Autobus is a term used in road bicycle racing to describe cyclists forming a large group behind the leading peloton.
The term comes from the French word for bus, a large vehicle that transports many people at a slow pace. The autobus is also sometimes called the gruppetto, which is Italian for small group.
Autobus in professional cycling
The autobus forms on mountain stages when non-climbers can’t keep up and drop off the back of the peloton during the climb. These riders are generally sprinters or domestiques unconcerned about their finishing positions in the mountain stages.
Their primary concern is beating the elimination time to ensure their survival in a multi-stage race like the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta Espana.
The autobus is often seen in the very challenging mountain stages, and the elimination time is calculated as a percentage of the stage winner’s time. The riders in the autobus cooperate to maintain a steady pace and share food and drinks. They also try to descend as fast as possible to make up time lost on the climbs.
Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.
He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.