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Successful strategies for fast group rides?

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Successful strategies for fast group rides?

Old 01-15-21, 07:31 AM
  #1  
chaadster
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Successful strategies for fast group rides?

What kind of tactics have you used for managing fast group rides which are primarily made up of smaller, lighter-weight people?

Crush the downhills and try to stay out front as much as possible?

Are you a diesel which can push a brutal tempo all day on the flats, grinding them to fatigue?

How about conserving as much energy as possible everywhere except climbs, then going for broke up those, trying to minimize OTB time?

Are you resolved to just being off the back, dropped?

Another strategy?

It’s winter home-training time here for me, and while I’m back at it and doing the structured workout thing, it’s likely going to be another weak season for me because my arthritic knees aren’t going away, and the constant, barely sufferable pain really knocks down my activity level and my usable power level; sharp, high-power accelerations are probably a thing of the past, so I’ve been thinking of how I’m going to pull this off. I don’t think substantial weight loss is likely either, so I’ll have to ride smart while looking like a 240lbs sausage in the club kit, or just accept my place as a geezer in the caboose! I am 50 now, but I’m really not emotionally ready to surrender the dream, even though my body might be, so I’m going to put up a fight one more season.

So, what kind of cleverness do you use to stay in touch with the group?
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Old 01-15-21, 07:57 AM
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Here are a few techniques that have worked for me in the past that I keep in my mind moving into the 2021 riding season.

Get your base miles in early. The earlier in the year that you get your first 1,000 miles, the more comfortable (and confident) you will be as you transition into warm weather group riding.

Heavier riders can crush the downhills if they want to. I do get an adrenaline rush while attacking a descent, but once you spin out on a big hill in, say, a 53x12 gear then your tuck and bike positioning for aero and safety are most important there. It isn’t worth it to go all out for maximum velocity if you are just going to crash (ask me how I know this).

For group riding and energy conservation, how about adopting more of a “domestique” supportive type riding at the back? When I have already gauged that you are one of the slower riders in my group, I concentrate on not talking and trying to get as much terrain riding the drops and riding a straight line and perhaps drafting on the wheel of a steady rider who ideally is a bigger rider than me. Now once that bigger rider realizes you are doing some energy convservation at his or her expense, you will have some payback due. If you can contribute a pull do it! But keep it controlled, don’t treat it like a hard pull where gaps are created. No one benefits from that. Once again, riding the drops and getting low recruits different leg muscles and let’s you up shift one to two gears. Breathe and count pedal strokes in cycles of 8 or 12 or mentally jam to a hypnotic funk tune or whatever gets you in a power zone. But end it quickly after say 50 to 100 yards. Flick you elbow and let the rider behind you pull through while you drift to the back of the group and back to energy conservation in the back. But keep your form and stay alert.

Sorry about you knees. I was going to talk about how to make your climbing less of a deficit while overweight. My skill building, fitness building here involves doing more mental (or even out loud) counting of 4 cycles of 12 counts. While standing/sitting/standing/sitting you way up the rollers. Just shy of the summit, I try to upshift one gear in anticipation of the terrain flattening, then work on breathing to bring the heart rate out of the red zone.
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Old 01-15-21, 09:37 AM
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Thanks for the reply masi61 .

I am not working presently, and I’m hoping that whatever I get into come spring allows me the flexibility and time to hit those base miles early-on. I do coached training at a cycling studio, though, and part of the regimen there is designed to have us hit the road strong for spring, and I’ve always had good luck with that in years past, so I don’t necessarily sweat racking up base miles, really, because the studio time is so effective.

Fortunately, the club and other groups I ride with are really good about riding tight, drafting, and pacelining, but also about picking up foundering riders, so it’s standard practice for the group to have someone fall back and give a wheel to pull up another rider. It’s great, but as you note, you’ve got to put in work in turn somewhere, and just can’t get pulled all around the place.

I do train and ride with power, so I use my power zones and the clock for managing my climbing efforts. I know what max wattage I can lay down for specific time periods, and at what wattage and time I need to recover, so I pace (or push) off that.

Breath control is a great strategy oft overlooked, and super important for me, too. I think one of the great benefits I’ve derived from so much stationary work is well developed breathing. On a stationary, being free of the external complexities of cycling, one can really focus in on the body and breathing, and I’m to the point where, on the road, those calming practices happen without any conscious effort.
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Old 01-15-21, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
How about conserving as much energy as possible everywhere except climbs, then going for broke up those, trying to minimize OTB time?
This is my favorite. I'll try to be #3 in the paceline behind the guy who's seeing how long he can stay in front. When he starts to fade, either on the climb or shortly before, that's when I like to attack. If I'm not first at the top, at least I'm in the bunch when we regroup.

