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  1. #1
    Senior Member 1855Cru's Avatar
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    Advice on riding in a race with 1200+ participants

    Well it's almost time for me to ride in the 2011 Blood, Sweat and Gears race in the mountains of NC. When a few friends and I entered the race in Feb, it was all smiles and jokes, but as raceday approaches everyone has been getting nervous about completing the race and dealing with that many riders.

    http://bloodsweatandgears.org/bsg/main/start.htm

    I was anxious about the difficulty of the course but allayed my fears by actually going up there and riding the entire route last week. It is extremely hard but I managed to complete it without hurting myself So I'm not too worried about the course but I've never ridden in a race with so many people. If anyone has any tips, strategies or things to watch out for, I'd appreciate the feedback.

    Thanks.
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  2. #2
    Downtown Spanky Brown bautieri's Avatar
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    Be cautious of drafting riders you are unfamiliar with if drafting is permitted in this event. With a large number of riders, be on the constant look out for people doing stupid things.

    Other than that: wear sun block, have fun, and keep the rubber side down.

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    1855cru, Basically just keep your head on a swivel. It's okay to make shoulder to shoulder contact as you do have to assert your position, but no bike to bike contact. The group will thin shortly after the start, but be aware of any choke points.

    Brad

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    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    I looked at their website, and other than saying you'll get a timing chip, it doesn't say a thing about this being a race, sanctioned or otherwise. I'm sure there will be many riders, maybe even most of them, who will treat it as one, but I'd say a century with official sag, food and potty stops isn't really a race.

    Of course, if you want to treat it as one, it doesn't make any difference, other than being aware that there will likely be some riders out there who are strictly recreational, throwing one more type of potential obstacle/hazard in your way.

    Oh, and ride within yourself. It's easy to go too hard and blow up.
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    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Rest the day before. Get a good nights sleep.
    Have fun. Take some pics to share.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member 1855Cru's Avatar
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    Craig, you're probably right, I should call it a ride not a race but undoubtedly many people treat it as a serious race or at least that's what I've been led to believe.

    Drafting is allowed and though the crowd will thin out substantially, I imagine there will be many large packs of 40-50 riders working together. There are are a number of very fast (I clocked 45-50 mph last week) descents that have tricky switchbacks and hairpins and that is probably where I am most concerned.

    Bred, tks for the tip about shoulder to shoulder, I didn't realize that was permissible.

    It's a gorgeous route, I'll take some pics and post next week.
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    Senior Member 1855Cru's Avatar
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    BTW the winner last year finished in 4 hr 56m at a 2:55 avg pace. That's a 23.5 mph avg for a ride that's over 100 miles with more than 13,000 ft of climbing. I just can't fathom those stats!!
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    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Those are some incredible numbers. Even though they're likely out of reach for us mere mortals, a ride with that many participants is likely to have a good number of riders similar to you in abilities, so you can have some fun working on your race tactics with them without the fear of getting completely dropped and on your own.
    Craig in Indy

  9. #9
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    A couple things for riding in groups:

    1. Do not panic!
      Stupid things happen sometimes. Don't over-react. Just continue doing the next two...
    2. Hold your line.
      Ride in a straight & predictable manner. Weaving side-to-side, even unintentionally, is dangerous and annoying.
    3. Don't overlap your front wheel (with someone else's back wheel).
      If the person in front weaves to the side, they can easily knock you over and not even know they did it.
    4. Stay to the right, please.
      If you're passing somebody, look, move left, go around, then get your butt back to the right. My biggest pet-peave is idiot cyclists who shout at me "Don't pass on the right!" Maybe if they weren't sitting on the yellow line, I wouldn't have had to!
    5. Be aware of riders around you.
      Look behind you if you're going to move left or right. I was on one century ride years ago riding a good tight paceline with 10 others. We were out near the yellow line, leaving lots of room for slower riders on the right as we jammed up a hill enjoying ourselves. Some dude, without warning or looking!, decides he wants to take a natural break and cuts left across the entire roadway (and us!) to go behind the bushes on the left of the road. Why he didn't use the bushes on the right, I don't know. But it was very stupid and dangerous to others. We almost had to lock brakes and have everyone pile into us from behind.


    As Brad said, it is okay to make contact, however, I would advise trying not to. This is not a race, and you shouldn't be fighting for position. If you're a clyde, you don't stand a chance anyway to win the thing w/13,000' of climbing. And keep in mind that most rec-riders will not have any experience with bumping & touching while moving on a bike, and may very well get agitated or panic. If you do bump somebody's arm, don't panic! Continue to hold your line and pray they do, too.

