As mentioned before, I’m targeting a 115 mile charity ride at the end of September. Up until now, my training has been infrequent. To combat this I finally decided to bite the bullet and join the Verulam Cycling Club. Today I headed out on their weekly Sunday club ride. At 9am there were about 50 people at the top of St. Albans high street and a lot of expensive machinery on show. I joined the “intermediates” group which is meant to average about 16mph. This is slightly more than I’d typically manage on my own, but the theory was that I could always drop back to the “sociables” group who would be on the same route. There were a couple of other newbies in the group as well.
The plan was to head for a tea stop in Westmill then head back, meaning a round trip of 55-60 miles. As we headed out of St. Albans towards Wheathampstead I concentrated on getting used to the mechanics of group riding, as well as chatting to whoever was next to me as we rode two abreast. I’ve nearly always ridden solo, but once I’d sussed out the rules and etiquette of an organized group I found the miles simply flew by. You use less energy when sheltered in the slipstream of the person in front and therefore the average speed of a group is typically higher than solo riding. This leaves you with more energy when it comes to the uphill stuff and I found myself pushing up the hills more than I usually would, even overtaking some of the group. When riding solo you spend so much energy pushing through the wind all the time that hills just become morale sapping.
After about 28 miles we hit the tea stop, and a very nice one it was too! A Lemon Drizzle cake, coffee and bottle fill up hit the spot nicely.
The ride back was fun with some short climbs and some nice fast sections. I peeled off as we got to Sandridge as my parents were coming over, so I missed the final 5 miles or so.
All in all it was a very enjoyable ride, and I’ll be aiming to become a regular. It has also made me sure that I’ll want to get into a group on the Ride Around London. Up to now on sportives I’ve suffered through on my own, failing to put in the effort to latch on when groups have come past.