What is a lead out in cycling?

What is a lead out in cycling?

A lead out, is a group of cyclists (generally from the same team) who maintain their lead sprinter in a good position right until the end of the race and "drop" them off at a predefined spot before the finish line - typically between 50-300m before the line.

The "drop" refers to the final non-leader cyclist of the train peeling off and moving to the side to let their lead sprinter rocket through the slip stream and have the best chance of winning the race.

Certain teams have an incredibly strong sprinter, but an incredibly weak lead out train, and without a strong lead out train, especially into headwinds, the sprinter doesn't have a good chance of winning the race.

A good example of this is Cavendish in 2023 on the Astana team. Cavendish is a solid sprinter, but had an almost non-existant lead out train compared to other teams like Soudal - Quick Step at the time. As such Cavendish was hard pressed to win races.

If you want to read more about lead outs, Red Bull has put together a more in-depth article here:

How a leadout works in pro cycling – and how you could benefit from it
If you’ve ever watched a pro rider pop out of the bunch with just a few hundred metres to go in a 200km race, and win, you’ve probably wondered how they do it and where on earth they came from.