Mental Games of Group Rides

This is nothing new but rather a reminder to myself, and plenty of others. Not sure why I’m even writing this but it’s just been on my mind since Saturday.

I was in a large organized ride this past weekend and ended up in a fairly fast group of about 10 guys. Not sure about others, but I always have a “I’m not sure I belong with these fast guys” mentality when I am riding. Didn’t take long for that to kick in as one of the guys went to the front and took a long hard pull that made me think “geez, if this keeps up, I’ll be dropped in short notice”.

But, after he pulled off, we kept rotating and I kept at what I thought were power targets I needed to maintain to finish the entire 80 mile ride. Other guys would also get at the front and repeat these monster pulls.

Most of this was towards the beginning of the ride, when we had flatter to rolling terrain. At the first 1-2 mile climb, the first guy who took the first monster pull. got dropped within about a minute (and never caught back on). A few others fell off as well and we were only a group of six by the top.

At the next climb, the other guys who took “hero” pulls, near the beginning of the ride, also fell off (it was a 9-10 mile climb) and had bad leg cramps. After the descent, it was me and one other person.

All of this to say there’s so much mental gymnastics involved with riding. You can go from feeling like “I’m ok, I can hang with these guys” to “Crap, I’m never going to make it” in a very short period of time. I guess this is what as described as Type 2 fun


Group rides can be awful “training” for this very reason. Either treat them as a competitive event and stay with the group, or ride your own ride and let them go.


I love fast/drop group rides. If you have no idea how to train they can sabotage your weekly block I agree. Some weeks I try to work a ton and still motor with the fastest guys at the end (max TSS usually at the end of the training week); some weeks I work on sprinting during the sprint sections (earlier inn the week rides); some weeks I try to stay with the skinny climbers (all the time as I’m not a climber).


Ah yes, the guys who wear themselves out before you’ve even got going, whilst the smart ones measure their effort out to the task at hand.

I had someone chase me down on an event on Sat. When I spoke to them I then realised they’d put a monster fish out of water breathing effort. Since I wasn’t slowing down any time soon they dropped back off within 1/2 mile.


I love rolling in a fast group, but not a fan of “racing” during a group ride. Up a hill is reasonably safe and it’s easy to regroup, but I see people do really stupid dangerous stuff while trying to “win the group ride”. Group rides are more fun with a group and some riders don’t have the fitness to hang when the pace picks up. Our team rides have sections where folks can heat it up and split the group, but we will regroup at points along the way. I like to push the pace and people do get dropped, but I try to keep it smooth to give folks the best chance to stay connected. I guess I treat it more like a “coordinated break away” dynamic where we are trying to optimize speed for the group rather than race dynamics trying to drop people who are threats. There are some local group rides that are very race-like (laps with technical turns and sprints, etc.) and they can be fun, but these are also the rides that have wrecks. I’ll hit them every once in a while, but I generally save my racing (and wrecking) for real races.


What you’re describing reminded me so much of Matej Mohoric’s TDF interview last year. So I guess even the pros go through those mental gymnastics.



Some people have different agendas on group rides too. I like to call Saturday rides “Saturday Worlds”. We always treat it like a race because it’s fun. But there are times when I have intervals I want to get done, but also want to do the group ride. So I might have Vo2 max intervals I want to do and put in these massive pulls for 3 min at the front full knowing that I’m going to get dropped later on.


I go through those mental hurdles during a race a lot. The anxiety of man I can’t keep this effort but then somehow you do. Or you don’t and it was out of your league anyway. It is good mental training. I’ve learned to tell my brain there is relief coming(even if I have no idea whether that’s true). For group rides it’s tough not to get caught up in it. That’s why I treat it like a once in a while thing

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I was under the impression that monster pulls aren’t actually good for the group. You just want to sustain a steady speed for the entire group, and so 1 or two people overdoing it means everyone else is also ramping up.


we welcome long hero pulls when battling a headwind for an hour! And after blowing up, I return the favor for stragglers. Those group rides are some of my best tempo/SS/threshold workouts.


