I am trying to think of ideas on how to structure local group rides, so that:
- They are safe.
- They are productive (skills or fitness).
Most members of the club that race, race criteriums on wide courses. So high tempo with surges, bunch sprints etc. Not many rolling road races.
How do you all work that into group rides so it’s not just a case of getting to the cafe first
Probably better to find an industrial park or something where you can do laps safely. Riding on the road with traffic is not the best time to practice for a race IMO nor is it going to provide a comparable experience if they don’t do road races. It’s a good time to practice pacelining
One of the race oriented groups rides in my area has a course with 6 “sprints” pretty evenly spaced out along the route. People start winding up the pace way before the sprint finish line so they’re basically are ~2min interval sessions. There is a short recovery after the sprint. Multiple groups. A = 20phh +, B = 19-20, C = 17-18. It’s a fun challenging ride. Imagine a VO2 max interval with an all sprint at the end.
The other race oriented ride is a paceline around threshold. You need equally matched riders (or fast people to be aware of the goal of the ride) for this to work well. No surges, no attacks etc. Just a sustained effort.
Pacelines with a small group and short rotations are good. Physiologically you’re doing repeated hard efforts. Skills wise you’re still having to position well, figure out where the best wind protection is, etc. If you’ve got a range of fitnesses then you need to give people some latitude to do shorter or longer turns, or just skip turns, as otherwise the group gets blown apart pretty quickly. Or if it’s a larger group then blowing it apart and then having a designated neutral/regroup zone afterwards can also work.
Within reason, a fast paceline going through somewhat technical corners can also be productive, as people are learning to corner fast and safely in close proximity to other riders. Does need to be carefully handled to ensure it’s productive and not dangerous though. I.e. stretching people a little bit to progress their skills, not taking them too far out of their comfort zone.
If your roads are suitable then designated sprint points followed by a regroup are great race prep. Preferably in an area where people can play around with some race tactics from a couple of miles out. E.g. people going on an early flier, people working together to chase it back or bridge across, people practising leading each other out, etc. Depends a lot where you’re riding though. Really needs to be on roads that are pretty empty so that you’re safe and not giving cyclists a bad reputation.
My club puts on a ride that does 7-10 1-4 min hills. Each hill is done at max effort and with a regroup at the top. The group goes slow between each hill. It is some real type 2 “fun” shared suffering.
There are three leaders who take turns planning out each route in advance and email our clubs list (which is also open to non-members). This ride is also open to non-members and is quite popular.
I realize this is closer to rolling road races (which you said most of them didn’t race) but the skills are pretty transferrable. But where I used to live they had a “Wednesday night worlds” which was a group of ~15 that split into 2 groups and the B group would get a 1-2min lead and the A group would chase. So both groups were forced to cooperate and rotate to maximize their speed and to either catch or stay away. I was an out and back so it was a sprint at the turn around, a couple min rest/regroup, then one whole group on the way back (since it was more downhill) with a mid way sprint and then a finish up a climb. So you got a mix of everything from break away, large group, sprints, and climbs.