The Club Ride: in person

Yes, after writing that diatribe, I went to a club ride last night and proceeded to break as many of those rules as possible–I was definitely obnoxious, I did my fair bit of wheelsucking, I had a brief solo breakaway, I did way more talking than I did listening, etc etc. but it was a blast nonetheless.

I must preface this by telling you that on Monday night I went weight-lifting for the first time in two or three months. As a result, I could barely walk up stairs yesterday when I mounted my bike (a bit of a problem when I live on the second floor), and you can guess as to what effect that had on my ability to ride.

But actually, once we got going, it wasn’t so bad. It was just barely snowing (flurries) when we took off, but after a couple of miles I found that I’d really overdone the winter clothing thing. I was wearing long johns over a layer of lycra and under a layer of spandex on my legs, and I had three shirts and a fleece on my top half. Yeah, slight overkill.

As we warmed up, we rode through some slightly wet roads, and I got my face sprayed and muddied, hence my photo (see below, and no, I’m not wearing really cool sunglasses in this picture). I told ’em I was just warming up for cyclocross season.

The group was small yesterday, and that meant I got to spend plenty of time in the front. We had one kid in the group who looked about 12 years old (riding a custom road bike frame–how do you like them apples?) and he sat on my draft for about 75 percent of the ride. His dad told me he brought him along to learn a thing or two about cycling group dynamics, but that the kid had participated in the national kid time trial event last year. Cool. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.

Finally, we were coming on the home stretch (the last seven miles or so) when the accepted Alpha Male cyclist of the pack, Brian broke off in a solo sprint. Jason gave chase and I pathetically coasted my way back up to the break. We rounded a few more corners together, and, after discovering that all hopes of forming a legit paceline were off, I gave a quick sprint myself–getting up to 30.5 mph. I’d maybe gained 100 yards on the group when I sat down and waited for the chasers to come, which they did. Jason and Alpha Brian zipped past me another two football fields worth of distance between us, and then I became the chaser. And it took until we got back to town to catch ’em. Pathetic.

When I got there, the conversation went something like this:

Alpha Brian: "You started that one."

Caloi: "Yeah, I just couldn’t have lived with myself if you guys didn’t get some kind of a workout in today."

15 thoughts on “The Club Ride: in person

  1. Unknown

    Wow, that\’s a disturbing photo! Black hole eyes. . .
    Sounds like you had a good ride. What type of distance and average speed did you guys do? Any climbing?
    I keep hearing that road cyclists need other roadies to train with, but I seem to get a pretty good workout when I just go out and ride. I think the real reason is that you need other people to motivate and entertain you when you\’re out on those desolate roads with (otherwise) nothing to occupy your mind.

  2. Zed

    I don\’t know that you NEED other roadies to train with, but until you do ride with someone else, your training is extremely relative. You just never know how you\’re doing unless you\’ve got someone with you. I suppose if it\’s really just about staying in shape, it doesn\’t matter whether you have someone there, though.
    It also helps to have someone to draft behind once in a while.
    We did a short one last night–only 25 miles or so–and we took it pretty slow with the exception of a couple of 30 mph sprints. Not an ounce of climbing, though, or if there was, it was pretty gradual. That\’s typical of the local club ride around here–they like the flats. Don\’t ask me why.

  3. Zed

    Tom- I am. Keanu Reeves is a close friend of mine … actually, not really. I gotta watch what I stick in the comments because I\’ll get a bunch of Matrix fanatics coming here off google searches.

