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For a road race, I can imagine riding in a pelton has an advantage against air drag.

However, for MTB this does not make sense. XC races are slower than road races, and in a DH race having someone closely in front of you seems to be just another way to fall from the bike.

So what does it mean a mountain racing team? How do they function as a team? How do they behave during a race?

I guess a team of professional riders will have near identical skill level. On the other hand, a team of amateur enthusiasts can have vastly varying skill levels. How does this affect the answer?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Each type of racing is able to take advantage of certain team dynamics, and a few things are common across all disciplines.

Specifics:

  • DH/Super D: Downhill "teams" are more associated by sponsors and bikes than by riding together during a race. Since each run is done one at a time there's no drafting or anything like that. However, during track walks and practice teammates can help each other with line choice and bike setup suggestions.

  • XC/Marathon/Cyclocross: Cross country teams sometimes act more like a road team with drafting happening on straights and doubletrack sections. Teammates can also help pace each other through longer races. With teams that have riders across multiple levels of competition or age groups, some team members may act as support during another member's race (hand ups, mechanical, etc.).

  • Enduro: Though relatively new as a competition (in some parts of the world), Enduro takes facets from both XC and DH. Typical Enduro races are one at a time affairs where each rider is on his own, but might benefit from teammates during practice like a DH race. However, in races like the Megavalanche with a mass start, teammates can help to protect each other or advance a rider through a pack.

  • Other: 4X is pretty similar to BMX and DH in that practice usually assists the teammate more than during the race. Trials is the same. Short track is closer to road and XC in team dynamics, but more like a Criterium in pace and tactics.

Shared:

  • Training(Bike): Most teams have at least a few training sessions as a whole team. Obviously this can be difficult logistically if team members are further apart (other side of the country/world/state). Sometimes this takes the form of special trips, such as to an area of high altitude, for working on specific training. Other times it's just regular rides or skills work.

  • Training(Other): Large teams have associations with gyms an trainers to provide their athletes with good off-bike training as well. Team workouts happen along with individual workouts tailored for the rider's needs.

  • Nutrition: Again, larger teams usually benefit more here with a dedicated health person who will work with the athletes on their nutrition and food intake.

  • Race support: Mechanics, cheering, pits and everything else that happens on race day is supported by everyone on the team. Whether that's a teammate on the sidelines cheering you on up a grueling climb, or your mechanic making that last minute suspension change before your finals run.

Ultimately, a team is what you make of it. I know guys who ride for a team, but are pretty solitary and keep to themselves. There are other teams that seem more like a traveling party, but they know when to train and when to have fun!

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It really depends on the type of race. XC marathons include lots of opportunities for drafting on gravel roads etc. But usually there is no such thing as peloton there, just small groups of riders.

Other way of helping is carrying tools or food for your lead racer. In case he has a mechanical, you are just some minute behind.

In general MTB teams are used for organized training rides, logistics with only minor help for other team members during the race. It is also easier to get a sponsorship for a team instead of individual.

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Interesting. I am very new to the topic, so please don't be shy to explain like to an idiot. In straight section, is it customary for the lead rider to draft other team members to save his strength? What happen if/when someone from the team falls? Are you saying that in more DH-like races the role of a supporting team member is to carry tools and food and strive to be not too far behind the main rider? Actually, is it customary to have a "main rider" or often everyone tries to be the first - more chances someone from the teem to win. –  Vorac Nov 1 '13 at 9:14
    
Usually team members are not that equal in strength, so drafting a team member is very rare thing. One exception could be races where teams consist of pair of racers who have to finish no more than minute apart (else they are disqualified or receive time penalty). –  Papuass Nov 1 '13 at 10:41
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