Help with fast paced group rides

Hi

Looking for a bit of advice / help with respect to riding in fast groups, after a couple of recent bad experiences I’m trying to understand where I’m going wrong.

The group I sometimes ride with like to go quick, last ride was 60 miles at around 21.5-22mph average including 3000ft climbing.

The first ride I did with them was back in December and I completely blew up after 2hrs hard riding, then this last weekend it happened again after 2hrs 40mins, I did however have to add miles to join them and get home, so my ride was 100miles/5000ft/235w NP and 19.6mph. The final 30 miles though were terrible, barely able to put out any power and literally turning the pedals to get home.

What I’m finding is that I don’t seem to recover enough after my turns on the front, so my HR is staying high as we ride in the pack at high speed on the flat, for me this means touching 180bpm (Z5) while on the front but staying in the high 160s to 170s in the pack (z3+4).

A bit of history, I started riding in 2017 so this is my fifth year, I started interval training in October 2018 and have seen my FTP rise from 260w to 320w in that time, and my weight drop from 86 to 80kgs. Most recent ftp was 313w at 80kg so I’m hovering near to the 4 W/kg Mark.

I ride a lightweight non aero frame with carbon wheels (35mm) and Corsa G2.0 tyres, happy with bike fit and position in general. It has 170mm compact cranks with a power meter.

Training wise I seem to be able to handle Vo2 Max workouts better than others, whereas the longer Sweetspot / threshold workouts ultimately over time leave me dreading them somewhat! My power profile on intervals.icu describes me as a “Puncheur”.

What I’ve noticed over 4.5yrs of cycling is that these flat fast rides have always affected me, back in 2017 I could ride quick but perhaps only for 20-30 miles, and as you ride with faster and faster people the bar keeps raising up. My most recent ride described above was a huge success for me in terms of numbers but being dropped twice and crawling home left me feeling very dejected.

I’ve had two cycling physiology tests, one in 2018 and one last year, they gave me some benchmarks of HR data at 42yrs old:

Max 190bpm

Z1 0-143bpm
Z2 143-160bpm
Z3 160- 166bpm
Z4 166-172bpm
Z5 172-180bpm
Z6 180+

I eat a high carb vegan diet and have been trying to reduce the amount of supplements I use, such as gels and drink mixes, after having some digestive problems that seem to be linked to excess sugar, I tend to fuel now using dates, bananas and a weaker carb mix drink, I find on long endurance rides I’m fine with this, but I wonder if I need to adapt more for the really intense rides? If so any tips on getting more fuel in that’s kind on the digestion?

Other things to mention I work 12hr shifts, so get my days off in blocks, and I have a testosterone deficiency which leaves me needing booster injections every 3 months, I’ve never been able to find out just how much this might be affecting my performance on the bike.

I would really appreciate any advice on this, I guess I don’t want to get dropped so much! Certainly willing to put the work in, not following a plan at present, just enjoying riding a varied mix of endurance outdoor and some Rattlesnake / recovery workouts indoors.

David

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Firstly, you’re riding 40 miles more than the other folk. This will be a factor. Secondly, how smooth is the group? Are people surging on the front rather than a nice smooth TT type effort? If you want a group to go faster, being smooth is key.

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Forgetting any outside factors for a minute it doesn’t sound like you are far off, I would really pay attention to your positioning so don’t allow gaps to be wider than they need to be, don’t pull so hard when you’re on the front and also, probably crucially don’t be afraid of skipping a turn or two.

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Maybe don’t pull as hard or as much? I don’t you’d get any bad looks if you sat in

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How much are you eating and drinking on the bike?

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What’s your AP and NP for the group section of the ride? If possible, can you check to see how this compares to other riders of similar size to you who have PMs in the group? That might give some idea as to where the issue lies - i.e. if they’re putting out similar numbers to you then that’s what’s needed to do this ride, you just need to figure out how to put out those numbers a bit more comfortably! Whereas if they’re doing the same ride on lower numbers than you then maybe you’re burning excess watts somewhere and there are some things you can do to get through that ride more efficiently.

Bunch of thoughts as to things you could do:

  1. Leave earlier and take it easier riding to meet them
  2. Fuel more before and during the ride. 5 hours of fast riding is a lot of calories, and if it’s spiky power then you’re going to be burning through a lot of glycogen.
  3. Do shorter turns. Most groups are fine with this - weaker riders slowing the group down is generally frowned upon, but keeping the speed up and doing a short turn is normally fine
  4. Skipping turns occasionally is usually also fine
  5. Clothing? Much overlooked. E.g. I went for a ride recently with a friend who is similar size to me and normally we’d be similar watts when we ride together. It was raining and I had a slightly loose fitting rain jacket on, he was in a snug-fitting Castelli Gabba. I put out 40W more than him on that ride!
  6. See if you can pick a better spot in the group. E.g. try and get yourself behind one of the bigger riders for a better draft. Try to avoid having the fastest guy in the group directly in front or behind you in the line, since you’ll either be working hard to stay with them, or working hard to reattach at the back when they come through to do their turn after you. If the group rides in a double line then try and pair up with riders of similar ability to you, rather than ending up next to a strong rider who wants to do a longer/harder turn and feeling pressured into matching them.
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Can you post the data file or at least the stats for the main segments of the ride (ride to the start, group ride until you got dropped, group ride after that (if you joined back on), and ride home)? The key stats would be time, average speed, average power, NP and IF.

It’s unclear, but it sounds like you rode to the start, then ride 2h40m with the group then rode very slowly home and your NP for all of that was 235 W and average speed was 19.6 mph. Sounds like you had about an hour of threshold-ish riding to get to the ride (20 miles to get there) and 1.5 to 2 hours home (struggling 20 miles home). So around 5 to 5.5 hours total.

