When Americans watch football or baseball, it is easy to tell which athlete plays a different role. We recognize that certain positions use different skills. But even as cycling continues to become a spectator sport in the United States, and especially in Colorado, it can still be tough to figure out who is doing what in a massive pack of cyclists. As a team sport with individual results, cycling crews are made up of a mix of athletes. Dirk Friel of Lafayette-based TrainingPeaks, the official race day analysis company of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, filled us in on the three main types of riders.

1. All-Arounder: The all-around cyclist is like an unleaded gas motor: They can keep near-maximum effort for the entire race. “They are the worker bees,” Friel says. “This type of rider is also called a domestique. They work 20 to 30 percent more than their team leader who is tucked in, protected behind them.” Think: Timmy Duggan.

2. Climber: Climbers are the diesel fuel engines you can expect to see winning stages and races. “They have a huge diesel engine, but they also have a light body,” Friel says. “The power-to-weight ratio is what will win out in the end. The climbers are protected by the all-around guys so that when the end of the race draws near, they still have a full tank for the last hour of the race. Their teammates will have fallen off behind and the climbers emerge.” Think: Levi Leipheimer.

3. Sprinter: Sprint cyclists are like a “nitro-burning dragster.” They come up with a raw burst of speed of about 50 miles per hour for 30 seconds. You see them take over at the finish line sprint, but they struggle with climbing. Think: Tyler Farrar.

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