So I've led the CIIa group (18-19mph w/ sprint zones) four times since the start of this year's Donaldson season. Here's the links:
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
And of course, tonight was the fourth time. The first two rides, we maintained excellent group integrity throughout the entire ride and we did a respectable job obeying the rules of the road. Excellent feedback from a lot of folks and I think it got people pumped up about the upcoming riding season.
Last week, not only did we have some horrendous winds to contend with, we had some hammerheads out there. I was pleased that we maintained excellent group integrity for as long as we did. Those hammers wanted to push from early in the ride. Thanks to those folks who helped maintain our pace up to Reedy Fork Road (after Holly Road). Once we got on Reedy fork road for the big pull back towards perimeter the hammers started striking. I was surprised that we were actually fairly cohesive even in front of the Michelin Plants. Once we turned onto Perimeter road, the hammers let loose their blows and the group totally fractured.
Tonight, it was much the same. However, the hammers who got out there today weren't super interested in holding back the pace at my request. It was only after an excellent move by another rider (who I unfortunately didn't get his name) that these folks held back the pace a little. I was starting to get a little frustrated as we made the climb up Woodville road and made the right onto Davis road. Our average pace was already hovering at 19.1 - 19.2mph, so I was trying to get the leaders to back off just a little.
As we approached the right turn for Reedy Fork Road, the leaders were still pushing through the stop sign. As I rode through the stop sign, this guy was right next to me. I didn't really intend for anyone to hear it, but I muttered "this is the last time I'll be leading a ride". He gave me some encouraging words, then rocketed up to the front of the pack and spoke with the guys doing the pulling. They backed off, and I re-gained some motivation. I wish I would have got his name - he made a big difference tonight. That wasn't the only time he stepped up to help bring the pace down a little.
Of course, that little stretch along Reedy Fork Road leads right into the first sprint zone. It was like holding back a thousand head of cattle keeping those hammers reigned in even a little. Some people will probably get the idea I'm a control freak and I'm holding them back from the ride they want to ride. So, let me give my perspective on the purpose of these 'intermediate' rides.
Yes, I call this group, traveling at an average pace of 18-19 mph an 'intermediate' group. Why? Because I don't really know what makes a cat 4 or cat 5 rider (or cat 3 or cat 2 or cat 1 for that matter, but that's actually besides the point). My vision of a ride at this pace zone is for those people who are building strength and group riding skills / bicycle racing mentality. These individuals are still are not quite strong enough to move into the B group or to ride with the C1 group.
The individuals in this group have been riding on the road and in groups for some time - a week, a year, several years - whatever, they have good understanding of group dynamics and have good bike control skills. They can maintain position in a pace line, and are comfortable and confident enough when the pace lines break up a little. For example when starting a pull up a hill and slower riders begin to drop back in the pack - the pack tends to get a little less organized and the individuals in this group are aware enough to handle that smoothly.
However, I think also that there are others who have just moved up from a slower pace group, and are looking forward to improving their group riding skills and want to do that at a pace that will offer them some challenge. It is for these folks that it is important to maintain the advertised pace. Perhaps they are capable of riding at an average of 19mph, but even kicking that up to 19.2 or 19.3 pushes them beyond their limits.
So, what can I do about the hammers if they don't want to hold the pace back a little? What I can do is give them something to think about. I mean, that's the purpose of the sprint zones. The purpose of the sprint zones has less to do with your overall physical prowess than it has to do with the thought process and strategy you use to get through that sprint zone. Sure, its likely the hammers will be the ones up in front and 'winning' the bragging rights for the sprint zones, I just hope they are thinking about it a little. If they are able to launch immediately from the whistle and pull the pack all the way to the finish, then they are sandbagging and should move up into a faster group.
So that's my nutshell vision of the sprint zones, what about the rest of the ride? Instead of thinking about this ride as purely a physical workout, combine it with a mental workout. Cut the pace back a little, give other people a chance to lead the pack. Talk to the other riders up front - set up a rotation for pulling the group. Think of this ride as an opportunity to develop those other teamwork skills that are so vital in bicycle racing. It's not a race!
It's funny actually, there for sure was one actual team out there with us tonight. I saw several other riders who were also wearing team kit, so I'll assume that there was at least two 'teams' out there tonight. It was indeed some folks from these teams who pushed our pace tonight. Of course they weren't alone, there were unaffiliated riders who were contributing hammerheads as well.
What is interesting to me is these 'teams' didn't even maintain their own 'team' integrity once we got back onto Perimeter road. The hammers got out front and pushed the pace from 19.0mph (actual reading when I stopped at the Michelin Road stop sign) up to 19.4mph (actual reading as I rode alongside the golf course) - this was on maybe a 3 mile section of Perimeter road - they were definitely hammering the pace.
My vision for these rides is really pretty simple. Instead of pushing the pace because you can or because someone else pushed it for a while, consider the group as one big team whose goal is to maintain group integrity for the entire ride. I'm willing to bet that the big bike teams don't go out there and push the pace all the time, they stick to a pace that is likely pre-determined (perhaps determined on the go based on who's attacking or whatever). The point is to try and develop those skills that are necessary beyond the pure physical. It's likely to make you a much better rider in the long term.
2 years ago