Depends on the group! If it’s a group where monster pulls and attacks and people getting dropped is an accepted part of the etiquette and everybody knows what they signed up for then it’s fine.

But yes, turning up to a ride that’s advertised as a steady Z2-3 no drop ride and then doing VO2 intervals on the front isn’t cool.


Checks. Just look at my most recent hammerfest group ride where we intentionally crank up the speed each lap, starting at 24mph and ending at 27mph. I think we’re supposed to be working as a group to maintain that speed but we surge a lot. Last week I tried pulling during the 26mph lap and only accomplished burning my last match and getting dropped for the remainder of the ride.


Surging in a race/group ride is temporary to drop the weak competitors, whether that is mentally or physically weak. That pace is generally not sustainable for anyone unless they’re massively more fit than the others. If you can hang on the pace will settle in, it always does eventually. Just get into the draft and know that whoever is doing the surging is not getting a draft and doing 20-25% more work than you are.

Or, if you’re one of the stronger riders/racers in the group, create a surge to wear down your competition.


Ive been there on my local fast group ride. The feeling though when you finish with the bunch after feeling low during the efforts is good for mental strength. Saying that so is getting dropped to keep you in check some times it wont be your day.

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When I first started riding with local groups, I was blowing up trying to maintain the speed of previous people at the front. I can’t pull hard into headwinds for very long, and would often bite off way more than I ever should. I started doing pulls that were a push for me, but not a leap, and some would sprint on ahead and drop the group, but others would hang with me, and then once tucked in, pull the whole group forward, including me. I started enjoying the rides because I wasn’t coming off the pull and being dropped, and I wasn’t feeling like I was prey and being setup (by them, or myself) to fail.

A lot of group riding is mind games, and a lot of the moving parts of the game are in our own heads.

But after I started not killing myself on their rides, I was told by one A-hole that I ‘shouldn’t be on their rides because I wasn’t strong enough to earn it’. I was kind of pissed. It’s not like there are/were any rides that were there for people like me, plus I did enjoy being pushed/pulled out of my limits, especially after I started not trying to kill myself on every ride. Maybe this doesn’t make sense to people, but it increased my enjoyment of group rides, and I could hang better with the group. I got support from a surprising number of group members. shrug It’s all about getting out there, and realizing what you are getting in to. You get a sense of the ride by who shows up, and who doesn’t. But being out there is the most important part.

Ride on!!

(But yeah, the kill or be killed rides really sucked. I learned to avoid rides that had the hammer heads and not enough more supportive people (who became less numerous as the season evolved))


I just got back from a relatively flat group ride. I tend to think I take reasonable pulls, and there will always be someone who jumps in front and surges instead of gradually setting a higher pace if needed.
When this happens I tend to just jump to their wheel and stay there or ride in parallel if I am feeling good. I did this once or twice today, and the “hostilities” were compounded by another guy surging and trying to drop me, then I said to the one besides me “ok no mercy now” :smile:
I guess that this group ride was within my ability, but it illustrates my mindset… I try to be collaborative until I perceive an “attack”, then I reply in kind if I can.

I had something similar on a group ride before. I had been pulling into the wind, and there were only three of us doing all the work for a group of about ten. The other two, who had been helping me, started taking shorter and shorter pulls. When it was my turn to go back to the front, a young guy came surging forward and said “now it’s my turn”. he went around me and started pulling hard. Because he’d been in the pack this whole time, I don’t think he realized the headwind we were riding into. He quickly tired out and eventually was dropped from the group. Some people like to try and show off without putting a check on their own capabilities and regard for how long the ride may be.

I loved that interview. All the pros look like it’s nothing for them to be racing up a mountain but he opened up to the fact that even they have self doubt. It was refreshing

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You are correct about the monster pulls not being good for the group. This was an organized century ride with a lot of participants so a lot of folks were just going hard from the start. Once we whittled it down to fewer riders, it became more steady, but there were times when guys would go to the front and put in a monster pull (not to drop us, I assume, but to try and show off their strength).

You would think I would realize this by now but I guess the stress of trying to hang on makes me think “oh no, there’s no way I can keep this up”. And then, I hang in there a little longer and it does chill out.

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