I'm on the local fast Sunday ride today. 40-50º weather, warm for January in NY, good turnout, mostly hardcore racers, several fast Freds, etc. Flat terrain. The ride today was utterly ballistic for January. The peloton is mostly older (35+) racers, mostly Cat 2/3, a few younger Cat 2/3/4. But generally lots of race experience. I was surprised at the speed today for January; it was more like a ride in May. I had to concentrate to hold on when things strung out a few times, but was never pressed to the redline. It's apparent that the warm weather has allowed much more riding than usual for mid-winter; the overall fitness level of the local peloton shows it.
At one point this strong rider I've ridden with plenty of times is taking the pull in front of me. Now every other rider (all experienced racers) had taken a turn at the front, pulled for 3-20 seconds and flicked the elbow, but when I realized it was this guy I said to myself 'oh boy, here we go, never-ending Fred pull'. And that's what we got. It really was a graphic illustration of how pointless this type of riding can be. Here's why:
• If you're trying to propel a breakaway or a chase, it might make sense. This was not the situation. Just a guy hammering at the front either because he enjoys it or he doesn't know better.
• This is a 40 mile ride, and this guy typically rides strong in the first half. But the big boys on this ride don't really turn up the gas until the final 10 miles. And that's when you need the watts left in your legs.
• The guy isn't doing the rider behind him any favors either in this situation. I was putting too much energy to hold his wheel when all I want to do in this scenario is get on the front, pull through, pull over, and fade back and recover: I'm always keeping the last 30 mins. of this ride in mind. It's all about preserving your calories for later on when you'll surely need it.
• On top of all this, I realized we were 250 meters from a STOP sign that was going to pause the ride anyway. I just shooked my head, backed off and the ride quickly rolled up to the intersection. We were all out of our collective misery for the moment.
The guys on this ride who are stronger and faster would never expend energy in that manner on a competitive ride. And this 'Fred' is actually talented, a strong rider. He is certainly fast enough for this ride. But he might find more snap at the end if he figured out that hammering for the sake of hammering can sometimes be counter productive for you and for the guys behind you.
And that's the Fred pattern. It's more about HOW you ride to me than how fast you ride. I suppose if you race on a team you have guys smacking upside the head after enough races saying 'why the hell would you DO that??' and you learn. I did. And when I start racing again in 2007 maybe they'll be smacking me upside the head again, even though I'll be racing unattached. Who knows? If enough guys smack me enough times maybe I'll join THEIR club : ).