So I’ve been road riding for little over a year and half. Started riding with a camel back, white T-shirt and a jacked up fit. Every ride would suck. Why would anyone want to ride ON THE ROAD for miles and miles on end? Cars, gas, diesel, drivers cig smoke, hurt legs, the list can go on. When I looked in my garage, I had these sweet bikes that have big fluffy tires, awesome suspension, and pedals. So much enjoyment sitting on the couch seat of the mountain bike. BUT I purchased the road bike to make mountain biking easier so I had to do it. This stupid basic triangle with wheels, as I was told, was a better training tool then anything you could get from mountain biking. Fast forward a year….
October time, weather is changing, my good friend Jay keeps talking up this awesome group ride that has been going on continually for over 35 years. My appreciate for road biking was changing from just a few months prior. As a training tool it was becoming invaluable. Short rides, longer rides, you name it they were being done on the road bike. The more I pedaled the easier it was to go 10, 15, 40 + miles! The shootout was on my mind and I wanted to tackle it. Leading up I had very limited time in larger group rides. I had been road riding pretty consistently for months and my fitness had improved in a very short amount of time. Setting the stage, I was damn ready to show up and stomp the “competition” and show what a mountain biker can do! Boy was I wrong, I had read a few article and studied the ride and ride times prior. Hell, how hard can a ride with a 1% grade for less then 45 minutes be? Analyzing my estimated power numbers now, I was doomed for failure. For a road rider, a power to weight ratio is key. There is a threshold when in a large group that you have to be able to sustain or you will be dropped. Speaking of dropped, on said ride I got dropped in less then 30 seconds. Before I could even think, the group surged and I was left in the dust. I was unprepared at the time for the amount of power and threshold that was needed to keep up with a group of riders that can drop pros in the winter time. Wake up time for Little Bryan, 171 watts wasn’t going to cut it!
After my droppage Shootout I got serious. I paid for a professional fit on bike, upgraded a few components on the bike and kept going out every 4-5 weeks as the training fit in. Once I could make it around and stay with the group I started to appreciate the power of the peloton. A peloton, as seen in almost all group rides and races, from cat 5 to stages races, takes the combined efforts and power of many riders to move at a pace and power that is unsustainable for most humans on a bike by themselves. There are my places you can sit in a peloton. The front for instance, my favorite for the shootout, where, depending on the day and riders, a few strong riders take turns pulling the group ahead. Unless your the front pulling man/women, your power (watts) is up to 50% less then the guy “doing the work”. To relate, on a solo ride up the shootout’s main game on section, I average, solo, on a typical hard effect day MAX 20-21MPH. This effect would be a threshold ride with a thousand calories burned in less then 45 minutes. However in the peloton, with a few strong efforts and strong sprints near the middle and end, it’s easy to average 23-24 MPH with over 30% less power/calories used.
So the biggest issue with the peloton though is if your a middle sitter with a good power/weight ratio, the amount of effort you use is consistent, with limited surges, however in terms of training, it does nothing for you. However in life, most people fall into this category and of course not by any fault of their own. They know their limits, they enjoy their limits and really enjoy the thrill of sustaining stability in their life and riding. They know if they move to the back, they will get dropped, and if they dared to “take a pull” upfront they would cripple and dropped. The peloton has no general feelings (well DUH, it’s not a person!) and gives no mercy when things pick up and drop. Sounds like life a little, ummmmm…..
Now my most recent fav spot in the peloton is the race winner spot. Road riding in the end is a big ass chess game. Make your small moves to lead up to your big moves. The person beside you could be just as strong but are they are strong for 1 minute? Or maybe they are just a middesiter, even with their shaved legs and greased up skin and arms, they are content with sitting and watching the amateur battle it with the pros. Now the winner spot is a little bit of everything. As you would assume, in a race, the 1st shaved leg across the finish line wins. Hanging out in the back chatting, attacking, recovering and attacking again, that’s my idea of a good shootout and a winner spot. To be a success in anything really, you do a few moves, see how your opponent reacts and then at the right moment you do your big move. In the peloton, I sit back, burp a few times, time my drinking, and attacked when I feel it’s necessary. Sometimes it early, all the time, but in the end it needs to be at the right time. My said 0-10 minute power/weight is pretty much unmatched by only elite pro’s, you think I might take advantage of this? You take your best career move, big test, class, whatever, it can all be boiled down to a Saturday shootout with your buddies and a few pro mixed in. Are you a middlesiter or a race winner?