To what extent is a fast drop-ride a race?

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Nereth
Posts: 273
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:18 am

by Nereth

I rarely race. I find there is a lot of preparatory work involved and then the nerves and second-guessing and high-stakes of there being a podium, prevents me from going "all-in" the way I can on a groupie where I don't care how it ends and just want to go hard. I find the stress of it being a race overshadows the fun.

But I do do "race-sim" group rides every week. An hour or so of riding as hard as we can, some guys driving the pace, some guys holding on for dear life, sprints and attacks.

To what extent can the race-sim group rides really emulate a race day? What is missing? Should I consider myself a very experienced racer with years of weekly race experience? Or a baby who has lined up for maybe a couple of dozen actual races?

I feel like one problem with the weekly group rides is sometimes lack of competetiveness actually makes us ride too hard. There is never a "lull" where the whole group saves itself for a final sprint. Guaranteed someone always gets annoyed and wants to go faster at that point. And that draws someone out to help them just because they feel bad. So the tactics are different. More like a breakaway than a peloton.

PS: This thread is purely and shamelessly the result of me wanting to win the race to make the first thread ever on this new racing board. It just seemed right to do that. Had to brainstorm ideas for a justifiable post for a while, and this is the best I came up with :D .

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TobinHatesYou
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Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

Nereth wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2023 2:55 am
I rarely race. I find there is a lot of preparatory work involved and then the nerves and second-guessing and high-stakes of there being a podium, prevents me from going "all-in" the way I can on a groupie where I don't care how it ends and just want to go hard. I find the stress of it being a race overshadows the fun.

But I do do "race-sim" group rides every week. An hour or so of riding as hard as we can, some guys driving the pace, some guys holding on for dear life, sprints and attacks.

To what extent can the race-sim group rides really emulate a race day? What is missing? Should I consider myself a very experienced racer with years of weekly race experience? Or a baby who has lined up for maybe a couple of dozen actual races?

I feel like one problem with the weekly group rides is sometimes lack of competetiveness actually makes us ride too hard. There is never a "lull" where the whole group saves itself for a final sprint. Guaranteed someone always gets annoyed and wants to go faster at that point. And that draws someone out to help them just because they feel bad. So the tactics are different. More like a breakaway than a peloton.

PS: This thread is purely and shamelessly the result of me wanting to win the race to make the first thread ever on this new racing board. It just seemed right to do that. Had to brainstorm ideas for a justifiable post for a while, and this is the best I came up with :D .
I would say most town sign sprints emulate the final sprint to the line in a cat 3 or cat 2/3 level race here in the US. They are good for honing your reaction times and ability to stay upright when things get chaotic.

As for breakaways and surges, hammerfest rides do a slightly poorer job of emulating this. There’s too many belligerent attacks in a short timespan. Responses are both too fast and too slow (people expect neutralization to happen at stop signs / stop lights / etc.) There’s too many people hanging on for dear life making things more random than real races. Another side effect of rides being too short is you won’t learn how to hydrate / fuel for a real road race.

These types of rides might get you halfway to being an entry-level racer, but the best way to get better at racing is to pin on a number. I started racing in 2019, and it was a continual learning process. 2022 was probably when I really learned how to race at a cat 1/2 level and I’m still learning something new with every race. Also different regions race differently…

Nereth
Posts: 273
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:18 am

by Nereth

You're right, you never really need to make the high-impact, make-or-break decisions of a race, since the groupie is likely to come together at the next red light or stop sign, so people are not as all-in as they would be when the next neutralization is the finish line.

As a result, you can make, or bridge up to, a break-away with unrealistic ease and surprisingly low power.

On the other hand I think that they do do a good job of emulating either the breakaway, or pursuit situation. In a real race in the break, I don't want to drop anyone for most of it, but I do want them all to suffer as much as possible within that restriction to soften them up. I want them doing more work than me. Not unlike the hammerfest groupride?

Singular
Posts: 537
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2020 8:59 am

by Singular

Too short of a distance/time, no tactics involved, too much outside influence and some strange yet loosely enforced idea of of riding-together-but-not.

