Group Ride, Busted and Wheel Sucking

Freewheeling through the country club trifecta of Coconut Point

If it’s Sunday, this must be another Trek group airport ride. All due respects to the 1969 movie “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium”, but I think today’s ride was even more wacky than the original picture.

It all started slightly off kilter when I woke up late, rushing to gulp down breakfast and get ready for the morning ride, only to realize that daylight savings time had taken effect earlier…why do we even bother with all this clock shuffling nonsense anyways. In all actuality it worked out rather well as I was able to take out the puppy, watch a little early morning TV with my son and best of all, give the sun some time to warm things up a bit. The “hour later” start translated into 10 more degrees of mercury in the old thermometer, which my knees greatly appreciated (particularly since my cycling tights have yet to arrive).

A good sized group of about 50 riders showed up for the ride. There were some new faces among the crafty veterans as a C group (18-20 MPH over an abbreviated 25 mile airport loop) was officially kicking off today. We welcomed them all while warning them about the tough NE wind we’d be riding against, particularly at the airport.

We headed off in a neat double file formation shielding each other from the wind as best we could all the while maintaining our 21 MPH pace. You could see the strain on the new C riders faces as they fought to keep pace with us. We started dropping some in as little as 4 miles. Luckily they all eventually grouped up and set their lower, more comfortable pace as we pulled away for our typical mad capped sprint at the airport.

As we approached the airport turn off, I strategically made my way to the back third of the group (as I mentioned before, I make it a point not to be the lead rider for the A group speed demons as it is extremely difficult to catch back up to their express train-like pace line after burning out on their lead out). As usual, a gap formed quickly separating the A and B group riders, only this time no one took the short cut as we all headed up the departure terminal ramp.

We all slowed to the obligatory 10 MPH (strictly enforced by the ever present police and airport security officers) and gently cruised by all the departing travelers. As we neared the end of the terminal a security officer was waving a finger in the air at our group asking to speak to one of us. Most riders didn’t notice him (or perhaps even chose to ignore him) as they rode past, but, as karma would have it, he stood right in front of my path and pointed right at me leaving me no choice but to stop.

He thanked me for stopping and then began to beat me up a bit about last weeks riders. Apparently the group rode through the terminal area a wee bit too fast and, in his words, “buzzed some of the pedestrians in the crosswalk”. As he lectured me about safety all I could fixate on was my group leaving me behind. Another official came up to add in her 2¢ leaving an ever increasing, insurmountable gap between me and my group.

A previously dropped rider came rolling up and joined the rather one sided conversation. After what seemed like an eternity, we made our way down the departure terminal ramp after agreeing whole heartedly with the officials, informing them them that we would relay this information to our ride leaders. We could still see the tail end of our original group as it sped down the old airport. Approximately two miles of headwind separated us now, so I knew there would be no way the two of us would be catching up.

I looked back to see if there were any other stragglers and saw two other riders coasting down the departure terminal ramp. I suggested we slow and wait for them to join us as a group of 4 would make battling the headwinds all that much easier…boy was I wrong.

We formed up our pace line and I took the lead as we plowed into the gusty headwind. I dropped into my aero bars (it was a great decision to have them installed) gritted my teeth and stomped on my pedals. I felt good so I continued pulling for nearly a mile. I signaled to peel off and low and behold, my little group was at least 1/4 mile behind me!

I slowed and recovered a bit as I waited for them to catch up. Once caught up we reformed the pace line, with me on the lead again and resumed our struggle against the wind. This time they stayed with me, but none would take any pulling duty, slowing down every time I went to pull off the front of the group. They were content to wheel suck me all the way home, or at least till we turned for home and picked up a tail wind.

Frustrated, I just stayed out front pulling them through the entire airport grounds, across Daniels Parkway into the Gateway community, onto Tree Line all the way down back to Daniels Parkway. That’s a 7 mile headwind heavy loop without any help from my wheel sucking cohorts. I wasn’t really angry per say at them, but it would really have been appreciated to get some help up front, especially in the wind. It wasn’t until a stoplight at the Daniels Parkway intersection, that I asked them for a little help up front, and low and behold they obliged. Good thing to as my legs were screaming for a break.

Now with the benefit of a strong tailwind, my group became very functional as we powered our way home at a very respectable clip.

Looking back at today’s ride, I can’t really fault the three riders for not helping pull. With such a strong gusty wind, taking the lead is difficult and can burn you up quickly. They simply were in conservation mode and wanted to get through the windward leg of the ride. We all have our bad riding days, where we rely on the stronger riders to get us through difficult portions, but as I mentioned on a previous post, any help, no matter how little is always beneficial to a group and very welcomed.

So the moral of the story here is to always support your group as it benefits everyone. A mear 20 pedal revolutions up front adds up and can give the stronger riders a very welcomed rest. They will love you for it! Also, while in a speed zone at an airport departure terminal, do your best to ignore any official waving his finger in the air…..just kidding.

Route: Trek Airport Group Ride
Ride Time: 1:59:36
Stopped Time: 13:14
Distance: 38.26 miles
Average: 19.20 mph
Fastest Speed: 36.10 mph
Ascent: 1210 feet
Descent: 1197 feet
Calories: 1910

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