In a season of several cycling firsts I notched another one last night, my first road bike group ride. Since I have taken up the mountain bike Taco Ride on Wednesday nights, The Ritual Ride would normally conflict, but with all the rain we've been having riding dirt was clearly not an option. Still, I wasn't sure that I wanted to subject myself to a group road ride because some roadies have been known to have uppity attitudes and I knew there would be several very fast riders in the group. A post on the local mountain bike message board asking about the attitude and pace of the ride netted me several "you'll be fine, its a relaxed ride" sort of responses so I decided to go for it.
About 30 cyclists showed up for a little chilly, but otherwise nice, ride that leaves the Ritual Cafe in downtown Des Moines @ 5:30. The ride is organized by one of the local women's road racing team, Punk Rock Cycling. It was as advertised - a relaxed atmosphere, the group looking like a fair mix of recreational riders and racers, with about 2/3rds of the riders being female.
After leaving downtown and tooling through Waterworks Park I was in a pack that was traveling at a pace that was just slightly under where I like to ride. Up ahead I could see a group of mostly racers leading off the front by about 300 yards. One of the ladies in my group said "they must be doing th extra 2 mile loop". Shortly thereafter my group started to break for the turn at the Great Midwestern Trail. I decided to take the extra 2 mile loop and set to trying to close the gap between me and riders out front. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. I was laboring pretty good (especially considering I didn't want to squeeze all my juice in the first section of the ride) when an older gentleman passed me pointing to his back wheel indicating he wanted me to draft him so we could work together to catch the others. Try as I might I couldn't get onto his wheel, so I let him go. Thanks but no thanks Pops. I did manage to catch a couple of other people that had fallen off the lead group on my way back to the Great Midwestern trailhead. Shortly thereafter I passed Pops who seemed to have some minor mechanical. I expected him to go whizzing by me somewhere down the trail, but he never materialized.
At the trailhead I caught up to 4-5 other riders, including 3 guys and 2 members of the Punk Rock team. I was able to ride with them for the rest of the 24 mile course. It was nice, probably just a touch faster than I would've ridden by myself, but not at all in the red zone . My cycling computer isn't working so I don't know what we were averaging, but I would guess somewhere between 17-19 mph. One of the riders was a quite tall male, so he was nice to draft and that helped. Once the route went off the trail and onto the roads around Moffitt Reservior and Walnut Woods it was clear how lighter riders (everyone but me and Tall Guy) are faster going up hill and the, ahem, more robust riders are faster on the downs. I felt like a heavy loaded semi truck driver who menaces the poor little car who's just trying to keep it on cruise control.
Anyway, it was alot of fun. I even had some nice casual conversations with a couple of riders on our way back through Waterworks. One lady was lamenting the fact that the Hy-Vee Triatholan is only a month away and her training has not gone well. Yeah, my training has not gone well either, but that's because I'm not doing any. I would drown right out of the gate and that would be the end of my race.
I peeled off the group at Grey's Lake and headed for home. Between riding to work, Ritual and the ride home I put in close to 40 miles - not bad at-tall. I will definitely be keeping this ride in mind when it is too wet to ride dirt.