Considering it was a chilly and cloudy early morning in mid-October, a turnout of 16 for our last Meet the Team Ride of 2009 might have been a surprise, except for the fact that we have had more riders at every other ride this year. At times, we have had over 30 people show up to check us out, and team membership has grown commensurately.
We are not the only team doing MTTR’s this time of the year, and David wisely chose not to use our regular route around the end of the lake. We knew it would be crowded with large groups of cyclists, and we didn’t want to contribute to the congestion. David took the ride through Medina and Bellevue, on a course very similar to what we often use for our member-only monthly team rides.
While none of the climbs are particularly long or hard along this route, there are enough of them that group socializing was a little more difficult than it normally is on the flattish south lake route. While traffic was almost non-existent, it’s tough to talk when you always seem to be going up or downhill. Because of this, we took a little longer than normal rest stop to answer questions and talk about the team for 2010.
We also had trouble establishing a rhythmic pace on the ride. On pretty much every short hill, riders at the front would go hard, forcing people towards the back to close gap after gap. When those at the front noticed the gaps, they would slow down and wait for the rest of the group. Those not among the first few riders were either pedaling hard (not wanting to be dropped) or coasting once they reached the riders ahead.
Ideally, on a social Meet the Team Ride the group stays together, and to facilitate that, we try to have the MTTR’s go at a “moderate” pace. Moderate in that riders can talk with each other, and freely move within the group to talk with other people. On previous Meet the Team Rides, guests have been able to talk with various team members, easily identified by our jerseys. I didn’t see much of that happening on Saturday.
Whether it is a regular team ride or a MTTR, we always have the Mercer Island loop as an optional open class no re-group circuit towards the end of the ride. This is a great forum to push the pace as high as you like, as well as to show potential team members who try to hang on what HPC is really all about. In any case, Team HPC is only in its second year, and I am sure the ride protocols will become second nature as we all get more miles in together.
In spite of our best efforts to minimize delays caused by cyclist traffic jams, we did have one encounter. When we hit Mercer Island, the hammer was slammed down, and the group splintered into smaller pacelines. I was with the first group, and it was a lot of fun going hard through the eastside curves in tight formation. Shortly after we exited the curves, Steve H took a strong pull, and we overtook and passed the blue-and-white kitted "HB" Team. It’s certainly not the first time that we have overtaken one of the local racing clubs, but HB didn’t seem to think it was a good idea, possibly because there were a lot more of them than us! (Actually, none of the other clubs ever seem to think it’s a good idea either.) A harmless little game of cat and mouse ensued and it was all good fun.
I’m sure we will have plenty of informal team activity over the winter, but our organized group rides are over for the year. Keep your eye out for 2010 team info on the team message board, as well as in the Cascade Courier.