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Group Rides This Spring

  • Posted on
  • By Rick Sorenson
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Group Rides This Spring

Riding with a group is different than what we got used to this winter and you'll need to keep some key points in mind.

The sun is finally starting to shine with more strength than a 100 watt lightbulb.

The snow is melting and outdoor group rides are on the horizon.
For bike riders, this is a very good thing.
Group rides form a critical component to our training. All that hard solo work  is great, but any good training plan has to include the occasionally random crazy efforts that a group ride can provide and it is incredibly valuable as we search for optimum fitness, as well as just group dynamic ride experience.
As we move forward and start participating in these rides, it would be a good idea to have a bit of a battle plan.
Riding with a group is different and you need to keep some things in mind.
What is the relative strength of this group? 
How big is the group?
How long is the ride?
What kind of ride is this?
What is my training goal for this ride?
The break down: 
Relative strength of the group:
Pretty important. Really important.
If you are riding with a high powered group  you need to be prepared to ride wheels and keep up. No sense putting your nose in the wind and risk getting dropped. Heck, you can ride by yourself anytime, take advantage of the dynamics a group ride offers and keep in contact.
Conversely, if the group is a bit underpowered, then you can show your hand a bit more, take some pulls, do more work without the worry of being dropped.
Just like a race. Know who your competition is.
How big is the group?
Sounds simple enough but it also makes a huge difference. If you are riding with 5 guys you are going to be doing more work and better pay close attention to the draft because your margin for error in missing a wheel, getting caught out, goes up with fewer wheels to follow.
How long is the ride?
Make a plan. Know how long you expect to be on the bike and bring enough water and  fuel to get you through to the end in good shape. A bonk is hard on the body and takes a while to recover from. You may lose a couple of training days from a bonk.
 What kind of ride is this one?
OK, this is a big one. Some rides are easy. Some rides are endurance pace. Some rides are full on race simulations. Whatever type of ride it is, be prepared to ride that way. Nothing worse than some hammerhead who keeps trying to blow up a steady ride, or someone attacking out of the parking lot on a recovery day. Uggh. I knew a guy who would show up to group rides and do intervals. Off the front, off the back. Good grief. All it did was disrupt the group and annoy everyone. If you want to do intervals go ride by yourself. Not to say you can't get interval work in during a group ride, but it needs to be the right type of ride and is part of the group dynamic.  
If you are the newbie in the group. take some time to figure out who is who and where you fit in.
Know where you are going.  Is it a no drop or regroup ride? No one wants to get dropped and lost all in the same day.
What is my training goal for this ride?
This does reflect one of my basic training philosophies. Every time you get on the bike, have an idea what you are trying to accomplish.This includes intensity, endurance or recovery days. Just know what you are going to do. If it is not much. Fine. If it is hammer time, also fine. You get the idea.
Using that basic premise, apply this to any group ride you go on, and of course the strength of the group may well alter your plan. Be flexible.
Training day goal. Have one.
Race day goals are a whole different animal, I will save that for another day.
Finally, be safe. Ride smart. If you are new to bigger group rides, do not be that rider that gets yelled at to hold his line. Ride a straight line. No sudden changes of direction. Be careful of the minute slowing that can happen when you go from seated to standing. The rider behind you can clip your rear wheel when that happens.You want to quickly gain the reputation of a rider that is solid and safe when it comes to group riding.
Lastly, my personal pet peeve- Show up on time. If the ride leaves at 1 don't drive into the parking lot at 12:55.
Ride On.
Coach Rick


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