Also, if you've got a bar bell, be sure to ring it as you fly by.
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Old 01-15-21, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
This is my favorite. I'll try to be #3 in the paceline behind the guy who's seeing how long he can stay in front. When he starts to fade, either on the climb or shortly before, that's when I like to attack. If I'm not first at the top, at least I'm in the bunch when we regroup.

Also, if you've got a bar bell, be sure to ring it as you fly by.
Awesome! It’s great to see that look of awe in people’s eyes when a clyde pulls something like that off, but it takes a lot of watts! hope I can get my fitness back to that level.
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Old 01-16-21, 08:03 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
This is my favorite. I'll try to be #3 in the paceline behind the guy who's seeing how long he can stay in front. When he starts to fade, either on the climb or shortly before, that's when I like to attack. If I'm not first at the top, at least I'm in the bunch when we regroup.
Haha, this is my favorite. I'm a fairly slow rider - an average of 14-15mph over 20 miles is HAULING for me. When I group ride with pals, they usually slow down to my pace, or a little above it, and I tuck in the middle of a line. There's a particular 1-mile stretch that is just SLIGHTLY uphill and annoying to ride, but there's a 1mi down, so I usually draft until the crest, then haul ass downhill.

Yeah, overall, conservation and downhill attack is usually my main goal.
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Old 01-16-21, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by a_d_a_m View Post
Haha, this is my favorite. I'm a fairly slow rider - an average of 14-15mph over 20 miles is HAULING for me. When I group ride with pals, they usually slow down to my pace, or a little above it, and I tuck in the middle of a line. There's a particular 1-mile stretch that is just SLIGHTLY uphill and annoying to ride, but there's a 1mi down, so I usually draft until the crest, then haul ass downhill.

Yeah, overall, conservation and downhill attack is usually my main goal.
pdlamb described attaking uphill, but it’s good to hear both being successful strategies!

I think there’s a lot of prejudice towards clydes and athenas, with the assumption being that we just can’t really do anything on a bike, so I think it’s wonderful to know we’re out there defying preconceptions, be ot on climbs, descents or anywhere else.
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Old 01-16-21, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
pdlamb described attaking uphill, but it’s good to hear both being successful strategies!
I probably should clarify that I have no idea what I'm doing and my 1x10 setup is probably not ideal for high speed. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.
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Old 01-19-21, 10:57 PM
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Ride as hard as you can. Make sure you are pushing yourself hard enough to get benefit and to improve, but also hard enough that you don't die in the first 15min.

Stay smooth. Faster bunches tend to be smoother. I find you can ride for longer if things are nice and smooth, even if the pace is seriously fast. People not paying attention, lacking experience, lacking the ability all cause the rubber banding of the bunch and drain your precious energy trying to constantly accelerate your bulk. Communicate, assist and advise to make the ride more enjoyable for everyone.

Pick your position. As a 6'5" behemoth I always pick out a decently larger rider in the bunch to position myself behind. Anyone that sits on me gets a free ride, so get yourself as much help as is possible. Sit on the back momentarily and find your target if you don't manage to get them from the start.

Downhills - get to the front! You'll be a lovely draft for anyone else in the bunch, and you will get to carry all that precious momentum into whatever follows. Sitting in on the downs and getting stuck behind someone smaller costs big energy when you have to be braking to hold position rather than carrying your valuable momentum, especially if there is an up after that down.

Heading up a hill, try and get yourself to the front. As mentioned by many, aside from serious uphills, that should see you still in touch with the bunch at the top. Additional to this, work on being smooth up the hill. Pick a cadence and gear and try and stick with it (if it's a steady climb). The first time I rode with a rider using a PM up a hill that normally would kill me, he reeled me back from pushing into the start of the hill. He set the pace at a steady power and made me stay with him. I set a PR on that climb that day and also had more energy to hit the gas over the top. If you have a PM, try and hold steady power for the climb.

Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
This is my favorite. I'll try to be #3 in the paceline behind the guy who's seeing how long he can stay in front. When he starts to fade, either on the climb or shortly before, that's when I like to attack. If I'm not first at the top, at least I'm in the bunch when we regroup.

Also, if you've got a bar bell, be sure to ring it as you fly by.
Things must be different where you ride pdlamb but this move would be like cutting your own throat where I live. Poke that bear and certain death is soon coming your way! A decent lightweight climber will absolutely smoke you on a climb, no matter how much power you have. If you somehow manage to hang on, you will definitely be done for after the top.

