Matt Reed is seen on the local group rides in Boulder often. Many long distance triathletes add in a fast rodie like group ride to mix things up and get some high intensity. Tony Delonge
winner at IM USA a few years back through down a record bike split on his way to an 8:56! Tony would take part in the Tue. group ride out side of Boston quite often. Regardless of your racing goals these can be great training but all group rides are not the same and, more so, the same group ride can be a very different experience for different people.
So what's your Sweet Spot for a Group Ride?
First off we are talking about the fast rides. Hard, pre-set course, if you get dropped no one is waiting for you rides. Not the "team rides". There is more explanation on this HERE at the 30 days to better cycling site. members only. Join the Karma endurance group Here to get access.
The first thing you should be doing, or not doing really, is trying to make the ride something its not. I have heard before "I'm gona do my threshold (or tempo) work on the group ride tonight", ahh, no your not. With these types of training sessions or any where you are looking for "muscle endurance" and Friel calls it. The type of training where you're on the legs every pedal stroke for your selected interval time a group ride is not the place to do them. Unless you can ride on the front of the group in your zone for that long with out anyone coming around you. I'm guessing you can't.
A group ride gives us a few unique things we simply can't get alone
- Higher speeds: turning bigger gears, even at a similar wattage it has a different feel.
- Variable power: the up and down stop, go, stop, go nature of a pack ride
- A large amount of total anaerobic riding
- The repeating nature of these above threshold efforts
- Higher cadences, hopefully
- The unknown. going hard when you would like to rest, recovery periods when you least expect them.
- learning to relax in a pack, cross winds, etc. ie. more efficient riding when the situation is stressful. better bike handling on a efficiency level.
If you are going to do a ride of this nature you should be looking for at least some of these things.
Ok so were are going to do some group rides now what. What's a good ride for you, what's not so good. First off know the rout, maybe ride it solo or with a few friends before so you know where your going, where the big hills are, down hills, turns, etc.
Intensity, the key factor:
This is where I see so many people blow there "group ride" type training.
If going on a group ride involves you hanging on for dear life for 20-30 minutes, accumulating 40% or more of your time above threshold (power time), getting dropped and limping home barely able to push Z2 wattage the ride is to hard and your doing more damage than good. You want your ride to be challenging, not over reaching, you want to be able to repeat your training! ie. get out of bed the next morning for your run, or another ride. You should be able to finish the ride. if not with the front group at least a group of other riders. beyond this look to be able to do a few hard efforts with out getting dropped. (go to the front and do some pulls, a few 1' attacks off the front, etc) and be able to recover in the pack when you need.
A few, more tangible factors to aim for:
- No more the 20% of your time above threshold, power. or 30-35% of HR time. even for a road cyclist, who is trained for lots of anaerobic time is going to have a really hard ride with more than this.
- Peek avg. power: having only your best 10 min. avg. being at threshold you will find the ride to be over all pretty hard. start doing 20 min. or more. get ready to suffer.
- wattage spikes: 10 watts per kilogram of body weight. This is a big benchmark for bike races and mas start rides. The more of these the harder your over all effort is gona be. get up to 12 or more per hour your gona know it! In a tough crit style race we can see up to 40 in 1 hour.
Above is a link to a group ride done by coach Eric recently. The ride is less the first 30' and less the last 40.
This ride was tough. One reason is because it was the first one of the year! That first date with significant anaerobic time is always hard. I got a flat with about 30' still to ride. the last 30-40 minutes of the ride was tough. after a quick flat fix I was riding in a smaller group pulling through more frequently and getting less rest time. one of the things to note about any ride is how difficult there are while still having so much time in Z1 and not pedaling!!
Find your sweet spot. make sure you can keep training after the ride. can you finish it? what does your power file and HR file look like? The over all idea here gang. Can you get all of these adaptations in (mentioned above) but minimize the crushing fatigue and muscle damage of a full on race effort?
So before you decide on the group ride workout get some info on what your in for, know your rout and decide what your really looking to get from it. Is this ride going to give you that?
be safe and have fun. tough group rides can be the most fun you can have on 2 wheels.