  4. Unknown

    Caloi, you\’d better watch it there pal. You\’re making yourself sound awful squirelly. 
    Botched, there are some strong riders in my neck of the woods who train pretty much exclusively on high-end indoor trainers – the big bicycle-style deals with built in powertap software and alll.  They come out of winter kicking butt, especially the guys who are crit specialists.  What a fabulous way to train – find out how your local crit courses tax you, and then train to meet exactly those specs.  However… the guys who do this tend to be experienced racers before they start that solo work, and dollars to donuts, they do some outdoor riding for handling practice.  Some of them strike me as having lost something essential about riding – even hard, focused race training should have some fun.  Why ride a road biike, if not for carving hills on an epic descent, smelling fresh cut hay, or stopping mid-ride for a coffee with buddies? 
    Group rides, as I understand them, teach a couple skills.  One is the social skill of riding with others, you can\’t overestimate how important it is to get along with peleton-mates in races.  A guy making a little room for you to slip into the draft can save your race, and you owe it to others to show the same kindness, or to give a helper (even one from another team) a little push up a hill if you have it in you, and he needs it.  Another thing is getting comfortable riding elbow to elbow with people.  A lot of lower cat riders here don\’t like bumping and contact in crits.  Our fields are always full, and 50 or 75 guys cramming into a 1 lane corner means you will bump somebody every lap or two.  I\’m learning to not mind it – hard to do that on your own.  (In fact I\’m learning to like it – it intimidates the hell out of people who are uncomfortable with it and they back off).  Another thing is getting used to other riders\’ rhythms.  This one LBS ride I go on usually has three or four Cat 3 and 2 riders sitting in.  They go really easy between sprints and hills, something like a middling aerobic pace.  But then we get to a hill, or a townline, and BANG, we\’re all off.  Riding with others you have to learn to surge and then recover, which is actually good race training, not to do every day but once or twice a week.  Amazingly, I can ride the same course much more quickly on my own, but after working with better riders I go home with sore legs feeling totallly worked out.  And I was, because instead of a nice, smooth cruise, I did 8 max efforts on 5 hills, and in three big ring sprints.  The other thing is to provide motivation.  I suck on hills, but still do my velo club\’s hill ride, because getting dropped off the back with two or three other guys on each big hill makes me work desparately hard on hills.  I still suck on hills compared to racers with good climbing skills, but I can crush most rec riders.  I wouldn\’t train that hard alone… 

  5. Zed

    I concur, not about me sounding awfully squirrelly but about the group dynamic in road riding. If you\’re riding a steady pace the entire time, you\’re not getting the workout in that you could riding with a group.
    Having to keep up with the pack can really push you. I was very obviously the lame duck on my first road ride, with the exception of the initial climb, but I found obvious speed increases in my riding in the weeks that followed, and I\’d have to say that\’s a result of riding with the group.

  6. Unknown

    Yeah, there is something in group rides about pushing your limits.  We have a lunchtime and post work chain gang that meets in D.C. that circles East Potomac Park\’s 3 mile loop surging up to 32-34, or sometimes 35-36 for a half to two-thirds of a lap at a time, and when the big dogs – the local pros and Cat 1s come out, they often pull away from the pack even when it\’s going that fast.  It\’s a bigtime top end workout and it really pays off in races.  It\’s unlikely you could ride this fast going on your own, or that you could learn how to ride in this type of a pack without going out and doing it with others.
    There is a psychological element too – on a hard group ride you can feel that sense of desparation that you get in a race that drives you to go insanely hard to hang onto the wheel of the guy in front of you.  The drive to hang on just a little longer is a big motivator in races, and if you can just keep hanging on for a minute, then another minute, pretty soon you are at the end and it\’s time to sprint, and suddenly your legs feel a little better…  Can\’t simulate that on a trainer. 

  7. Unknown

    Yeah, or a good tailpack. 
    Get into a really tight 3 or 4 wide pack on a perfectly flat road, right in the middle, with 25 or 30 riders, most of them Cat 3 or higher, get your hands down in the drops in the biggest gear, and hang on for your life.  It\’s frickin\’ amazing, and it\’s not terribly hard to go that fast as long as the pack is tight, and you\’ve got some dogs pulling up front.  Everything goes well until the couple alpha dogs decide to jump, at which point the whole thing blows up, a couple fast guys try to challenge, a couple slower guys try to keep the pack together, and I get expelled like Nelson Muntz. In reality our local pack then drops down to about 30 or so as the big dogs shoot off the front but it\’s still a pretty good pull.  I\’m very grateful that we have such a vibrant RR scene in this area…

  8. Amber

    Nothin\’ like humbling the 12-year-olds out there on the road.  It\’s my favorite pastime whilst rollerblading.  Can\’t have the little buggers getting cocky now, can we? Especially they\’ll be passing us up in no time at all!!!

  9. Dodger

    I know that feeling.  I live in south texas and all we have is flat terrain.  The last 10 miles are filled with attack after attack.  Its especially wicked with the strong wind we get down here. 

  10. Zed

    Yeah, sorry Al, but since I have editorial control over these as well, I deleted my half-delirious comment about only being able to do 35 into a headwind … that might have made your comments seem a little out of place–my bad.

  11. Zed

    Dodger- we had a crit racer from Texas join our group last year. He wasn\’t bad, but I heard he really sucked it up in the hills. I was pretty bummed that I missed that day.

    Amber- Hey, if a 12-year-old shows up with a nicer bike than my own, you can bet he\’s toast … actually he wasn\’t anywhere nearby when I did my stupid little solo break thing. It\’s true, though, I can\’t wait for the day when I\’m checking online Tour updates about how this kid is whooping it up on the competition internationally.

    Jord- I\’m usually pretty scary anyway, no? That makes it true to life.

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