Sunday, January 21, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along??

Every Tuesday 'round about noontime, you can see 10-15 lycra-clad dudes pedaling hard on the North side of Goleta. Hard, as in 15 miles in ~35 minutes hard. And that's with stop signs, turn-arounds, and other such obstacles to speed.

We're a diverse group. We've got guys in their 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. If we survive a few more years, eventually we'll have some in their 60's. We've got professional engineers, ex-professional bike racers, professional Professors, and professional slackers. Blue collar, white collar, no collar, and dirty collar ...we got 'em all.

And everyone wants to work hard.

Which brings me to the issue at hand, namely, how can we conduct this ride so that everyone gets some good, efficient training? Or is it even possible? The fitness and experience spectrum is huge: at one end is a guy who spent 100 miles Off the Front of a Tour of Georgia stage, and at the other are guys who have never done a real bike race.

And all is not harmonious in Goleta on Tuesdays around noon. Some choice words have been tossed about recently.

You see, a couple of the lads in their 20's are playful, and they like to jump hard, accelerate up the side, and basically try to bury each other. (Sometimes literally...but more on that later.) Their attacking antics pretty much mess up any semblance of a smooth paceline. But the reason they ride that way is because it takes too long--and is generally too slow--for them when they are in the line. If they can pull at 28 mph, what good is it to sit in at 23 mph? Alternatively, for those who are not quite as fit, what good is it to get dropped because everyone else is jumping repeatedly after these attacks?

So I have some suggestions.

First, let's treat the ride as "break-away training", where we try to cover the first 12 miles or so as quickly as possible. That means no abrupt jumps attempting to shed people--ideally we maintain as hard of a steady collective effort as we can. Now this doesn't mean the strong guys don't ride hard, in fact, they certainly will do the bulk of the fast pulling. It also means that the less-fit riders need to know their limits and either take very short pulls, or stay in the back and don't pull at all. For argument sake, suppose we try to maintain 28 mph average, which I believe is quite doable with our group. If you can't pull through that fast, then stay out of the rotation and let the others get in front of you after their pulls. I hope that doesn't sound too harsh, and it isn't meant to be. A ride like I'm describing is a great way to determine what you're capable of. I think that anyone out there can sit on at 28 mph average, and most can pull through too, albeit just a couple pedal strokes for some.

So that's the first 12 miles. The final 3 miles? Anything goes. Ride for the sprint if you want. Try to jump away if you want. Lead out somebody. Whatever. Make it fun.

And since I have the stage, and I guess I always have the stage since it's my blog... Please pull off into the wind. Please. There are more reasons for this than I can possibly list here. Just do it. And moreover, if the wind is from the right, stay near the edge of the pavement so people echeloned off to your left aren't way out in the traffic lane. Alternatively, if the wind is from your left, try to stay out toward the left side of the bike lane so everyone else isn't groveling in the gutter behind you. It's the right thing to do.

Now, about those 20-something guys playing around. If you've ever spent much time with good young riders (like full-time bike racers) you've certainly seen a lot of on-the-bike goofing. Stuff like bumping and pushing each other, hip slinging, hooking, etc. It's all in fun, and these guys know what they are doing. I remember doing a ride with Hilton Clarke and Keith around Casitas where they were bumping each other going downhill at 40 mph! On purpose of course.

You know what a good analogy is? Lion cubs wrestling and fighting. It's all play when they are cubs, but it's life or death when they're grown up. OK, that's a bit of an exaggerated analogy, but you get the point. If you're comfortable slicing and dicing when playing around on training rides, you can handle it in a real field sprint when guys don't have smiles on any more.


TnA said...

Here, here...I heartily agree on the "breakaway training" concept.

Wow...I knew Matt was a stud, but damn, 100 miles OTF in the inaugural TOG? I'm speechless....

TnA said...

Oh yeah...I also agree about the "pull off into the wind" thing. But, you know what? I've got a funny feeling that a LOT of people aren't typically *aware* of which direction the wind is coming from...

Not sure how to handle that one.

Marco Fanelli said...

TnA said:
> Wow...I knew Matt was a stud,
> but damn, 100 miles OTF in the
> inaugural TOG?

Yeah, pretty cool. He mentioned that yesterday so I googled it when I got home. The CN article said that his DS didn't want him to do it, but he (Matt) couldn't contain himself. Big surprise eh!?! Gotta love that go-for-it style!

BTW, Ben also rode the race that year.