Sunday, August 2, 2015

Breaking Down A Ride -Wampoo Roadeo

Wampoo Roadeo

The Wampoo Roadeo a couple of weeks ago was simply a whole lot of fun. The course is dead flat and covers familiar, yet interesting, terrain.It was hot, but not unbearably so. The rest stops were well spaced and quite adequate. I didn't see as much SAG as in some past versions, nor did I see anybody needing it, so that is no complaint. We did run across the aftermath of one crash that warranted an ambulance ride, and heard of another, but the groups that we were involved with were spared any such incidents.
At the sign-in. There were a mess of Mello Velos and Rev Rock riders visible on the road and helping out, along with Major Taylor Rock City Riders and other groups.

This ride, a fundraiser to support the Marilyn Fulper Memorial Fund, has evolved into  a very nice event, and  it seems to be a little different each year depending on who volunteers. Last year, for example, there seemed to be a lot of on-the-road support, but there was not so much as water at the finish. I took note because we had jumped on a fast group, skipped all of the rest stops and came in with empty bottles and bellies. The year before, we had been greeted with cold drinks, snacks, and ice cold watermelon, so our expectations were high.
The finish area support for the recent ride was the best ever, with Loblolly Creamery providing cold chocolate milk and ice cream in addition the the watermelon, ice water and other refreshments.

3 rides in one....
For our little group, the day evolved into what seemed almost like three very different rides.
Part 1- Leaving Scott, we settled into what was likely the second or third group on the road. There were 20-30 riders in a double  line, working well and rolling along pretty smoothly at 20-23 MPH for the most part. That is easy riding on the flats in a group that size. Riding two up like this in a solid group is one of the great pleasures of cycling. Conversations come and go as you find yourself riding beside friends, acquaintances, or strangers, you can relax a bit, and you can pretty much take as little or as much of the workload as you want. As is frequently the case in event rides, our dynamic soon changed. Some of our bunch needed water so we made a stop at about mile 26, which was needed by some of our riders, but which immediately altered the complexion of our experience.

Part 2-We left the stop with eight riders, still in a double line, which meant everyone was in the wind a quarter of the time as opposed to a 10th or less. A couple of riders decided to do 50 miles and dropped off at the next stop, and we were soon a group of 5. We discussed our strategy and decided on a single line, taking 1 minute pulls, and pretty easily maintaining a 20-22 MPH pace. That put only one rider in the wind at a time as everyone took about 20% of the load. We rode like this for what I'd guess was about 15 miles, and the short pulls really helped to keep everyone fresh while maintaining a good pace.
A note on group ride strategy-
It seems that there is a certain machismo associated with going to the front and taking long monster pulls. That is great when there are strong riders in a group who are willing and able to take the responsibility, but what often happens is that other folks, whom I'll call "the rest of us", feel compelled to take an equal share of the load. That often results in weaker riders blowing up and being dropped or simply having an unnecessarily  miserable ride. In larger groups it is pretty easy to simply sit on when you need to or just rotate through. In a smaller group such as our 5, I think it's important to recognize what works best and talk about it. I appreciate that Bill Torrey called for the 1 minute pulls so that we were all clear on the plan. Rather than looking at my computer all the time, I found it easy to count 80 pedal strokes when it was my turn to pull. My cadence was showing about 75 RPM, so that was an effective way for me to keep time.
Also understand that it is OK to say, "I'm done, cooked, toast, bonked, can't take another pull" and just sit in. Your friends would rather have you along as a passenger, as I have been too many times, than not have you along.
It was a hot and brutally humid day, and the conditions took their toll on some riders. I actually felt better as it warmed up enough for the sweat to evaporate.

Part 3- We made a second stop when we sighted a large group of riders at the last support station, pausing briefly to top off bottles and jumping in with a massive bunch. The wind had picked up a bit, so we were glad to have the refuge of the pack, but it was not a time to relax. It was a disparate group with little organization behind the front group of riders, so it became a bit of a defensive ride.It's just a fact that big mixed groups in an event ride are going to be a little sketchy. There were plenty of folks in the pack that I know as experienced riders just sitting in like I was, accepting the accordion effect  and constantly making small adjustments. It is always interesting to hear newer riders asking the same questions I asked not that long ago, "why we keep changing speeds....who's stopping up there...why do they go so fast coming out of corners???....
One rider who had sat in with us for a bit earlier in the day turned to be a said, "Why does everybody keep rubbernecking". I looked up and down the line to see if I noticed heads turning as I considered the question. The guy was strong but had mentioned earlier that this was his third group ride, and I finally caught on that he was referring to the seeming random braking as when freeway traffic passes an incident in the opposite travel lanes and slows down as everyone looks, though the road ahead is clear. I did my best to explain.

Cold finish to a hot ride-peaches and cream ice cream. I assured this rider that the photo was not at all about her, though she was showing pro skills by choosing the shade and post-ride ice cream.

 I had a great teacher and it still took a lot of hours on the bike to start to understand things like how the simple act of a rider at the front standing out of the saddle can result in a rider 5 wheels back having to overlap a wheel or grab a handful of brake a few seconds later. Or, why riders in the back in a turn have to race back on the catch up because the front riders are well clear and are back up to pace.
There were no egregious fouls such as ear bugs or aerobars in this group, and none of my comments are meant as criticism; simply observations of things that occur in almost every group ride. These are not the well-orchestrated movements of a seasoned race team or even of groups of friends who regularly hit the road together. They are simply some of the things that make every big ride different, yet the same in many ways. Riding is about being fit, making friends, some competition, and, hopefully, learning from each new experience.

1 comment:

Mr. Tom said...

John, thanks for the recap. You neglected to mention your blazing attack as we approached the finish. None could match your heat!