I got to be the lead cyclist, spinning ahead of the lead runner to make sure she knew the course. (It was the See Jane Run Half Marathon in Alameda, CA by the way. Very very well run this year!)
In case you (like me) never race at the very front of the pack, it's an eye-opener. In the mid-pack, you just follow the people in front of you. The aid stations and the policed intersections are up and running and have everything figured out. There is no "thinking" to do.
At the front it is a completely different experience.
My runner wanted me to stay within close sight of her because she didn't know the course and it does have a lot of twists and turns. Though the course is well marked, you just don't want to have to focus on which way to go, and lose your momentum, when you're doing 6:30 miles. On the bike, you do all the thinking for the runner. You anticipate the aid stations, ask what she wants, speed ahead to the station and startle the volunteers into action. You speed ahead to the policed intersections to get them, too, into action. (The Alameda police were supremely cool, and were having fun too.) I had to tell the police about a little -used intersection that had been overlooked; someone turned left almost into my path; so they placed one of the cops back there. You also speed ahead in some of the sections that are shared bike/pedestrian paths. There were a handful of early-morning folks walking or biking 2 abreast who didn't fully realize there were a bunch of speedy women about to bear down on them. So, unless there are volunteers standing near there, you're the warning system for the general public. You have to negotiate all this without getting out of sight of the runner. A fun balance.
She shared that although she's won the women's division in races before, she had never LED a race because she'd always raced with men. So, she said it was a totally different and cool experience for her to lead.
The other really different thing about racing in the front is how lonely it can be. On some of the more remote and sleepy residential stretches, we'd go for a long while without seeing anyone. It was like being out for a nice morning jaunt, just the two of us. Surreal.
Worth trying sometime, for all of you...and I'll be back again next year...they would actually love to have 2-3 lead cyclists.