Peloton is a term used to describe a large group or pack of people in a bicycle road race. Technically, it is the main group of cyclists in a race. Cyclists in a race form such a group because riding in a large pack helps to conserve energy. This is because being near other riders, particularly behind them, assists with drafting. Drafting, also referred to as slipstreaming, is a strategy used in racing that helps reduce drag. As a result, the racer experiences less wind resistance and is able to conserve energy.
When riding in a peloton, cyclists form what appears to be one large unit. Therefore, the riders within the group must make adjustments and compensations for the riders surrounding them in order to prevent accidents and to achieve the most effective results. Riders must pay particular attention to the riders directly in front of them while riding in a peloton.
The riders at the front of the peloton are the ones who must do the majority of the work, because they are exposed to the wind more than the others. Nonetheless, it is generally best to be near the front of a peloton. Being in the front makes it easier for the rider to react to changes in position and to attacks from other riders.
Another advantage to being in the front of the peloton is the fact that a change in the front portion becomes increasingly greater once it reaches the back of the group. As a result, the riders in the back portion have to make adjustments at a faster rate in order to prevent an accident. The riders at the front of the group also have the advantage of setting the speed for all riders. In addition, a peloton ultimately breaks into smaller groups as riders change their speeds and make adjustments. Being in the back portion increases the likelihood of getting caught in the back group and falling behind.
Since the term peloton is used to refer to professional cyclists within a group, the term is also sometimes used as a general term for professional cyclists.