I did a group ride in the Atlanta area this week. This is a good sized, well attended ride, intown Atlanta ride that basically starts on the West side, and goes almost all the way to the NorthEast side of Atlanta. The ride has about 50 people that show up on any given week. The course and number of riders causes it to be a hectic ride, there are many stop signs and turns, and although, no major climbs, Atlanta is NOT flat!
On this particular day there were several people at the front that were pushing hard on the pedals and causing the front 10+ people to ride single file. As the group wound it’s way on the old Indian trails, now roads, it requires a lot of attention to not hit potholes, and not bump into another rider. One of the tricks that I use is to occasionally shift my head over and look past the rider that is directly ahead of me. This allows me to look up the road 50 yards or so and see what obstacles maybe ahead. I’ve been known to point out holes to people on the other side of the pack. Hitting a pothole or other obstacle that someone failed to point out SUCKS!
NOTE: I did skip a couple miles of the loop, and didn’t climb all of the hill with the group, my Quads are somewhat vertically challenged when it comes to racing uphill with guys that weigh 40-50 lbs less than me, and I wasn’t the ONLY One.
The group comes back up the climb, and I go with the front group for the last half mile of the climb to see what the pace was like – Fast!
We get back on track on Mt Paran & the guys are again hitting the gas pretty hard, single file for most of the way back.
As we get closed back towards the West side of Atl. we turn and go down a long stretch of road (hwy 41) that culminates in a county line sign at the Chattahoochee river. The fella’s at the front are drilling it now and it is like the old Red Saeco train, each man sacrificing themselves by putting in a huge effort and pulling out of the way to allow the group to rush past.
As we edge closer to the county line sign, I notice that I have allowed just the right number of guys ahead of me, and they are sprinters. The pace has gone from a frantic 30 mph, and has amped up to 35+, so, I hold my position behind a big guy, the lead-out has begun. 1 guy ahead of us keeps looking back to make sure he isn’t doing an effort for no reason. I keep my head down and make sure I’m in the draft as much as possible to conserve as much energy as I can.
As the guys at the front peel off we are now doing over 40mph into this downhill sprint and I’m thinking I’ve got good position…. another guy peels off and I down-shift looking for another gear, but no dice. I’m geared out. Good times, but it’s over, the 2 guys in front of me have jumped, out of the saddle sprinting, and I’m still spinning the gear I have. Then suddenly it happens, a second later, CLICK. A ghost shift, down. I was only in the 12, now I got the 11.
The guy in front of me had jumped left, the guy ahead of him stayed straight, only space is on along the White line, but there’s room – I’m jamming out of the saddle, winding out what is left of this gear in a downhill sprint, at 45mph. I’m coming on like a freight train when suddenly the guy I’m coming along side shifts into my sprinting lane – now I have him on my left and an upcoming bridge pillar on the right – split second decision/instinct – I push my handlebars ahead of his in a sprinters throw – it stops him moving over & Swooosh, pushed my wheel ahead of his so he doesn’t have room to come over any more and just like that, I’ve Won the sprint!
This was another case of ‘the last 1 to jump usually wins the sprint’ as was the case with my First race . Of course, you have to sprint with the sprinters to win, but knowing what type of sprints suit you and the timing of your sprint are the key factors, and you can only learn that by practice.