A little ride report from earlier in the spring. It's and email to friends and family that don't necessarily know about cycling and it's nuances. The Victoria crew are very fast....Home of Ryder Hesjadal Report: Well I just got back from Victoria after being down there for a week doing some training for work. As I usually do I packed up a bike to bring with me, since the weather was looking a little iffy I opted for the wet cyclocross rig with the fenders (for those who don't know it's a little slower than a full blown race bike). When I'm riding in Victoria I usually do it with a good friend and coworker named Dan. Dan is one of the Victoria elite, a regular with the A group and is very fast, and obviously rides a lot. Dan's soon to be brother in law's name is Tom and Tom is faster than Dan. In fact Tom is one of the fastest riders in Victoria. He'll ride over 20 000 km this year, he'll be around later. During the week Dan and I managed to get out for a couple of after work spins, some longer (73km) and some shorter (38km), great early season training. I've been pretty steady on the bike all winter and even since January have over 2000 k in so far, so I'm pretty keen to see how things go with the big kids in Vic. Which brings us to the Oak Bay Bikes Saturday group ride. Oh my, where to start. The weather for Saturday was going to be dry, but cool and windy so right off the bat I removed the fenders from my bike to try to lighten it up and make it slightly more aerodynamic (yes it makes a difference). Also all the other regular things that you do, pump up the tires, oil the chain ect. I decide to go with only one bottle of water just before half way the group stops at a park where I can refill. I chose minimal clothing, the whole lot......I'm a little nervous. The ride starts at 9:00 sharp so at 8:40 we're out the door and spinning towards the Bike shop. It's cold and the sky is a little threatening when we pull into the parking lot, we're greeted by a couple of other riders who are already there. As we're standing around chatting more and more people start showing up, some obviously B riders and other obviously A riders. I'm sizing them all up. Welcome tree trunk thighs on a $8000 bike, you are scaring the hell out of me standing still. Oh and here comes some dude with calfs that look like five pin bowling balls stuffed into socks on another $8000 rig..........great. Then Tom shows up, incredibly nice guy, doesn't look as threatening as Tree Trunk or Calf Man, but i know and so do they.....He's a machine and should be feared. The way that it works is there is going to be two groups to this ride, the A and the B group. The groups head out of the parking lot at slightly different times to avoid a huge gaggle of riders clogging the roads with the A crew leaving first. The B group will be a "no drop" ride meaning that the group goes as fast as the slowest rider. The A's will eventually try to destroy your will to live and leave you for dead in the ditch. The ride is about 90km in total, I'm with the A group........great. Dan flicks his head to me and the A's pull out, we're about 25 riders. The pace to begin with is conversational. For those who don't know if you ride directly behind another rider you will save about 25% of the power it takes to ride that speed as the rider who's breaking the wind in front, called drafting. Everybody takes their turns at the front of pack, called pulling. You work harder but only for a short time then fall back to the back of the pack to draft. This is a pace line and for this many riders a double pace line is formed so one rides beside another person and while we're drafting everybody is chatting. By this point I've warmed up, the sun is starting to peak out and we're ticking along at 32-33 kph and 150 bpm (beats per min), mid rate for me, called Tempo, very sustainable. Life is good, this is fun. I have a very nice older fella that is my partner in the pace line, he must be 60+ and is doing well with the pace. Just past the 40 k mark we pull off into the park and eat a powerbar and refill our water, the B's pull in not long behind us and it's about 60 riders all milling about, pretty cool. Tom and Dan get back on their bikes and start to roll out and so do I. The A's have changed slightly now though, my older friend isn't with us anymore, the conversations stop as we head through Sidney and then it happens.........BOOOM! We're hammering!!! I'm digging deep and keeping up. Tom pulls up beside me and says "Keep that wheel (the guy in front of me) and don't let it go" 48kph 180+ BPM. It's FAST, really really fast. The guys out front want to cull the herd, if you can't keep up you don't belong and they don't want you. This is no longer a friendly ride. The point now is to hurt people, break them and drop them. I've forgotten how exciting it is to ride fast in a pack. We're going faster than you ever could on your own within inches of other bikes, in fact the closer to the rider in front of you the better. As we go across Lands End (North of the Airport) there's a nasty cross wind and I'm working hard to keep up. I'm hoping everybody is hurting like I am, but I'm still keeping up. This is where we turn South and start to head back to Victoria. I'm doing my best to hide in the group and draft as much as I can. The pace is still really fast and I know that there is a hill call Panorama coming up that is long and hateful, I'm dreading it. We're through rolling hills in and out of the saddle and I'm basically lost. I have no idea what's coming up or what to expect. Hills come out of nowhere that I have no idea how long they are. I try to match the style of the others. If we're standing for this one then I stand, if we're climbing this one seated then I sit. Seated climbs have people sprinting past me and the whole group then gets up and it's a hammerfest to the top thats somewhere up there. No choice though, they sprint, I sprint. Descending is no joy either, the pace remains frantic and with all the riders you can't see what's coming, I'm just praying for no hairpins and keep the pace. Beyond being fast the A group are a bunch of fantastic bike handlers, they go through corners at crazy speeds. While I'm hammering trying to keep the pace we go through a tight turn into wind and the rider in front gaps me by two bike lengths, I'm on it right away full power 193 BPM out of the saddle sprint, I'm pegged, it's everything I have into a face full of wind. Like the guy that falls off a ship in the night I found myself treading water alone as the ship continued to sail off without me. Two bike lengths turned into three, then five and then at full power I blew up. Dropped I sat up and watched the freight train leave me behind. I was disappointed, but I figured I may as well put in a solid effort for the rest of the ride. Panorama hill was right there and I saw that three others were dropped, so the game now is to catch them. I had a pretty good climb and caught the three and dropped them, that made me feel better. At the top of the climb Tom was riding back towards me and spun around to join up, I was shocked! I couldn't believe that he came back for me. He told me that he wanted to take it easy as he was racing the next day at a mountain bike event so he'd ride with me the rest of the way home (he won the race, he's a freak). I wasn't going to let Tom pull me all the way home, as that's weak so Tom turned to coach and had me pull him as hard as i could until I exhausted myself and then he'd pull so I could recover. We managed to catch another five of six riders this way, also made me pretty happy. What did I learn: Work on explosive power. Riders that know how to ride will use the wind to gap you and you'd better be ready for it (I obviously wasn't) Work on bike handling Don't bring a cyclocross bike to a road race Train harder. Harden up.