by riders clearly stronger than themselves, content just to hang in there for as long as they can. No, I mean those shameless souls who, whilst being more than capable of pulling a turn or two, choose instead to live a parasitic life, riding close to the front from the very start, week after week, but bluntly refusing to work until the final 1km or so when they magically appear from nowhere as if they’re Mark Cavendish. It’s as if they are blind to the elbow wave. Deaf to the anaerobic requests for assistance. Numb to the verbal barbs from deeply unimpressed rivals. Sure they may win a few races, but zero friends. No one likes a bludger.


Of late I’ve been watching several such riders whose paths cross mine pretty regularly on weekends. With little semblance of integrity they are the masters of finding sneaky ways to extricate themselves just before their noses hit the front – perhaps feigning a mechanical, intentionally drifting out or overshooting a corner or even suffering a faux ‘blow up’, for example – just long enough to send someone else into the hurt locker they should be occupying themselves. Not just once, mind you. But continuously throughout the race, every week. And that’s what really shits me. The serial offenders.

We all know people like this, of course. They are brazen freeloaders masquerading as cyclists. They are prize-money thieves. They are, as one riding mate put so eloquently last weekend, ‘lazy c$#@*s’. In my view they should stick to coffee rides. Rant over.

Not sure if there is a Velominati ‘rule’ covering this, but if there isn’t there should be one something along the lines of:

Thou who chooses to ride towards the front must accept such a position comes with certain responsibilities. By all means sit towards the sharp end of the race. But be prepared to work if you do. Don’t feel like working? That’s fine. Piss off down the back.


UPDATE: Turns out there is a Rule…

Rule #67// Do your time in the wind.

Nobody likes a wheel sucker. You might think you’re playing a smart tactical game by letting everyone else do the work while you sit on, but races (even Town Sign Sprints) are won through cooperation and spending time on the rivet, flogging yourself and taking risks. Riding wheels and jumping past at the end is one thing and one thing only: poor sportsmanship.


3 thoughts on “Parasites of the peloton

  1. Let’s ask Mark Cavendish what he thinks. Seriously, what makes races interesting is the battle of strategies, tactics and strength (physical and mental). Why shouldn’t someone whose strengths lie in short, sharp turns of speed play to that advantage? It’s for those whose prospects of winning lie elsewhere – eg, in sustained high speed, or climbing – to play to their own strengths. Let the best rider win.

    Admittedly, in the local crits where most of us spend most of our time, sprinters are favoured. Still, that doesn’t mean they should somehow be obliged by honour to work against their own interests in favour of others’. What sort of competition would that be?

  2. This is a great post! You obviously touched a nerve with Marcus who apparently loves to wheel suck. Wheel sucking is exactly why I have decided against “group training” stuff. It’s about 60% of the group who just hangs in and does no work.

    1. I was talking about racing. I look forward to the article about how climbers should slow down up hills in road races.

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