Last weekend I was in DC with the nurse so she could run the Nike Women's Half...More on that another day, hopefully soon.
Since I have the Vino Fondo and Triple-T coming up, I didn't want to skip a long ride. It seemed stupid to take my bike with me for one ride when:
A) I don't own a bike box.
B) I don't know how to put my bike together...safely.
C) I didn't want to risk spending $200 on baggage fees when I can rent a bike for less.
So, I rented a bike. I was going to rent one from an actual bike shop but the logistics of getting to the bike shop without a car made it a less than desirable option. Surprisingly, one of the tourist bike rental places has Trek 1.5s (carbon fiber frame) but with regular pedals...interesting. I figured I rode without shoes once this year, why not do it again. I could have brought my pedals but, I was feeling lazy the night before we left.
When I picked up the bike the rental people seemed shocked that I didn't have any questions. Nope, used to live here. Just need to ride tomorrow. I guess they don't get many people renting to train for races. I explained my other options to them and they sort of understood.
The next morning I headed from the house we rented on Capitol Hill to Georgetown, where they start. No one seemed to care that a new person was there. It may have had something to do with my lack of clipless pedals, my helmet with the rental company logo on it and the nurse's PURPLE camelbak. I guess I might be a bit skeptical if I saw someone ride up like that.
Then people started talking about groups and routes. I decided to not go with the "A" group given my equipment. (As I would later find out, even with the proper equipment that may have not been a good idea) So, I went with the woman who said she would be leading a B, B+ ride for 50 miles. She explained the route after getting to the first stop, I had no idea what she was talking about but I figured I would just follow people. That turned out to be harder than I thought.
Their Saturday rides are much different than what I'm used to. It was basically, we're riding this route and stopping here, here and here. Hang on if you can. This was the second fastest* group ride I've ever been on and I loved it. I hung on fairly easily for most of the ride and if you chop off the ride to and from Georgetown the average pace was about 19.6 mph with one Cat 5. Once we hit the rolling hills after the stop, I lost contact and thought I was going to get lost. Luckily they stopped at the end of the road we were on. I saw two people, who were cutting the ride short, still riding and decided to catch up to them. It took a couple miles but now I have some idea what it's like when pro riders try and catch up to the 3 or 4 people in the lead group. I eventually introduced myself at a stoplight, mainly to let them know I wasn't some a-hole trying to draft off them. I also explained the "every man for themselves" feeling I got from the ride. They seemed to feel bad but I reassured them I preferred it. Then they led me back to the start and I headed back to the house.
I like the idea of having 3 pace groups and keeping the stops to a minimum. I guess it's hard to do in St. Louis since we don't have a set Saturday ride and some routes have so many turns in them that you would easily get lost if you don't know where you're going.
*The fastest ride I've ever been on was last season where I rode with 4 guys who kept a 26 mph pace on the flats although, with a big tailwind. The return trip slowed to about 17 mph and I told them not to wait for me unless they couldn't see me after a turn. (It was all farmland so you could see about a mile or so back down the road.)
It's always disappointing to see how fast you ride and then realize there are people who do that faster than you and for twice as long.