If you take out the slow parts, those numbers would be much higher and it’s likely you just aren’t fit / light / aero enough to handle it, at least not with taking significant pulls.

Your FTP is only an indicator of 40 to 70 minute power. As the duration gets longer you will have your NP drop significantly below that. Every bit of energy you expense before and after that group ride is going to cause your NP to drop further.

On such a long ride, you can’t be riding at those high power zones and expect to last. You need to be OK with getting dropped and Ride within your limits or you need to cut out those extra miles and reduce your pulls. Riding more efficiently can help quite a bit too.

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This sounds like a fueling and/or hydration problem to me. I could also point to (perhaps) an aerobic base/fat oxidation issue, but that is more complicated.

If I had to diagnose this without any further information, I’d say you’re not running out of power, you’re running out of gas.

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I agree with Batwood. It sounds like you don’t have enough fitness to ride 100 miles at this pace. I would just drive to the start of the group ride and do the ride with them. If you want extra endurance miles then tack on Z1/2 at the end of the ride.

To me, this isn’t about recovery. Your pulls are probably over threshold and then you are getting back into the group near threshold. You are burning matches and running through your glycogen stores.

I also wonder if you are not much of a fat burner. A metabolic / fatmax test might be revealing if you really wanted to get to the bottom of this.

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It’s training and while it’s great you’re taking your turns on the front, at some point you have to realize there’s only so much you can do to match the speed of more fit/experienced riders.

I’d say try and hide a little longer until you feel like rotating. If you find yourself in too far forward and in a position to take a pull just do enough to keep the pace and pull over. Drop back and let the stronger riders keep it rolling.

There is an whole art of etiquette to not pulling your turn so, just beware if you do it wrong you’re going to piss guys off. OTOH, sitting back behind other weaker riders opens you up to having to surge and close gaps which can be fatiguing as well.

Just be predictable, smooth and chill. Sometimes it’s really annoying having weaker riders trying to pull through. They don’t keep the pace or stop pedaling all together when they pull over; gap off the back or not aware of when to get back in line to work which makes it surge needlessly; being near red line they are always a bit erratic…it goes on and on but, the point is, sometimes you shouldn’t be on the front (me too-so not directed at you per-se).

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This.

Your ability to use oxygen for energy at higher and higher watts is directly tied to recovery.

This is a concept I found literally impossible to believe until I had a coach force me to address it.

Once I addressed it … I went from getting mid-pack finishes in Cat5 crits at a 305 FTP, to landing on a podium or two with a 280 FTP.

If this is actually the problem, until you address it, you’re going to have to jam as much sugar into your gut as you can handle until the candle is burned out.

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I find that super interesting. Can you explain that a bit more?

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Like someone said before…be smooth when you are on the front…dont hammer, that isnt what its about. Soft pedal as you fall to the back of the group.

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Many thanks to all for the replies so far, really appreciated. I’m going to get back to this thread with some information on the ride data and also on the fat burning side of things, as that was partially covered when I did my physiology test.

Not batwood14 however I’ll offer up my understanding… Your ability to recover from over threshold efforts has a lot to do with your ‘aerobic engine’ and developing your aerobic engine is largely related to doing a lot of endurance (zone2) and tempo (zone3) rides.

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@AJS914 My answer to your question is that I can’t really explain it because I’m not a coach or a physiologist, but my understanding of it is the same as @bbarrera above … you need to build your fat-burning/aerobic engine through Z2/low Z3 rides. (I think) if all the training you do involves a high level of sugar-burning, you’re body will only learn to burn sugar … and that runway is a lot shorter (in terms of fuel) than fat.

Hope this helps and isn’t totally inaccurate.

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I sometimes ride with a female pro or ex pro (I’m not sure her status, she was with Lotto). She’s not the strongest or fastest in our group compared to most men but she can go out on other days with the faster group because she’s so smooth and the group is too :slight_smile:

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Agreed, there’s a certain “Doctor, it hurts when I do this!” quality to the question. If you’re cooking yourself, stay out of the wind a bit more. Increase dosage as fitness permits.

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I second the sit-in advice. Especially for a large group, you don’t need to take pulls, or take your turn every time. Learning to sit-in, without disrupting the group, is a great skill to learn.

When it isn’t your turn, how much is your power dropping? If it isn’t dropping a lot, then that probably means you need to work on being able to find the draft sweetspot. Which goes along with learning to efficiently sit-in a group and hide.

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With your heart rate completely pinned in the front of a large group, I’d think you’d be executing a lead out. It’s a sure way to get dropped. You have a relatively high ftp, so it sounds like a fast group. A ride that fast and long will be more than enough training for you even if you surf the wheels. Besides, you need a little reserve to respond to the surges. The faster guys in the group can rotate through the front and respond to attacks. Maybe you can too in the future.

Do you realize how many bananas and dates a rider with a 300W+ ftp needs to fuel an intense ride of 100 miles? And eating those while you’re HR is in anywhere above Zone 1, now that’s impressive.
I guess it’s becoming more popular, but I just don’t know how people do it. There’s a reason that gels, blocks, and super strong drink mixes exist. Lightweight and lower power riders might be able to get away with the natural food, but pros use the rocket fuel. That final 30 miles was tough because you were a rocket without rocket fuel. There are so many high octane products out there that there will be one that works for you. I have had success with Skratch, Maurten, Sis, Hammer.

And don’t feel dejected. With how you’re performing, you’re head and shoulders above a large majority of cyclists out there.

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