In the pack

Another group road ride in the books. While I still don't look forward to them, after my experience on the starting line at Whiskey, I know that the close-in group riding is good for me. I also realize the pressure of having to stay with the group means I'm gonna ride harder. It was another large group this time, but without some of the usual suspects for stirring up the pace. But that doesn't mean much - there's always someone willing to attack. I started near the back, chatting with one of the other women in the group. Not to many women this time, which was surprising, given the size of the group. Then I started moving up, getting into the front half of the peloton. I had a feeling that I needed to be right up near the lead riders when we started rolling down Bolder and Platte and got nearly every light red. It was a good thing too - the light on Chelton and Platte turned yellow just as the leaders blasted through. Had I been any further back, I might have gotten stuck at the red light and been riding alone for the entire ride. It would have been an easier day, but not as good training.

Right from the start, it was a crazy ride. There was a strong headwind which messed around with the pace and some new riders. I've learned from prior rides that I can't pull thru on days like that - I get my nose into the wind and can't keep the pace up. So I settled into the middle of the front pack, watching wheels and doing my best to avoid getting shuffled to the front. With the large pack, that was easier then usual. I think I was only on the front once and managed to pull through - barely. But the pace was anything but easy - it was accelerate as someone attempted to attack then slow as he was absorbed again. No one really wanted to make a break, but there were plenty willing to give a half hearted effort. All the surging and decelerating made the riding challenging - I never knew when to gun it or when to touch my brakes. I managed to close all the gaps down this time, staying firmly on the tail of that first group. I wasn't going to give up without a fight and I didn't want to ride all the way down to the race track alone into that headwind! As usual, my goal was to make the left onto Link with the main group.

Well, I got tailed off just before the left turn - ran out of steam trying to shut down a gap. Took a few seconds to recover, then put my head down. The fellow stragglers were getting spat out the back of the group as they charged towards the hill. Maybe we could get together and form the second group on the road. I caught the first guy and we started rotating pulls. That little bit of cooperation quickly brought us up to the next few riders. Not everyone wanted to work, but we got things sorted out and into a smooth rotation. Up and over the hill, still working together and catching other guys as we screamed down towards Old Pueblo Highway. I was lucky there was a wind - I wasn't spun out with my compact crank on the descent this time! We had a decent sized group at the left onto Old Pueblo Highway and still catching riders. The rotation through pulling and recovering was efficient and smooth. I was able to pull through in this pack, but I had to take a little extra rest between pulls. I'd let the guy who had finished his pull slide over in front of me so I was always one person behind my last effort. Hopefully, no one minded! No one complained or didn't let me do it, so... For the first time, I made it over the bridge and half way down to the right turn to the race track before turning around.

I did get dropped from the front group on the trip back into Fountain, but slotted into the second group and was able to stay there. Didn't leave the gas station early enough and got dropped again on that short stretch of frontage road. No worries - the ID check at Fort Carson always brings the group back together. And my goal was to stay with the group all the way through Fort Carson. Almost made it! On one of the smaller hills, someone attacked and I was done. I tried to keep on the wheels and not get dropped, but no such luck. I was close enough to see the group splitting into the Zoo climb and flatlanders, but that was the last I saw of them. Yes, for those who are counting, I'm still getting dropped about 4 times during the ride! One of these days, I'd like to cut that number down to three - or at least see the sprint at the race track! I also covered 60 miles in the first three hours of my ride, including 30 minutes of easy riding to get to Starbucks and all the red lights on Boulder and Platte. Yikes.

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