You’ve mentioned that you like group rides for training. Since you’ve probably done them all over the country, what are some similarities and differences?
I do love a good group ride. It’s almost as much fun as a race, minus the need to save energy, so you can really go nuts, but it’s not mentally taxing like an interval. The biggest similarity is the people. It seems like every group ride has a common cast of characters. Some of these overlap, but see if you can match most or all of them to folks on the ride you do at home. Maybe we could play Bingo somehow.
The Cocky Pro: I’ll start with myself on this one (no one is safe here!). I’ll show up and make sure you know I’ve been riding for hours already, but I’m still going to drop you if it goes uphill, and even though I’m a climbing specialist, I’ll win the sprints. This is my job. I’ll go back to my crappy house in my crappy car,* and I’ll be on the road most of the year getting my teeth kicked in by the cocky pros from other towns, so you won’t have to deal with me very often. Let me have this victory.
*I have since traded the Toyota for a Lexus Hybrid, but it was used.
The Time Nazi: If the ride officially starts at 8 a.m., he’s clipping in and rolling off, even if you’re still sipping your coffee.
The Superfan: He wears the complete kit (sometimes including the bike) of his favorite team. If it weren’t for the gut and the hairy legs, you’d swear it was George Hincapie. He signed up for the special Eurosport package from his cable company, and he will ruin the ending if you DVRed the Tour stage.
Inexplicably Strong Big Guy: You can’t figure it out, but no matter how hard the climb is, he’s right there every time you look back. The guy doesn’t race, his helmet is crooked, and you know you’re much stronger than he is, but he keeps coming back, like the Freddy Krueger of cycling.
Shortcut Guy: He joins in somewhere in the middle of the ride, when everyone else is already a little tired. He goes to the front and uses his fresh legs to make you suffer, but when the sprint approaches, he’s disappeared like a ghost.
Guy Who Waits for No One: He cruises through the yellow light, even though it’s clear that the whole group won’t make it, and keeps on motoring. If you complain, he’ll say you should ride at the front if you don’t want to miss the break. He hopes you’ll get a flat so he can leave you stranded.
Team Tactics Guy: Yes, it’s a team sport, but there’s no prize money, so you shouldn’t “block” on the group ride just because you have a teammate up the road. This is exercise. God, you’re annoying.
Mountain Biker: “I just do this road stuff for training, bro,” he explains, as he finds crazy lines through the corners, bunnyhops curbs, and shows off his skills by taking pointless risks on descents.
Bike Nerd: He has all the newest stuff before it’s even available to the public. You’ve only seen photos of it on Mark Cavendish’s bike, but he’s got it. He says he knows a guy, just so you understand he doesn’t pay retail. Bike Nerd has a ton of bikes and spare parts out the wazoo (he even has a spare wazoo), but you heard he lives in a trailer.
Aerobars Guy: No matter how many times you yell at him, he’s going to be in the aerobars in the middle of the group. He’ll even take corners in them, and you’ll cringe as you watch him barely keep his bike upright, secretly hoping he doesn’t.
The Rustbucket: He rides an old steel frame, with downtube shifters, threads sticking out of his tires, and clipless sandals. He can’t hold a straight line. If he sneezes, his whole rig will turn to dust.
The Geezer: He’s been showing up on this ride since it was all penny-farthings. He might die after an intermediate sprint, and they’ll have to peel his rotting flesh off his Selle Italia or just bury him right there.
You might have noticed that I didn’t mention any women here. It’s not because I’m sexist, it’s because of . . .
The Creep: If a woman shows up on the ride, he’s all over it. She just wants a workout like the rest of us, but The Creep is full of unsolicited advice, pushes her up the hills as an excuse to touch her butt, and offers her a free bike fit at his house. She won’t come back.*
*This mention of The Creep scaring away the women was the punchline of the whole thing, but I still got hate mail for not mentioning enough female riders.
Ask a Pro answers every question you’ve always wanted to ask about pro cycling. Recently retired pro cyclist Phil Gaimon gathers the absolute gems from his monthly Q&A feature column in VeloNews magazine into Ask a Pro and adds a dose of fresh commentary and even more acerbic and sharp-eyed insights.
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