Communicating during an International Bicycling Race , What I Learned – by Samantha Fox

The race is on:


  • fans are yelling from the sideline
  • racers are exaggeratingly expressive
  • wheels are constantly too close to touching
  • everyone is trying to steel your line
  • road blocks and dropped bottles appear to test your quick reactions.


I consequentially experience a tunnel-vision of my mind: staring at the wheel in front to hold on, I block out all extra noise. This makes in-race communication a challenge, but while racing abroad in Europe, I have realized that good race communication is rarely verbal.

My first Bundesliga, the highest class race in Germany, I was holding onto the back of the main group, when a teammate from my host team dSam-007ropped back to ask how I was doing: “Good… just struggling a bit,” I tried to sputter out.

We, on QCW p.b. Felt Bicycles-JLVelo, often communicate like this to check-in on each other to judge if we can carry out a plan, or if we need to adapt our strategy.

However, communication can be difficult when conversing to racers speaking different languages. Communication is critical to express there is an upcoming crash or a road barrier, and I have found that verbal communication is not always the most effective as it is not universal and can often be misunderstood. What is best, is to observe: body language, the wheels around you, the flow of the peloton, and to touch—my rear-end has never been touched so many times as it has been while racing in Europe.

My first race here was a “Kriterium” where the elite women were mixed with the U19 men, a challenge for sure. On these small roads, I was continually feeling my butt tapped as someone notifying me that they were coming by. I could then prepare to be squeezed to the side of the road or into another rider.

This was way easier for me to understand than the verbal communication in the Top Competition race, Simac Omloop Der Kempen, in the Netherlands. Dutch seems to be a mix of English and German, enough that I can understand the difference between left and right, yet it seemed when they called links or rechts, I was always moving the wrong way – they should have just tapped my back-side.sam-001

This race in the Netherlands had a lot of ineffective communication for me – I mostly had no idea what was going on. With the rain, cobblestones, and barriers like road dividers we had to avoid with 150 racers on tiny roads, the race felt like one of those video games where things are falling from the sky and you have to avoid them. There was a lot of yelling in Dutch as warnings, and although the tone notified me to prepare for something, I never knew exactly what was coming up. I had to depend on my eyes to watch the riders in front of me closely to always be ready.

Irrelevant of our language, we all seem to react similarly through body language, touch, and tone. If you don’t understand the language of the announcer explaining the sprint lap or the last round, you face an added challenge, but watch the racers around you closely, and you’ll be able to prepare for what is ahead – no matter where you are.

qcw - Sam


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