Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Training - Group Ride With Jumps

Monday evening, my long day at CT Stage Race fresh in my mind, I set off to do the Granby Bike group ride. It's local, it starts late enough that I can make it after work, and, at least last year, it was hard enough that I struggled to hang on.

This year I've been riding a bit better, so this ride has become a little more manageable. I guess the biggest difference between doing this ride and riding with "racers" (some of the riders race, but generally speaking this is a more mellow ride) is the peaky stuff, the sharp stuff that hurts all new racers. Jumps, sprints, digging really deep when the suffering gets thicker, deeper. It's the stuff you learn through racing, when, at first, it seems impossible to hang with the group. Later, of course, it becomes almost easy, until you upgrade, and then the questions start all over again.

It's all about measuring progress, and so far, this year, it's been good all around.

So, for me, the Granby ride is a good Monday ride. Climbing still hurts me, yes, and I get shelled regularly, but the fast bridging efforts, they seem to work for me. I can also experiment with efforts, testing, probing, examining how my body reacts in different situations. I'm curious about how my legs work after multiple hard efforts, and the group ride gives me a nice environment where I can explode without getting dropped permanently.

Monday I had one extra motive. With no riding since my long ride last Wednesday, I wanted to get some efforts in so my legs wouldn't feel like garbage at the Rent on Tuesday.

We set off heading north, a planned 35 mile loop. It'd take just over 2 hours and remain basically flat. My legs felt crampy right away, twinging regularly, protesting (weakly) about the lack of riding. We rolled up a hill or two and although my legs didn't get magically better, they stopped getting worse.

This is called "progress".

In these rides I try to follow wheels, letting others open gaps, then, when the gap is big enough, practice bridging. I did that a few times during the ride, trying to make hard efforts to close reasonably large gaps. This mimics the efforts I make during a crit, the efforts under pressure, then the requirement to keep the effort going once the gap closes.

On one particular hill the group spread out a bit dangerously across the road (with cars passing somewhat regularly), so, in order to string things out, I raised my own tempo up to the "sustainable but not comfortable" point. One guy went blowing by me at the top but the group got nicely spread out - safer, in other words.

And my legs had responded to a stretched out effort.


On the way back I wasn't quite up to snuff, losing the lead group after making some enormous efforts. I managed to catch back on with the help of a light, else I'd have finished the ride behind the group. Nonetheless, as we got close to the shop, my legs magically returned. Crampy, yeah, but suddenly I knew I could pedal again.

Progress, right?

The shop owner rolled by, tempting us (later admitting he wanted to instigate some counterattacks), and two of us simply could not refuse. I let one guy jump, then, using him as a mobile shelter point, jumped across to him and then to the owner.

I maintained the effort, thinking of Somerville, thinking of the times I sat up when, maybe, I could have kept going. I sat up and got 37th. If I hadn't, I'd probably have broken into the top 30.

This time, on this ride, I kept going.

Alas, as I crested the short hill at the end of the straight, my legs failed.

I sat up, waiting for the swarm.

Eventually they came, but I could still trundle along at a decent wattage, just below my threshold. It wasn't much, but it let me maintain some semblance of pace.

So maybe it wasn't a 37th kind of effort. Maybe a 34th.


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