Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lingo lesson for the masses: Peloton...

One of the things I recommended (earlier post) you do in preparation of the Tour of California visiting Claremont this May, was to learn the lingo of the cycling world. That way when the race becomes the talk of the town, you will be able to impress your friends and neighbors, or at least converse with all the racing types who will invade for a day or two. One way to do this might be to find a glossary of cycling terms; they are around, in books or online, and not too difficult to find. Short of that, you can check in here, and I will present you with a new term (at least one) each week - how to pronounce it correctly, define it, and explain how to use it. This method is time consuming and a bit of a pain in the a**, but it is a quick and easy post for me.

For the first term we might as well start big and basic - peloton. The word peloton is a three sylable noun, pronounced as pel-ɘ-tån. The word is of French origin, apparently dating to the 1950s, although that seems a bit late to moi. The peloton is the main group of racers in any given race. I say main group because the peloton can fracture at multiple times during a race, with smaller groups in front or behind. In fact, the peloton is usually in a constant state of flux.

Peloton is not the only word used to describe this group - if you have an Italian bent, rather than French, you might use the term groupo, you might even just call it the group. But, peloton seems to be the most widely accepted term. If you choose to use the term groupo, you should be aware that groupo also refers to a group of bike components, all of the same model and manufacture, such as Campagnolo Record, or Shimano Dura-Ace. If you find someone saying he has a full Chorus groupo on his latest bike, it does not mean that he carries around a lot of people with great voices; it just means all his components are Campagnolo Chorus. Also don't confuse groupo with groupie - the one is inside looking out, the other is outside wanting in. Best just to stick with peloton or group (without the 'o'), less confusion that way. Another thing to consider is that peloton usually, if not always, refers to a road event. For instance a group of mountain bikers up in the hills, no matter how large the group is, and to the best of my knowledge, will never be referred to as a peloton. Similarly, a group of cyclocross racers may be a peloton at the very start of a race, but before one lap as been completed, the racers will be so completely spread out around the course as to make the use of the term, well, useless.

So, how do you use the word? Simply put, I recommend sparingly. Some common times and ways to use it include when something happens to the group, such as "that crosswind absolutely decimated the peloton today" or, "the hills will quickly take their toll on the peloton." Additionally, mix up its use with the word group, which is a perfectly acceptable word. They are interchangeable. Keep in mind that, although the term peloton has become the most widely accepted word to call the larger group of racers, it is not necessarily the most often used, especially in this country. Group will suffice in most occasions. 

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