Twenty two team members showed up for a fantastic ride on a perfectly beautiful day. As per what is now the norm, we divided into an Expert Group and a Development Group, and followed our now standard route (Medina-Kirkland-Bellevue-Mercer Island loop). We take what I think are some of the best roads in each area, culminating with a clock-wise loop around Mercer. We had a short clinic on equipment for high performance cycling before the ride. It was cool to see so many people wearing the full HPC ensemble. We looked pretty sharp.
Regarding pace and the two groups, David and I have tried to communicate what we think we are hearing from most of you. Rather than have the Expert Group become an “open class” ride where the goal is every man for himself, and to damage and drop as many as you can, what you are telling us is that the Expert Group ideally should become a group riding at a level that the Development Group riders can set as an attainable goal. In order to do this, we need to have the Expert Group function as a stationary “target”, not one that floats month to month, depending on how hard the people on the front want to go that day.
If what you are looking for is an open class type of ride, there are plenty of those available through the Daily Rides Program at Cascade, and there is always the option of adding miles after the team ride with new friends you meet on the ride. Maybe the best solution is to designate the Mercer Island loop as an optional, take no prisoners total hammerfest. Riders could choose that option, do the loop at their pace, or simply cross the I-90 Bridge and return to the start of the ride.
The whole concept of a team implies a group of people working together, and staying together (at least on the flat). Assuming all of the people in the Expert Group are capable of pulling the ride at a 20-22mph “effort level”, everyone should be given the opportunity to be on the front. We use the same route every month, and everyone knows where the hills are, and the hills are a great time to show everyone how strong of a rider you are. Optimally, everyone arrives at the start of a climb at the same time, and a re-group spot is announced. If the group is spread out on the flat before the climb, there is no one around to hear about a re-group!
Not to beat a dead horse; well, ok, maybe I am beating a dead horse, but it would be great if everyone pitched in to make the ride goes as smoothly as possible, take turns on the front (and maintain the pace), and take the time to socialize a little bit as a group. One specific problem area is the tendency to roll through a stop, put your head down, and gun it hard; creating gaps that become harder to close the further you are from the front. On a team ride, people leading at the front should try and ease off from stops, waiting to hear the call “all on” from the back of the ride. At that point, the leaders would smoothly accelerate up to that 20-22mph pace. This would go a long way toward building camaraderie within the group, as well as letting the Development Group riders focus on that consistent target.
Speaking as a member of today’s Expert Group, it was obvious that everyone was a skilled rider. We rode hard, but safely, and it’s a nice feeling to ride with a group of familiar riders. As we all get to know each other better, I can see the whole Team HPC operating as a well oiled machine.
We had a good sized group today, but we now have over 60 team members, and it would be great to see more of the new members out on the rides. The next two monthly rides (pacelines and climbing) were great rides last year. The paceline ride in particular is an opportunity to become more comfortable with a skill that truly is critical if a cyclist wants to become an accomplished rider in a group. Depending on how many riders show, we will be splitting both the Development and Expert groups into several sub-groups. Within each group, riders will self select a group based on their skill and fitness levels.
In this case, the lead group in the Expert Group can, and should be exactly what the riders want it to be. If the consensus is to ride absolutely as hard as the group can, riders who can’t hang can simply drop back to the next subgroup.
It seems like I have focused on the negative here, but that is not my intent at all. Every great project takes time to develop, and as always, please let us know if we are misunderstanding what you would like from the team. Through surveys and talking with members, David and I think we know what the overall mission is. Please make us aware of your thoughts and suggestions, either through the team board, commenting on this blog, or in a direct email.
If 2008 was the launch year for Team HPC, 2009 could be the year we really define what it is that the team can be.
I hope to see you on the road!