It's a great way of building ability over/under threshold, but does very little for simulating racing. If anything, as above, it is a snapshot of what a break/chase would look like (sans the tactical elements).

Nereth
Posts: 273
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:18 am

by Nereth

Not too short if you compare to a crit, or some stage race courses which can be quite short.

Agreed with your other points.

Maddie
Posts: 1570
Joined: Tue Oct 17, 2017 5:44 am

by Maddie

Group rides with breakaways and town sign sprints are super fun but are far away from real racing. They are training.

The tension, the tactics, the positioning, the excitement and for me personally, the element of delivering is what defines racing. You prepare for a specific race, you set your goal(s) and want to achieve it (them). Coping with all kinds of emotions like pressure, fear, doubt etc is part of it too. And the satisfaction and the joy that you get if you achieve what you set out to is very rewarding. And if not, then there's always next time.

I don't consider myself fast BTW. It doesn't matter on what level you are racing. And it's not for everybody and that's perfectly fine.

TobinHatesYou
Posts: 13029
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

Nereth wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2023 12:44 pm
Not too short if you compare to a crit, or some stage race courses which can be quite short.

Agreed with your other points.

A crit and a meandering racey road ride have very little in common. If you want to practice crits, there are practice crits, and they have the same issues regarding realism. You can hone some skills, but ultimately the dynamic and difficulty isn’t quite right. You can be really good at “winning” group rides and really bad at racing.

spartacus
Posts: 1049
Joined: Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:53 pm

by spartacus

Depending on the ride, a fast drop ride might be harder and faster than a race in the category you'd be racing in.

boots2000
Posts: 1413
Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2007 9:28 pm

by boots2000

I think the difference in a 1 hour group "race ride" and a genuine bike race can be great.
1.) 1 hour doesnt really weed out the weak from the strong, only the very weak
2.) Some folks will take way more risks in a group ride vs. a genuine race. They tend to attack and do shorter climbs even harder than they would in an actual race. Aslo, some tend to "flex" in these group rides just to show what they can do.
3.) In a ride like this every single rider has a different view of the ride and a different view of what they want to accomplish. 40 riders- 40 different goals.

usr
Posts: 1021
Joined: Thu Mar 25, 2021 5:58 pm

by usr

The race is about not getting dropped before the finish with the lowest relative investment. If somehow you manage to barely turn a crank before blasting them all to the line, congratulations, you found perfection. Chances are even the first loser will love you, hoping that some of the glory will rub off.

In the drop ride, if you show off at the last town sign after carefully avoiding to spend more than the absolute minimum to not get dropped before, nobody will love you for it. The "winner" is whoever dealt out the most pain along the way but still made it. If your last attack is your first and you beat them all with surprisingly fresh legs, you're the guy who refused to play along. Some might politely hide their disappointment in respectful statements like "as in a real race!", but if some day the meetup location or time changes for some reason you might be among those who hear about it last.

But please don't read this as if I was claiming that races are easier. Perhaps they are, if your abilities are so far ahead of most other participants that you are only a coin toss away from winning and spend the day cruising with your few peers gently pushing it to weed out some but not too many (purely speculation on my part), but if you come to your limits they will be very different from the limits you come to in a drop ride.

TobinHatesYou
Posts: 13029
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

boots2000 wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2023 4:52 pm
3.) In a ride like this every single rider has a different view of the ride and a different view of what they want to accomplish. 40 riders- 40 different goals.

Yep, in a group ride with 40 people, maybe 10 of them will even be attempting town sign sprints at all, and generally it’s the same finishing order every single time. Some people are there just for the workout and they will take big turns on the front, some are just hanging on for dear life, some will only do part of the ride, some just never sprint at all, some are just there to see their buds.

Plus in a group ride, it’s the same people always doing the exact same shit at the exact same points on the ride. It’s all so predictable. In a race, you’ll be competing against people you only ever see at a the races and you’ll be less familiar with their tendencies.

usr wrote: The race is about not getting dropped before the finish with the lowest relative investment. If somehow you manage to barely turn a crank before blasting them all to the line, congratulations, you found perfection. Chances are even the first loser will love you, hoping that some of the glory will rub off.

