Sunday, March 21, 2010

Team HPC Ride Report--It is a "Team" ride, after all...

Route: Sam Smith Park—Mercer Island north end--Enatai—Medina—NE Points—Kirkland—Downtown Bellevue—South around Lake Washington—Rainier—Seward—Sam Smith Miles: 42 Climbing: 2350’ Attrition Rate: 10%

As is often the case, the bark of Seattle weather proved to be a lot worse than the bite. Despite a mostly dismal looking sky, and an equally dismal forecast, the rain held off until just after the team ride ended. After the group split up, Jeff and I rode the four miles to Downtown Seattle in the rain, but we never had more than a momentary drizzle on the actual ride. Most of the riders had fenders with flaps, but there was the occasional splatter off of a fender and/or flap-less wheel on the wet roads. A lot of group rides require people without fenders and flaps to ride at the back, and if we are going to ride on wet roads more, that’s the direction we will have to take. Slapping a little clip-on fender on a rear wheel will keep your back dry, but it does absolutely nothing for the riders behind you. Courtesy dictates the naked wheels go to the back. Look at it on the bright side—you don’t have to take a pull!

Warren led the ride today, and completed his two co-leads required to complete the process of becoming a Cascade Ride Leader. Warren did an exemplary job in outlining the route and ride protocol, and he spent a lot of time with a new team member who was off the back all day. I felt badly for both the rider and Warren, and I once again realized how tough a balancing act this situation creates, especially on a “Team” ride.

Warren chose to have the group wait for this rider, until the rider finally said not to worry about him if he got dropped. Consequently, the pace of the ride had a real start/stop feel to it, and a sense of flowing smoothness eluded us. It wasn’t until after the ride that I realized that I had set up a difficult expectation for Warren to follow. Not anticipating that we would have one rider of ten substantially off the pace, I commented that there were two types of group rides: rides during which all of the riders truly work together as a group, and rides where everyone tries to shatter everybody else without regard for whoever gets lost along the way. We were on a “Team” ride, so guess which style of riding really made the most sense for us?

We almost never use a map or cue sheet on the Hills of the West Coast, and we ride far out into the Hinterland. The ideal situation is to have a strong and cohesive group on that ride, and we do most of the time. Since we don’t want to leave someone for the lions and tigers out in the middle of nowhere, when we have a rider(s) way off the pace, we talk with them very early in the ride. On a hard paced ride, it doesn’t take long to identify potential issues. One of the ride leaders will ride toward the back of the group, and it’s easy to spot people who we might want to talk privately with about the situation. Most of the time, they will start the conversation, which makes it easy on everybody.

But what do you do when you are on a “Team” ride, and the person off the back is a brand new team member? It’s never fun to slow to a crawl or make frequent stops, especially when the weather is potentially going to change for the worse. The right thing to do, of course, is what Warren did. We still had time to get our jollies in as a group of nine with some pretty spirited riding back from Renton.

Today makes me more convinced than ever that we are on the right track with Team HPC fielding both a Development and Expert Group. Anybody finding the pace of the Expert Group too high simply drops back and waits for the other group. We had a small group today, and all but two riders were very much “regulars” of the Expert Group. Most of our rides have 20 or more people out, and there is never a problem splitting into two groups with compatible riders.

So our lone rider off of the pace simply had a bad luck of the draw. On most any other ride, he would have had a solid group of people to ride with. Today, he rode mostly by himself (or with Warren), but I know he’ll be back out on the next ride. The sun will be out, we’ll have a big turnout, and the Karma will be good. I just know it.

I hope to see you on the road.