Know your limits! There's nothing worse than being in a fast paceline and there's that rider that doesn't know when to tap out. Try really REALLY hard not to be that rider, but you seriously may have to be that rider at some point to learn your limits. In the rotation, drop out and sit on the back. You might be able to recover there and get back in for another go, but in my experience with the riders in our bunches, that is the last hurrah before dropping off. Hang on for as long as humanly possible. Dying but working in that bunch draft is 100000 times better than dropping off and going it alone. Also if you're close to tapping out and someone else does, drop with them. It's a far more enjoyable ride back either working with someone else, or having someone to chat to for the remainder of the ride. Far better than you both riding back in a solo world of hurt!
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Old 01-20-21, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by brawlo View Post
Ride as hard as you can. Make sure you are pushing yourself hard enough to get benefit and to improve, but also hard enough that you don't die in the first 15min.

Stay smooth. Faster bunches tend to be smoother. I find you can ride for longer if things are nice and smooth, even if the pace is seriously fast. People not paying attention, lacking experience, lacking the ability all cause the rubber banding of the bunch and drain your precious energy trying to constantly accelerate your bulk. Communicate, assist and advise to make the ride more enjoyable for everyone.

Pick your position. As a 6'5" behemoth I always pick out a decently larger rider in the bunch to position myself behind. Anyone that sits on me gets a free ride, so get yourself as much help as is possible. Sit on the back momentarily and find your target if you don't manage to get them from the start.

Downhills - get to the front! You'll be a lovely draft for anyone else in the bunch, and you will get to carry all that precious momentum into whatever follows. Sitting in on the downs and getting stuck behind someone smaller costs big energy when you have to be braking to hold position rather than carrying your valuable momentum, especially if there is an up after that down.

Heading up a hill, try and get yourself to the front. As mentioned by many, aside from serious uphills, that should see you still in touch with the bunch at the top. Additional to this, work on being smooth up the hill. Pick a cadence and gear and try and stick with it (if it's a steady climb). The first time I rode with a rider using a PM up a hill that normally would kill me, he reeled me back from pushing into the start of the hill. He set the pace at a steady power and made me stay with him. I set a PR on that climb that day and also had more energy to hit the gas over the top. If you have a PM, try and hold steady power for the climb.


Things must be different where you ride pdlamb but this move would be like cutting your own throat where I live. Poke that bear and certain death is soon coming your way! A decent lightweight climber will absolutely smoke you on a climb, no matter how much power you have. If you somehow manage to hang on, you will definitely be done for after the top.

Know your limits! There's nothing worse than being in a fast paceline and there's that rider that doesn't know when to tap out. Try really REALLY hard not to be that rider, but you seriously may have to be that rider at some point to learn your limits. In the rotation, drop out and sit on the back. You might be able to recover there and get back in for another go, but in my experience with the riders in our bunches, that is the last hurrah before dropping off. Hang on for as long as humanly possible. Dying but working in that bunch draft is 100000 times better than dropping off and going it alone. Also if you're close to tapping out and someone else does, drop with them. It's a far more enjoyable ride back either working with someone else, or having someone to chat to for the remainder of the ride. Far better than you both riding back in a solo world of hurt!
Thanks for the great comments! Your mention of seeking smoothness resonates with my experience; I’ve been caught behind people who are choppy, and yeah, they deny clydes the ability to develop and deploy precious momentum.

In pdlamb ’s defense, uphill attacks can work, but it depends on the grade and duration of the climb, and the rider needs to be very fit and strong. Undoubtedly we’re talking “uphills” and not proper climbs, because yeah, if the climber-type needs 300w sustained, the clyde is gonna 450w sustained, and how long you gonna pull that off for, and what’s gonna be left in the tank after you do?

If you’re fit, strong, and know your routes and other riders, clydes can pull off some amazing stuff, but I think attrition tactics don’t serve us well because even if everyone fatigues at the same rate (which is unlikely!), lighter riders will always be able to do more with less, so overpowering strategies are, as you said, like cutting one’s own throat.
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Old 01-20-21, 11:17 AM
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Sit in unless you don't like the slow pace

Stay out of the wind

Save energy for the hills or known attack sections

Get aero wheels if possible to save more energy while in the draft

don't do a pull leading into the bottom of a hill

be smart about the sprint points and who/when to follow wheels. Do you like to sprint or lead out?

