Back in the Peloton

Back to the skinny tires for Saturday's training ride. Despite subtle hints and outright pleading, Coach Adam insisted that I join the roadies for the Saturday road ride. I offered all kinds of reasons why a mountain bike ride would be better... I would be riding my Fate, we'd have power data. There would be a large crowd and the pack could be sketchy. I hadn't done a road ride in over a year and my skills were a little off. I didn't need to risk a crash and getting injured. But for every good reason why not, Adam had an equally valid reason why I should. So finally I caved and made plans for some skinny tire suffering.

I was very nervous about the ride and did a little longer pre ride cruise to shake things out. Remembering that my pedals only had one side was a big thing! Got to the meeting spot about 9:55 and waited. There were already about 10 people waiting. I knew there would be more coming out of the cracks as roll out approached. Riders appeared in twos and threes and the pack waiting quickly swelled to over 30. Yikes. And that wasn't even including the riders we would absorb as we pedaled out of town. Sure enough, every intersection another three or four riders would join the peloton. It was a huge crowd and everyone was ready to test their legs with some "friendly" competition. Mindful of Adam's advice to stay in the front as much as I could to avoid crashes and of the red light incident last year, I made my way along into the first group of riders. Even along Platte, the pace was high and I was working pretty hard to keep my position. I never had a chance to look and see how big the peloton really was.

And then we made the right hand turn and the racing was on. We were heading south into a head wind and just flying down the road. I knew I would have to take a pull or two to be able to stay in the front of the pack. Amazingly, when I pulled through the first time, I was able to punch through the wind and clear the front wheel of the rider beside me. Immediately pulled over to the resting rotation - but I had pulled through! Really happy about that, but had to focus on the dynamics of the ride and the road. Not everything was getting called out and I'd narrowly missed a few small potholes. Too late, I saw a big pot hole right in front of me - wham! Right into it - lighten up the wheels, pull up the bike a little... Somehow managed to survive that without crashing or wrecking a wheel. I was till in the pointy end of the field, still working with the group. I wasn't a factor or instigator in any attacks, but I was up where I wanted to be and had managed two more short pulls. I was also doing a good job hiding from the wind, trying to stay towards the right of the peloton. So good a job, I forgot about the end of the shoulder (didn't help that again, no one called it out...) Whoops - into the gravel - keep speed up and look for a good opening to hop back into the road... Made it in back onto the road in one piece and with both tires intact.

Getting close to the left turn onto Link and the front of the pack started attacking. I got caught in no man's land just before the turn and didn't latch onto any wheels. I also didn't have a friend (or coach) on a motorcycle giving me a push from the back of the pack all the way to the front group... After the left, I picked up the cadence and put my head down. I was able to get back into the pack - the second group on the road, but I was still in a group! I could also see the lead pack crest the hill -first time for that! I attacked at the bottom of the hill, hoping to get a little bit of a gap. I knew I would get spun out on the descent and wanted that time in the bank. My attack didn't hold and I was in the group at the top. Sure enough, I was spun out by the time we hit the flat and kept drifting further back. Finally, I lost contact with the peloton. Between the railroad tracks and the left turn onto Old Pueblo Rd, a few more riders got tailed off. I was close to making contact with one of the other girls in the group just before the left. No luck - a pickup I'd seen a few times already on the ride was waiting for her. It peeled out onto the road and she tucked right behind the bumper. Free tow for her back into the group, leaving me to battle the wind alone. I made a few attempts to surge up but it wasn't happening. A solo rider against the pack and I was done. No catching back on this time.

I kept riding all the way down to the bridge - the furthest I'd ever gotten on the group road ride. But the guys were still racing and I had no chance. I got dropped hard on the leg back north into Fountain. I couldn't hang at all - and given the huge size of the group, didn't really want to be struggling at the back. I didn't stop at the gas station in Fountain, preceding to ride with a few others to Ft Carson. We were all pretty tired and wanted a break from the super hard (for us) riding. It want until we got to the entrance gate that the size of the peloton dawned on me. Beyond huge! It was larger then the entire field at some of the RMES races! I was mentally game for one more hard interval through Ft Carson, but physically not so much. I couldn't hold wheels, did a few hard surges to catch back on, but burnt myself up doing so. It would be a solo ride for home. I didn't see any of the group again. But overall a solid ride. It's nice to see how much faster I've gotten. The same lead riders, a huge pack and I was able to hang on for longer then ever before. I still don't like the group road ride though!

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