Most of my riding is for fun and fitness. I'm not going to become a competitive level cyclist in this lifetime, But I will work hard and ride with a purpose. I also find cycling to be a great alternative to other forms of transportation and I would like to begin touring. I'm a motivated cyclist, but not a "A" type.
Group rides are very popular in Chicago and dozens of groups are riding every weekend. However, most groups are either too slow for me to improve my fitness, or way too fast. I can hang with the fast riders in a pace line up to about 24 mph, but above that it's almost impossible. Being a six foot tall Clydesdale who likes a more upright bike-fit does not allow me to draft as easily as the typical 160 lbs cyclist. It's like drafting at a NASCAR race while driving a SUV, I'm not as aero as these smaller riders. They sure love the draft I create, I can tell you.
Yesterday was the exception. I participated in the Waterford Factory Ride yesterday. The 63 mile route traveled from the Waterford Factory out to the Kettle Moraine State Park: http://waterfordbikes.com/now/news.php?newsid=234
After about 5 miles of warm up, I found myself with the fastest group. Most were avid cyclists, but not racers, from the Kenosha Bike Club. They ride these hills often. Not only does this part of Wisconsin have plenty of short-but-steep hills, but a brisk 15 to 20 mph headwind the first half of the route was a real factor. This group of about 15 had a 20 minute lead on the next group by the 10th mile.
Somehow I managed to (more or less) stay with this group the entire event. Most of the paceline travel was 21 to 26 mph. I had to work hard to stay in the group, but it was doable. The hills were another matter, I would drop from the middle of the group to the back on every hill. I could stay with the group for the first half of the climb, but the second half was murder. But I descended as fast as the fastest riders and I could close the gap and regroup. I did this about every 5 miles. It was demanding .
We stopped at the 30th mile for water and again at the 40th mile for food. I was about 75% spent by the second stop. The group pulled ahead at about the 46 mile and I lost visual contact with them. It became hilly, I hit 40 mph on one downhill without really trying. Just when I was about to stop and check the map, I came across the group. They had stopped to help a rider who went down after touching a wheel.
We were now within 5 miles of the start/stop, a group of 3 of us slacked off and rolled into the finish.
My computer data provided the following data: 62 miles in 3 hours, 21 minutes of riding time. Not my fastest ride this year, but the most demanding and the most fun.