Use terrain to your advantages, ie flats, false flats, downhill, head wind.

As you get more fit and better endurance #1 and #2 will get easier.

Don't forget to talk to other and have conversations, but pay attention when you hear the gears starting to click.

MOST important one!!! is to come back next week regardless what happens on the ride
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Old 01-20-21, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jsigone View Post
Sit in unless you don't like the slow pace

Stay out of the wind

Save energy for the hills or known attack sections

Get aero wheels if possible to save more energy while in the draft

don't do a pull leading into the bottom of a hill

be smart about the sprint points and who/when to follow wheels. Do you like to sprint or lead out?

Use terrain to your advantages, ie flats, false flats, downhill, head wind.

As you get more fit and better endurance #1 and #2 will get easier.

Don't forget to talk to other and have conversations, but pay attention when you hear the gears starting to click.

MOST important one!!! is to come back next week regardless what happens on the ride
Awesome stuff!

Clydes benefit from aero, too?! 👍🏽
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Old 01-20-21, 01:25 PM
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So are these group rides where everyone knows it's kind of like a race? Are people trying to "win"?

I've only done group rides where people stick together, or maybe a few go off the front for a bit on hills or whatnot. But these groups I'm in usually have A,B,C type groups. And you slot in with whatever you're comfortable with and ride together.

This sounds like more of a race type situation. I think where I live now it's mostly younger guys who might have fast group rides and I don't think I'd fit in with that group.

Of course we'll see if they actually start doing group rides this year!
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Old 01-20-21, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
This is my favorite. I'll try to be #3 in the paceline behind the guy who's seeing how long he can stay in front. When he starts to fade, either on the climb or shortly before, that's when I like to attack. If I'm not first at the top, at least I'm in the bunch when we regroup.

Also, if you've got a bar bell, be sure to ring it as you fly by.
I've only gotten this to work once and at the time I used to live along the last 10 miles of the course which I took several times a week. I knew the final hill and used to consider anything less then 18mph up it slow. So when the race hit there I knew every detail of the course to the finish line which was only 2 miles left and set myself up to be nearly sharing the lead at that spot. Saying "see you at the finish line" was great, having the hill mentally beat and the energy to crush it at nearly 23mph was great. Missing first by virtually nothing sucked but still kept second. Never pulled off the same on any other course, heavy riders just have too many negatives. My usual tactic is stay in the middle of the pack, don't over extend on the up but also try not to lose the last rider, power the downhill and recoup till the middle of the line shows back up and I can slip back in without a pull. People seeing you come from the front usually think you've had a pull and most don't notice you're really just seesawing back and forth. I only pull on extended flats. Knowing the course really helps, if you know its a climb at the end you can just be screwed but being big people might let you get an early jump to get there first thinking you'll fade on the hill, just a question of how much energy you've saved and how much quicker you get there. Downhill and flat before the finish do your best to get to the top as quick as possible and power down the hill hard and don't let up.
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Old 01-20-21, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by aplcr0331 View Post
So are these group rides where everyone knows it's kind of like a race? Are people trying to "win"?

I've only done group rides where people stick together, or maybe a few go off the front for a bit on hills or whatnot. But these groups I'm in usually have A,B,C type groups. And you slot in with whatever you're comfortable with and ride together.

This sounds like more of a race type situation. I think where I live now it's mostly younger guys who might have fast group rides and I don't think I'd fit in with that group.

Of course we'll see if they actually start doing group rides this year!
Every ride is a race, even if you don't know it That's the motto around where I live. It's a race, but it's purely for bragging rights around the coffee table. I do race outside of bunches so it's a great training tool.

I live in a small 20k people city. There's one main bunch and they know there's times for fast rides and times for chilling out. On weekends our general organised rides are all out and back ~45km each with Sat: 6am FAST, 7:30 social out, handicapped race style back or regroup at top of climbs and fast last ~10km depending on the route; Sun: 6:30 FAST, 8am no drop social with a short fast downhill leading into a sprint near the end for the keen ones but regroup riding back into town for coffee. There's a variety of fast and social bunch rides throughout the week in the mornings and afternoons. On our FB page for posting rides we generally post the expected pace for interested parties to know what they're up for.

