The roles on an audax:
The road captain - maps the course; determines the checkpoints and itinerary; acting leader before and during the ride, helping with positioning, contingencies and emergencies; offers on the road coaching, instruction, encouragement
Pacers - anyone focusing on the tempo, giving others who aren't currently thinking of the pace something steady to keep up with; usually equipped with speedometers; especially important in the beginning when the rhythm is not yet established (but the itinerary is) as well as during more difficult legs of the ride, including the last hour when the correct pace is hard to determine
Protected riders - the cyclists who will benefit most from having support from teammates throughout the ride, because of physical or mechanical circumstances, identified before or during a ride; a shortage of food or water, broken equipment, injury, or something else could make anyone on the ride a protected rider so the group knows to be extra attentive. Whatever can be done to "lighten their load" should be done preemptively whenever possible!
Super domestique - the people on the ride filling in gaps and playing different roles as necessary; helping with a mechanical, offering up instruction, motivation, or even some extra food and water to a teammate; always attentive to help with tempo or solidarity, falling back or pulling through when necessary, sitting in the wind and giving a push when possible.
The challenges on an audax
- The duration is long. This means your saddle sitting parts hurt, and you're going to have to eat and drink a lot before, during, and after. It also means a long time outsise in the hot... and cold, and wind, and rain.
- The tempo is relentless. It isn't hard in the beginning, but by the end, the checkpoints get harder and harder to make on time. The first and last hours are especially hard to get right. Going too fast or too slow will have a negative effect on the overall average speed.
- The group must stay together. Easy through flat sections when everyone's legs are warmed up. Not so easy through technical, hilly sections, and coming into the last part of the ride. It can sometimes take all hands on deck to get the whole team back on schedule.
- The schedule is uncompromising. Because the route and itinerary have been set before hand, come what may, we all know the plan. This means the opportunity for failure is ever present. This doesn't have to be a defeating fact. It means that the time delay of the group or the arrival outside the minimum average speed of 20kph provide opportunities for improvement. This isn't just a group ride. It's a sport. This means performance must be evaluated, training and preparation must become more precise, and expectations must constantly be on the rise.