    Because of the stories I mentioned and several others, I rarely ride organized charity events anymore. Which is a shame. But there are just too many idiots out there who don't know how to ride their bikes in groups. Which figures: there are too many idiots out there who don't know how to drive their cars in groups, either.

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  10. #10
    Senior Member 1855Cru's Avatar
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    Tks Mkadam68 on the sage advice. Believe you me, I have no inkling of winning this thing

    I frequently ride in groups of 10-20 riders, but we are all at similar levels. What gives me pause is 1200+ riders of all different levels starting off at the same time. I do think it will be fun though
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    Senior Member jr59's Avatar
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    If it's not a race and just a timed ride, just go have fun.

    The pack will shell itself out rather quickly.
    You could always wait and be one of the last over the starting line, as your time won't start until you go over the line.
    That way you wouldn't have to worry as much.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1855Cru View Post
    Tks Mkadam68 on the sage advice. Believe you me, I have no inkling of winning this thing

    I frequently ride in groups of 10-20 riders, but we are all at similar levels. What gives me pause is 1200+ riders of all different levels starting off at the same time. I do think it will be fun though
    Don't sweat it. In a group ride, at any given time, you can only have a maximum of--what?--6 to 8 riders right next to you anyway.

    I've ridden several centuries with 1,000+ riders, and, as jr59 says, it will thin out somewhat quickly, probably within a couple miles. If you wanted to facilitate that even further, start near the back, where it'll be even moreso.

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  13. #13
    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mkadam68 View Post
    Because of the stories I mentioned and several others, I rarely ride organized charity events anymore. Which is a shame. But there are just too many idiots out there who don't know how to ride their bikes in groups. Which figures: there are too many idiots out there who don't know how to drive their cars in groups, either.
    While there are certainly a few idiots in all walks of life I don't think most of the people who don't know how to ride in groups are idiots. Nobody has probably taken the time to be aware of all the types of useful advice that you and others have given. They are just people enjoying these rides and don't know any better. That doesn't make them idiots.

  14. #14
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Quite right. I shouldn't be calling names. Absolutely right.

    On the other hand, I do think that the moments of inattention I was mentioning (swerving & not looking back before crossing two lanes of a roadway) would be common sense. I think you are right that people don't know any better: they come from an automotive driving mindset, and don't think anyone could be riding faster than they.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
    It's okay to make shoulder to shoulder contact as you do have to assert your position, but no bike to bike contact.
    Only true during a race. If this event is a ride, which it appears to be, expect dirty looks or outright cursing if you're making contact with someone...

  16. #16
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Is it a mass start? The climbing rides I've done out here have a 2 hour window for starts. Only 400 riders but I've been on the road where I've been alone for miles on the climb after it thins out.. Sometimes 2 or 3 riders.

    He good thing is that the lesser experienced riders will be behind you so you don't have to deal with as many obstacles they can dish out.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Only true during a race. If this event is a ride, which it appears to be, expect dirty looks or outright cursing if you're making contact with someone...
    Even in a charity ride it's a good tactic when one is being encroached upon and there's nowhere to move to. Vocal alerts often seem to be heard by everyone except for whom it's intended to, and then there's those with ear buds. I haven't had an issue with another rider once he/she becomes aware of the reason for friendly contact. Generally I'll yield, if I can.

    Brad

  18. #18
    Senior Member 1855Cru's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    Is it a mass start? The climbing rides I've done out here have a 2 hour window for starts. Only 400 riders but I've been on the road where I've been alone for miles on the climb after it thins out.. Sometimes 2 or 3 riders.

    He good thing is that the lesser experienced riders will be behind you so you don't have to deal with as many obstacles they can dish out.
    It is a mass start which should be interesting
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  19. #19
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    Even though it's a mass start, don't be surprised if they have you line up by anticipated speed, or if route options are available, by length of ride.

    It's still going to be something of a clusterf***, though.
    Craig in Indy

  20. #20
    "Fred"--is that bad? DTSCDS's Avatar
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    On the few mass start charity-rides I have done (never a race) I expect it to be just short of chaos at the start then thin out fairly quickly. Since I have no need/delusions of finishing in the first few I always position myself near the back at the start. I go EXTREMELY easy for the first mile or so as the thundering herd begins to thin itself. It's true that putting myself at the back means there are more folks in front of me to weave through as I pick up the pace, it just seems to make life less stressful for the first few minutes.
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