Let me set up the scene for you:
It was a cool Saturday morning in August and three of the route 1 velo boys were ending up the 7 am ride with the group. As we headed down Beach Drive towards Ross hill for one last effort, the leader of the group ( we'll call him "Elder Lumm") looks over to me and says:
"when we get to the base of the hill, I'm going to attack."
I nodded in acknowledgment and told him that I'd lead the pack to the hill and then open the door for him to roll off the front while I soft peddled to let him get a gap. So as we started rolling to the base of Ross, I was controlling the pace up front and trying to make sure that we came to the hill 1 and 2. At the base, plan worked perfectly. Elder Lumm rolled of the front and gapped the whole group quickly. I slowed and nobody came around, which allowed the gap to grow until Elder Lumm was out of sight around the first turn.
We rolled towards the first turn when all of a sudden, a Harley rider attacks the group up the inside and starts his attempt to bridge up to Elder Lumm who at this point has a good lead on the group.
Okay, what do you do in this situation? Do you:
1) Go with the Harley rider with the intention of getting a free ride up to the lead rider and countering if the catch is made. On the plus side, if timed correctly the counter would put the Harley rider into a spot of bother and he would not be able to chase again. On the negative though, you run the risk of dragging the whole field up with you and keep the race just between two people and turn it into a field sprint.
2) Let the Harley rider go and hope that he either doesn't make the bridge attempt, or if he does, Elder Lumm will have enough juice in the tank to out sprint him to the line at the top of the hill. On the plus side of this, I don't have to make any efforts. :) Just wait and save up for the final effort at the top. On the negative, Harley vs Anybody Else around here usually ends up not in the favor of Anybody Else. So if Elder Lumm got caught (and assuming there is no pride for second), the effort is wasted because a teammate wasn't there to counter.
I chose 2 at the time. Thinking back on it, I should have gone with the Harley rider and countered regardless of how many people got dragged across with me. We had a third with us (we'll call him Younger Lumm) and we could have saved him for the last effort if my counter was unsuccessful. Oh well, live and learn. There may have been another option of what to do...like go to the back and discuss whether it is really appropriate to call deep section wheels "deep dish wheels" (it aint pizza!)..but what do I know.
This is the beauty of group rides. You don't get this kind of experience on that solitary 4x30 with 2min rest in between day. Or going out for the 4 hours of LSD. You get real "race-type" experience and get better about making quick decisions that can make or break your day in the saddle when it counts.
This stuff probably comes like breathing to those pros and guys/gals who have been around for a while, but it is all still fascinating to me. I guess that is what makes this biking stuff fun.