If the riders in your bunches race, then they should be doing a mix of fast paced and tempo/recovery riding. Try and sound out and pick the slower recovery rides as your pathway to step things up and introduce yourself to the newer bunches. Alternatively you pick the bunch/ride depending on what you want to achieve. There was a bunch I used to ride with years ago. Good social bunch and the riding was good, but they used to like to stop and chat for what seemed like FOREVER at every turnoff. We'd wait for dropped riders, but then spend 5+min chatting after they caught up. It was nice and social, but a little too social for what I was wanting so I changed bunches.
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Old 01-20-21, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
In pdlamb ’s defense, uphill attacks can work, but it depends on the grade and duration of the climb, and the rider needs to be very fit and strong. Undoubtedly we’re talking “uphills” and not proper climbs, because yeah, if the climber-type needs 300w sustained, the clyde is gonna 450w sustained, and how long you gonna pull that off for, and what’s gonna be left in the tank after you do?
Uphill attacks can definitely work, but how often have you seen a good climber really properly attack a climb. Even when I was my fittest/fastest/lightest and pushing for B grade podiums I would get smoked by a decent climber on even a short climb if they really went for it. Pretty often what they would do is just mark you(me) and then crush you at the top while you needed some recovery but they had juice to burn.

Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
If you’re fit, strong, and know your routes and other riders, clydes can pull off some amazing stuff, but I think attrition tactics don’t serve us well because even if everyone fatigues at the same rate (which is unlikely!), lighter riders will always be able to do more with less, so overpowering strategies are, as you said, like cutting one’s own throat.
I have a great memory about this that I still laugh at. We have an annual regional interclub race series of time handicapped races. Our local route is half flat, half hilly. Generally up going out but down on the return with a couple of rollers into an false flat uphill finish. One year I was in the front bunch of maybe 12 riders. About 4 of us were genuine sprinter types. We're running up into the rollers and I'm thinking yeah, we'll be attacked and out any minute now. Those crazily stupid climbers in the bunch just sat in and did nothing at all. They let 4 good sprinters ride with the bunch to the finish! Hence we were all the top 4 and I managed a 3rd. None of us sprinters should have been in the top 3!
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Old 01-20-21, 05:49 PM
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Great insights, folks! Thanks for sharing them!

Our strategies depend on the who’s and where’s, so there is no right or wrong...it just depends.

I’m really happy to hear stories of us, as clydes, getting out there, getting after it, and feeling good about cycling! I was largely off the back last year because of a newly arthritic knee and the follow-on effects of a crappy season before that due to injuries, and I’m only now back to training, feeling the results and gains, and getting psyched-up for the coming season. It’s gonna be different than my memory of being fit is, because though I’m doing well, I’m still going to be short of where my spring numbers used to be, and these damned knees have ruined my general confidence, so I’m thankful to hear from everyone the strategies and stories of what works for them and to get out of the historic fantasy world in my head.
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Old 01-24-21, 09:42 AM
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Big guys like me rule the drafting club. Big guys like me have serious issues getting up the hills. Big guys like me absolutely rule downhills as long as you keep your hands off the brakes. Kudos to all you big men for dicing it up with the more svelte crowd and enjoying it. I did so much better in my racing days when I accepted my limitations and used them for my guide. I also did much better off road racing than on road racing. Pelotons are governed by the strongest and if you are not the strongest then it is easy to get blown out by the effort of keeping up. Know your limits and accept the results of those limits. If you can improve your limits, great. If not, great, keep on riding. Two rules for bicycling, 1. Enjoy yourself 2. Repeat rule 1
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Old 01-24-21, 11:07 AM
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Even on moderate speed rides, we have our local KOM sections that we all like to attack. I don't ride in certain groups, as I know I can't hold their pace. I've tried. And those 5 guys are FAST. I tried chasing one guy down, my Strava said 38 mph for that section, and I wasn't catching him... Besides, with my left ankle in an AFO brace, I'm just not going to be any faster.
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Old 01-24-21, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by zjrog View Post
Even on moderate speed rides, we have our local KOM sections that we all like to attack. I don't ride in certain groups, as I know I can't hold their pace. I've tried. And those 5 guys are FAST. I tried chasing one guy down, my Strava said 38 mph for that section, and I wasn't catching him... Besides, with my left ankle in an AFO brace, I'm just not going to be any faster.
Good to see your post. Hope you are doing well after your health travails.
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Old 01-24-21, 10:06 PM
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Originally Posted by tallbikeman View Post
Good to see your post. Hope you are doing well after your health travails.
Doing ok. I'm in a winter's doldrums right now. Not excited about much. But feel pretty good. New knee is doing well, still some weakness. Great Range of Motion though.. still arguing with insurance about who I want to see for my ankle though.. Working on a bike and slogging some indoor miles... Looking to try Zwift's steering feature, made my own lazy susan...
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