A Systems View of Performance in the Peloton

Clare Dallat, Amanda Clacy and myself have just returned from a fascinating weekend studying the Rush Women’s National Road Series (NRS) cycling team at the Battle on the Border stage race at Kingscliff.

We were there to collect data regarding the team’s decision-making and situation awareness during the race stages. This involved observing the races via the team’s support car and the race commissaire car and conducting critical decision method interviews with each cyclist post race.


This unique level of access gave us a fascinating insight into the workings of elite women’s road race teams, the peloton, and the many factors influencing race team performance. We were struck by the complexity of the peloton (which showed all of the characteristics of a self organising system), the dynamic and distributed nature of rider cognition and decision-making, and the extreme levels of physical and cognitive effort required. The requirement for high levels of teamwork and coordination was also clear. We are currently analysing the data using the Event Analysis of Systemic Teamwork method.


We would like to say a huge thank you to the Rush Women’s team for giving us the opportunity to work with you over the weekend. You made us feel extremely welcome and were both open and responsive to our (many) questions. We would also like to thank Bridie O’Donnell for helping organize our study and QSM sports for allowing us to be there. Finally, a huge thank you to Louise Jones, chief commissaire from Cycling Australia, for giving us access and answering Amanda’s many questions.

Although stages 2, 3 and 4 were called off due to the extreme weather, we gathered sufficient data to run our analysis. Stay tuned for our findings!

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