Tonight was the eve of my first ever advanced group ride, heck it was my first group ride, and now I know why they have group rides. Good God, was that fun. I didn’t quite know where I was going so I showed up way early – about 5:20 for a 6:00 ride. I took advantage of the time and struck out for a warm up 4 miles with a fellow that I’d bumped into before once out on the road. His name was Mike and he just happened to be a nationally ranked triathlete in his younger days, he kind of took me under his wing and gave me some pointers on how things would go. Everyone was exceptionally friendly and it was a jolly start.
We ticked off the first mile at about 19 mph, followed by a 20 and another 19… And that’s when it picked up, which is exactly what I wanted, or so I thought at the time. Mile 4 was at 20 mph, miles 5 and 6 at 22 and mile 7 at 23 and 8 at 25… All I could think was man, we’re cruisin’. Riding in the pace-line was incredible, we were two abreast and six deep for each line. Watching the leaders peel off and drop back, all the while keeping within 6 inches of the wheel in front of me. Mike was by my side in line for the first two cycles and he’d shoot little tips as we went – I don’t know if he was paying enough attention to see the smile that was stretched across my face, but it was huge, I was like a kid in a candy store… Then came the push – it turned into an all out race and I was absolutely not ready for it. They kicked up to 28 and then 29 miles per hour before it turned into an all out sprint. I hung on as long as I could, but there was no way I was keeping that pace for very long. Fortunately there were several others that dropped before I did so I wasn’t completely pooched – and lost. Up in the distance I saw another rider just starting to fall off of the pack so I picked up my pace and caught up to him. We rode the next seven miles between 20 and 22 mph, alternating turns pulling (being the rookie, guess who got the hills). Along the way we picked up two more riders and they stayed with us for quite a while – and that made for a pretty decent pace-line so most everyone got a break – there was one guy who just wouldn’t give up the front and I’ll tell you, I wasn’t about to ask him to step aside.
As we got into an adjacent town we had to slow it up because the police have begun to ticket riders for blowing through stop signs (I came to find out later that they almost got me – I had to blow through one to catch up after a chain issue – accidentally shifted into the little ring and the chain dropped completely…I’ve got to get that little ring changed out for the proper size, this is ridiculous). Mile 22 was 4:22 seconds.
The two riders we picked up turned off to head home with about five miles to go, so Phil and I took turns pulling each other and managed a 20, 22, 20 and another 20 mph mile on the way in. We took it easy on the last mile and rode side by side, chatting about the ride. Ironically, taking it easy on that last mile cost us a 20 mph average.
On arriving back at the car park everyone was all smiles. Mike came up to me and asked how I did (and Phil was kind enough to interject that I was “strong” in response). I started laughing as I described the break away. He said that it had surprised him a little too and that in the future I should find him and get on his wheel, that he’d keep me with the main group (I cannot begin to explain how cool this exchange was – I just don’t have the words – it was pure awesome – a first time noob, and he’s going out of his way to help me). In the end, Phil and I alone came in just under 20 mph, the group’s average was 21. That push only lasted for another half mile, had I held on just a little longer, I’d have stayed with the pack. Lesson learned.
Matt made it back shortly thereafter and I thanked him effusively and headed out to hunt down some dinner.
It just doesn’t get any better than that. What a night – and one more reason to exercise socially. As it turns out, Mike and I live a stone’s throw from each other so we’re going to plan on a Saturday or Sunday ride together in the near future. I can’t wait.
As expected, my places jumped in my Challenges:
1,111 of 11,750 on the Calorie Challenge.
498 of 7,760 on the Cycling Miles Challenge.
PS. I wrote this last night but posted it on waking this morning… That was just about the best sleep I’ve had in weeks – all the way to the alarm.
UPDATE: I just spoke with Matt over at Assenmacher’s – he said I did well, that he was keeping an eye on me – now that’s some high praise coming from one accomplished rider. Turns out watching all of those pace line videos on youtube helped!
This is why I went with a road bike instead of a Tri-bike by the way.