Getting Left Behind

Cycling Yorkshire Dales
No matter who you are, there is always another cyclist who is faster than you.

When riding with others, there is always a dilemma of how hard do you try and stay with other riders, and when do you let go and ride on your own?

On the one hand, it is great to keep up with a fast group:

  • You can benefit from the shelter (about 25% + of your energy)
  • By riding with faster people, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you get much fitter.
  • It can be more fun cycling fast and following wheels.

On the other hand, it can be a mistake trying to keep up with a group who are:

  • Significantly stronger than you.
  • It is only a race if you make it so. Who said, you have to keep up with a certain group of riders? Often our pride comes to the fore, saying we can’t get left behind. But, if we ride into the red zone, it can be something to regret later.
  • It depends on the ride, and your goals. For example, riding with a fast group, is particularly damaging at the start of a long ride / cyclo sportive. There is a great tale of a few keen riders who had gained entry for the Etape du Tour. They arrived full of training, enthusiasm and eagerness. The hotel was about 20-30km from the start line. Before, they know it they got caught up in a very fast group riding to the start line. Full of enthusiasm and not wanting to get left behind, they find themselves racing at 50KMPh per to the start line. When the sportive actually started, they have already blown a gasket making the ascent of the col du Tormalet after 150Km very painful. This is the kind of example where you really want to ride at your own limits, even if it means getting passed by lots of old women with shopping baskets. (though if you do get passed by an old lady on a 3speed raleigh shopper you probably shouldn’t be doing the Etape Du Tour)

Before a ride, it is good to be very clear about what you want from the ride. If  you want to do a steady endurance ride, then be prepared to let go if the other rides want to cycle as fast as possible. It may be you’re not the only one who wants to go at a slower pace. If there is a big pack of 12+ riders, it is liable to split at some point in the ride.

Save Racing for Racing. If you have a programme of racing, it becomes much easier to stick to your own training schedule. Is the ride your race or preparation for a future ride?

If you want a sportive ride / training ride to be like a race, that is fine too. But, make sure you have the right balance between steady rides and hard rides. If you go out with a fast group every ride, you will have no chance to recover and it could lead to overtraining. If you do steady rides, then the one weekly group ride may be a good chance to push it as much as you feel like.

Depends on Time of Year. As a general rule, I don’t do interval training for three months over Winter. This is not a rigid rule, if I feel like racing up a hill I will do. But, generally, I keep things fairly steady.

Depends Who You Ride With.

When I started cycling, I often went on old fashioned Sunday club rides (How I started riding). This meant waiting for the slowest riders – even if it meant cycling 40 miles home at 10mph (it did happen, one ride a youngster joined, we spent about 8 hours doing 100 miles) But, the ethos of the group wouldn’t let someone straggle back on their own. Other groups of riders have a completely different approach; it can seem the whole point of the ride is to try and drop as many people as possible. It really depends what you want.

It’s important to choose riders with some similarities of goals and ability. If I went training with Team Sky, I’d soon get demoralised because I’d get dropped at various sections. Every ride would be an interval session to try and keep up. Similarly if I went out with total beginners to cycling, they would soon get fed up.

2 Responses to Getting Left Behind

  1. Artur February 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Yes, I get your point on how you have to be aware of your abilities and ride within them but saying you would get dropped on various sections by Team Sky is too harsh. Pros don’t ride hard all the time and if they decided to crank it up on a hill you would be able to keep up.

  2. Lee Hall February 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    Answers a lot of my questions Thank you. Lee

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