Benchmark Rides and What NOT TO DO In Group Ride

I love getting out and riding new roads, meeting new cyclists and pushing myself. So this weekend I did something I have not done in some time. I rode my first century in 5 years.

Why so long since my last century? Well the racing I take part in does not need this kind of training volume and getting out to do a regular century just isn’t going to work with my schedule.

I learned a lot about myself and others in this ride and it’s really going to help me improve on my training strategies and that of some I coach.

In the coaching world the first few group rides, races and tests of a new season are what we refer to as benchmark efforts. These are the efforts that we as coaches and athletes look back on to determine throughout the rest of the season how we are improving.

I look to typical power measures to see how I performed afterwards. I will look primarily at 1-minute, 3-minute, 5-minute, 10-minute, 20-minute, 60-minute and 90-minute power efforts. I will also look to Heart Rate results to see if I had spikes or where I may have shown fatigue. I will also look at the intangibles.

When I look at intangibles I look to comments from others on my performance. When other rider’s talk about how well you were doing or how strong you were riding is a good indicator of improvement. If the same cyclists talk about how much pain you looked like you were in or how pale you were or how many times you popped off the back are good indicators of how poor you are doing.

I also think about how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally on various segments of a ride. Physically speaking this is easy. Do my quads hurt, how much, did I cramp, where did I cramp and was I eating enough when I cramped.

The questions around the mental aspects are also fairly easy. Did I follow my tactical plans, did I get into the “zone”, where was I when I was in the zone, was it in a pace line, climb, working on the front, a group sprint or when riding solo in a break away attempt.

Benchmarking an emotional response can be a bit trickier. This can also be confused with the mental aspects but they should not be confused with being in the zone or thinking through tactics. Instead I like to think of the emotional side of a benchmark ride as was I stressed out, freaked out, having a bit of fun or just depressed over performance outcomes?

What I learned from others on this ride.

Maybe the title should be what was reinforced not to do on a large group ride! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share what I saw and learned from the riders at the century. Many of these items I have either spoken about on podcasts or written about but I believe it bears repeating for those new to PPC. Especially since I saw so many instances of what not to do.

The following I witnessed by more than a few participants more than once. Some of the below is meant to be tongue in cheek but in all seriousness be careful on big rides with lots of cyclists!

  • It is OK to ride 2 abreast just keep the space between you tight
  • Pace line leaders are RESPONSIBLE for calling out road hazards. NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Do not ride in a pace line with your head down! Always be looking over the shoulder ahead of you.
  • When pulling off the front of a pace line keep the space tight so that you benefit from more of a drift when you drift back.
  • When its your turn to work at the front of a pace line maintain the speed set before you pull in. DO NOT SURGE!
  • Eat, drink and blow your nose at the back of a pace line, please!
  • Do not look down to get your sport bottle out to drink
  • Do not take “selfies” in the peleton!
  • Do not trust unfamiliar cyclists “to do the right thing” in your pace line
  • Do not stare and make comments at those taking bio breaks on the side of the road as you pass by.
  • Do not weave around on perfectly straight roads – Be Predictable
  • Do not change lines suddenly
  • Do not change lines going through a corner
  • Do not pass on the right of someone going slower
  • Do not throw trash on the side of the road
  • Do not “Drop In” on a pace line without asking to
  • Do not “Sit On” a wheel without asking first
  • Do not take part in a Pace Line unless you are going to work in it
  • Do not wear headphones in a group ride with 1200+ cyclists
  • Do not blast music on a wireless portable speaker for others to “enjoy”
  • Do not be mad that you can’t ride faster than others. We were all slow early on in our cycling.
  • Do not just stop in the middle of the road. Someone will hit you!
  • Do not ride in the left lane especially going up hill. You will become a hood ornament.
  • Do not pass wobbly riders to closely on climbs they will hook your handlebars if you get to close.
  • Do not make fun of overweight cyclists. They are trying to get leaner and you may have been their inspiration.
  • Do not yell at slower and much older cyclists to get out of your way. Karma is really going to hit that guy over the head.
  • If you ask if its OK that another cyclist “pulls you” to the finish and they say no, don’t sit on their wheel anyway and not expect a foul reaction.
  • Please let others know when you are passing on the left
  • If you behave like an ass towards other riders I promise you Karma will pay you back twice.
  • Be nice and thank all volunteers. They would rather be on their bikes.
  • Be nice to the residents and wave back.
  • Be especially nice to small children who wave or tell you that you have a cool bike. Your wave back and conversation may have just inspired the next kid to become a world champion. Not waving or ignoring said child might inspire them to door a cyclist in the future. More karma folks…
  • Be helpful to other cyclists in need.
  • Be ready to change your own flat tire(s)
  • There is no shame in walking hills, just make sure to do so early.
  • There is no shame in asking others for help
  • Eat before your hungry and drink before you are thirsty. Saw lots of Bonk!
  • Don’t ride around aimlessly if you get lost. You brought a cell phone, right?
  • Have fun, ride smart, and ride safe.
  • Enjoy the ride
  • Recruit others for the next ride 😉


Until Next Time,

Train Smarter Not Harder

Coach Rob






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