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Tour de France 101 – Helpful tips for new Tour fans

  • By Ben Delaney
  • Published Jun. 13, 2009
  • Updated Jul. 23, 2011 at 12:39 PM EDT

What are echelons?

When a strong wind is blowing from the side on a flat road and the racing is fast, the riders form an echelon — an angled line of single riders — to gain the maximum amount of draft from each other. The echelon rotates as the riders on the leeward side move forward and those on the windward side move back (a little like flying geese). The echelon can only be as wide as the road, so a field of 180 racers may split into five or six echelons, angled into the wind.

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