If I were to race this way I would almost never podium. Sitting and sprinting is only one way to win. Going for a long breakaway from the gun gives me a better chance at a good result.

spdntrxi
Posts: 6010
Joined: Sat Jul 20, 2013 6:11 pm

by spdntrxi

I ride with a group of guys on sundays. There are 2 alternating routes and many sprint/climb points on each route. The routes are roughly 30 miles with regroup points so a very good 80min workout. I'm one of the "sprinters" so I'll give it a go on flat segments or punchy short climbs. I cannot compete on the longer climby segments.

Depending on who shows I'll take a flyer on one segment and see who is willing to bring me back. That segment is a little over 2mi and into a slight head wind.. so pretty tough by yourself. I've managed to hold off the pack once. There are lots of ways to mix it up and we try too, like leading out different ppl. etc etc. No real "flexers" on this ride.
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Nereth
Posts: 273
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2023 10:18 am

by Nereth

So honestly all of the points I'm reading seem pretty well-rounded and I'm forced to agree. I can't even reasonably play devil's advocate to push for deeper conversation, since no one is swinging too extreme the other way either.

In retrospect, most of the issues raised with the groupie are absolutely in-line with my own experience (people take more risks then don't get punished, different people having different ideas of the goal, sitting in being shameful instead of smart, etc).

Maybe a more productive question would be, what concrete things have you been able to learn from racing that you would never learn from an aggressive group ride, or group riders would never realise they were missing? For example, not :
"Oh you get an intuition for how the pack moves and surges and responds to attacks" (true but wishy-washy) or ,
"you learn how to control your bike in a tight pack" (can totally learn that on a groupie)

but rather,

"you learn how to deploy XYZ method to get other guys to work",

For example in my case, the races I have done;

1) You certainly take more bike handling risks, e.g. corner harder, and therefore learn the limits of traction etc faster (or just crash). You can learn this in a groupie but I don't think most people ever push as hard, as consistently, because unswept surprise sand is a thing.
2) I learned how easy the back of the pack was far more in a real race than in groupies as the packs were larger and my ego didn't demand me to stay near the front and pull turns. And then the amount of rubber banding is also lower as I think people's cornering speed is closer together on a race than a group ride where one guy is risk averse and slows the whole peloton up at the back.

TobinHatesYou
Posts: 13029
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:02 pm

by TobinHatesYou

It’s hard to describe… if you do a lot of fake racing, you get really good at fake racing and the scenarios that play out in fake racing. Real racing is just different enough that being really good at fake racing doesn’t really translate to being good at real racing. The attacks materialize differently, more sneakily. The guttering is more deliberate. The interplay between big teams, minor teams and solo riders is different. The roads aren't as familiar. The competition isn't as familiar. Surges go harder, longer. Instead of a 2-3 of the local fast guys making everyone else hurt, it's more like 8-10 of them.

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eli76141
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon Dec 05, 2022 1:43 pm

by eli76141

Nereth wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2023 2:27 am
Maybe a more productive question would be, what concrete things have you been able to learn from racing that you would never learn from an aggressive group ride, or group riders would never realise they were missing? For example, not :
A couple of pointers that I have learned from racing, are

1) How to read the race. In races everyone races to win or at least get as close to victory as possible. That changes peoples behavior and tactics. The ability to read other riders behavior is crucial. Like others have mentioned, in training races the other riders have all sorts of different goals. In a race everyone races for the same goal, and the ability to read how that evolves in a race, makes you better at racing. That will translate to how to position yourself, when to play it cool, when to follow wheels, and when to brake free.

2) Another thing is bike handling. Racing is the best teacher of bike handling. As others mention, you train when (and especially when not) to take risks, how close to the limit you can go.

3) Positioning is another thing. Positioning is crucial in racing. It can't be overstated. In some races more than others. Again there is no better teacher of positioning than racing.

4) Preparation. Everything is optimized before a race. Your training, rest, food, sleep, your bike, your clothes - everything. I doubt you prepare as meticulous for training races.

I really like these 12 advices for aspiring racers. There is so much truth in all of them:

https://soigneur.nl/stories/advice-aspiring-racers/

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