Group Ride Part II: By Mike Courteau


Picture from Art of the Group Ride

Be sure to check out Part I of this series from last week.

For myself, I was feeling good, and when the coordinator announced that we would ride 13 miles out and back, I was not concerned about being able to do the distance at a reasonable rate of speed.

Once we left the coffee shop, I found myself in second position to the coordinator who led us to the trail. Soon, he peeled off and told me that he needed to go hang back to see after the other riders.

All of a sudden I found myself at the front of the long line of riders—a position I had never been in before. I didn’t know how fast to go, what the protocol was, or even if there was any protocol. I set the pace at about 21 M.P.H. since that’s about what we had averaged on our way to the coffee shop.

Brad Dettman was drafting behind me, yet it was he who called out the warnings to all of the riders behind us: “Walkers up!” when pedestrians appeared on the trail and “Stopping!” when we approached an intersection and “Clear!” when no cars were coming.

I peeled off after a few minutes, reasoning that Brad seemed to know the plays and I did not. I fell in line several riders back much as I had seen professional cyclists do on television, and I learned quickly about the advantages of drafting. If I allowed even a small gap to open between the last rider in line and me, I’d lose that 30% reduction in drag a rider gets from nestling in the slipstream.

With Brad Dettman and Walker Ashley and, to my surprise, Loren taking long pulls at the front, it didn’t take long before an “elite” group of riders had separated itself from everybody else. Soon, there were six of us whooshing down the shared trail at 24 miles per hour. Much to my surprise, I was among the heads of state and able to keep the pace.

I think I stayed in contact for 25, maybe 30, miles.

But I had not cycled farther than 35 miles on any one outing this season, so my legs were shot on the return trip.

No matter how hard I pedaled, I’d see my speedometer drop from 24 to 21 to 20 M.P.H. and the gap in front of me get a little bit wider.

Then came a bridge. It was a slight rise, the topographical equivalent of a roller, but that was all it took for me to get dislodged from the group. I never saw them again until I came limping in, soaked with rain, to Wayzata and the coffee shop, where Brad Dettman was just exiting with a hamburger, half of which he’d already eaten.



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One Response to Group Ride Part II: By Mike Courteau

  1. Marty Mathis says:

    Great post Mike. I’m anxious to read part 3.

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