One of the most unique aspects of the sport of cycling is that athletes of different abilities, like way different abilities, can train together. Wind resistance and drafting make this possible. I love it.
As long as there aren’t any huge climbs then the group can stay together and everyone can get a good workout. And by that, I mean that the strong guys can be at the front, doing most of the work, while less strong riders enjoy the ride.
There is no place on group rides for individuals doing intervals, even though I’ve been on some group rides recently where pretty good riders, pros or Cat 1’s, do just that. Maybe it’s an old school deal, but if you need to do intervals, then go do them on your on and skip the group ride. Group rides are for a group of riders, not a bunch of individuals doing intervals.
I guess that last sentence should be the definition of a group ride. Plus, the group, as a whole, needs to look out for the interests of the whole group. This only works for a manageable sized group, probably under 15 riders. Once it gets over 20 for sure, then it can really turn into a free-for-all, and that doesn’t do anyone any good.
My whole intention on an organized group ride is to try to get everyone to the end of the ride together, with everyone on the ride thinking they got the best workout from the ride. This is possible, once again, through drafting.
Our group rides, here in Topeka, have turned into a little of a free-for-all recently. Not always, but maybe once every two weeks. I’ve participated in one of those, which, after the fact, I regretted, but usually, I’m intent on restoring order to the ride.
I think a good evening ride needs a least one guy there, each day, that is responsible for sort of containing the personalities of the group. Trying to keep everyone in check until it is near enough the end where there are no-holds-barred.
Our rides, here in Topeka, are usually pretty controlled. They are not no drop rides, they are just look out for other rider rides. We usually just ride two abreast most of the ride until we’re somewhere around 10 miles from the “finish”. Nearly every way we come back into town, there is a “sprint”. There aren’t really city limit signs around Topeka, so it’s a BP station, or a mailbox, stop ahead sign, or something that everyone has historically agreed upon.
We someone gets antsy and takes off before what seems normal, then it throws a wrench into things. Normally, we don’t start going hard before all the hills are done. Hills kill weak rider’s chances of getting to the end of the ride. So, “breaking away” for the group before what is the imaginary start line, is kind of a no-no. But, it happens.
At this point, it’s up to the remaining guys to not get out of sorts and just keep the tempo high. High enough to not let the lone guy/or guys, to too far ahead, but slow enough to keep everyone together. It’s a fine line.
Anyway, I used to only do group rides. I’d probably ride maybe only a couple times a month on my own. Now, after getting hurt the past couple years, I’ve been riding more on my own. It is sort of surprising. For years only riding with groups and realizing I actually just like riding my bike alone. It is nice.
That being said, I think riding in a group is super important if you want to succeed at the sport. Group rides are where you get the necessary skills to be able to race bicycles. There is too much emphasis on power training now and not enough emphasis on the skill aspect of the sport.
The skill aspect is very, very important too. And you get those skills from organized group rides.