For triathletes looking to get faster in the offseason, one strategy is a single-sport focus. If cycling is your weakness, consider including a group ride as one of your key weekly training sessions. If you spend, and have spent, the majority of your ride time going solo, a group ride might be exactly what you need to move to the next level.
Triathletes who do all of their bike training solo tend to get comfortable. They settle into a time trial pace that is calibrated by heart rate, power, speed, rating of perceived exertion, or some combination of these. If these athletes ride with a group, where pace is not self-selected, triathletes often find they can ride faster, and longer, than they thought possible.
In short, other people give you a new benchmark for "fast". Where there's a wheel, there's a way. If you can catch the wheel ahead of you, riding gets easier. And, when riding in a group, you'll often find a way to catch that wheel, even when you thought you had no more speed to give.
If you are not familiar with group rides, or have only joined a few, here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your experience.
Ask How the Group Normally Works
If you are new to group riding or new to a particular group, ask someone (there is typically a group leader) how the ride normally works. What is proper etiquette for this group?
Some groups are no-drop rides. That means the entire group waits for the slowest person.
Other groups are no-drop, no-wait rides. This means everyone is free to ride as fast as they please, including launching attacks on hills, but at designated spots in the ride, fast riders turn around and go pick up any stragglers. Everyone gets a workout this way.
Of course there are the "every-ride-is-a-race" groups. These groups are literally like road races where every rider is attempting to "win" the ride.
Knowing what you're trying to accomplish in a ride and matching those goals with the appropriate group is important.
Stay off of the Aerobars
In a group ride, you need to be ready to break or steer quickly. If you're in the aerobars, there's no way you can react to a sudden change of pace, a pothole or other issues that may cause the group to change speeds.
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