Season is winding down...dang. This time of the year is always a little disappointing: Fitness always is good, races are few, March is so far away...and the desire to race cross is not there at all. What is exciting though, even if the races are few, is that the group rides live on and even start to flourish with more people coming out to ride with friends, discuss the seasons past and future, and show off their late season form.
I have a real problem with going out and riding by myself...not sure why that is, but I think I'm more of a pack animal...needs to be around others to get a kick out of whatever I'm doing. Anyway, I recommend the group ride, cause I believe what it stands for. Meet your teammates, your competitors, see all the shiny stuff everyone else is buying, and learn technique, skills, and all that other stuff that makes you a better and safer cyclist/racer. So here are my top five group rides that I've been doing lately:
1) Saturday 7:00 am ride out of Rock Creek and East West Highway. This one rules. The measuring stick of rides. The beauty of this one is it has all the great elements of a great group ride. One, the size of it. On a nice Saturday morning, when there are no races going on you can expect anywhere from 50 to 70 people (I've never counted, but it feels like a lot). Two, the quality of the guys/gals that show up. You can expect our local pros and 1/2s to make an a showing and set a blistering pace. How often do you get to measure yourself up against the likes of Langley, Super Dave, and Frick? Three, the terrain and organization. From the pace line at 30+ mph down the parkway, the climbs up Angler's, Great Falls, and Brickyard, to the sprint on Democracy and up to the top of Ross...awesome. Great practice and opportunities to see how your fitness is compared to some of MABRAs finest. Four, and this may be the best part, back home before 11:00 am with over 60 miles in the books. Some of us can't validate a mid-afternoon ride of 3+ hours on a Saturday. It may have the title of "Father's" ride, but getting that kind of effort in and being back to have brunch with the "Family" is good.
2) Sunday 9:00 am ride from Arrow Bikes in Hyatsville. I'm a little biased on this one since it has become our team ride. The Capitol Hill Bikes Sunday team ride (usually through the hills of Arlington) has shifted over to the Arrow ride. Which although not quite as convenient to home, has become quite a sweet ride. Beauty of this one is that is go from the gun and is pretty much race pace the whole way (a little slower maybe than race pace, but the effort is still serious). As it becomes more popular I wouldn't be surprised if it gets faster and the team uses it as a place to test tactics and learn. If you're around the shop in MD on a Sunday, I recommend it. From DC, roundtrip closes in 50 to 55 miles.
3) Tuesday 6:30 pm Conte's ride out of Clarendon/Ballston. When you roll up to this one you'll notice the high number of triathletes and fancy eye candy (the bikes...the bikes!). At first I thought this one was going to be a huge group ride through the hills of Arlington, but it broke out into an A,B, and C ride. The B and C are more triathletes and beginners, but the A group works...and works well. The ride is four laps through Arlington between Military and Glebe that all go up hill and has been very very fast and hard. We aren't blessed with tons of hills in the area, but this ride pretty much hits all the big ones in Arlington...hurts, but in that good, "I'm glad I did that" kind of way. The nice part of this one is that on the first Tuesday of the month, Team Z (a local Triathlon group) provides beer and food afterwards to all participants...nothing better than beer and food post ride, right? Also, there is a police escort on the roll out...how often do you get one of those on a group ride? Ride is probably around 30ish, but the ride out from DC makes the mileage decent for a post work ride.
4) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday lunch time Intervals at Haines Point. This one is a staple of the area and also rules. Show up and flex your muscle for one hour every day. If your lucky Nima, Ken Young, or any of the Harley boys are there and are dishing out a good dosage of humble pie for everyone to swallow (while giving everyone a great workout). This is the ride where I learned about pacelines and how to ride smart in a group. I think I learn something every time I ride this one...the organization is great and some of the more experienced riders really let the more junior riders if they're out of line and how to improve. Speed is usually really fast and sprints are well contested. Group rolls out around 12:05 and usually rocks for about an hour.
5) Thursday Night World Championships at Haines Point (starts sometime between 5:00pm and 6:30pm). Not quite as organized as the lunch time ride, but still awesome. I'm a big fan of intervals and testing the legs against some great bike riders. Without fail there is always someone here that lays down hurt or is willing to push the pace so that hurt is nicely distributed to all those who show up. The group forms and continues to hammer for the sprint line for a couple of hours. Another great post ride group ride and a good place to test the legs.
I need to find a good Wednesday evening ride...