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Ride report: Cat-3 Distance Training #1 (1/9/2010)

Go, riders!

Today begins the third year of the Cat-3 Distance Training rides, and we had the biggest group ever -- a total of 37 awesome cyclists rode out from Mountain View on our chilly but rain-free 40-mile journey into the hills around Woodside. Special congratulations go to the first-year ALC riders; you're in for an amazing adventure.

And this was a fast group. Most of us were at a Cat-4 (15+ mph) pace today, which got everyone back to Mountain View well before the suggested 3 p.m. cutoff time. You'll find these times on the Distance Training rides this season; these are mostly suggestions to help you refine your time management skills, which are very important to enjoying the event in June. Even if you're a faster rider (or especially if, in some cases), you need to wisely budget your time so that you can enjoy whatever off-the-bicycle diversions you wish -- and there can be a lot of them, ranging from giant cinnamon buns to skinny-dipping in the river.

In June, the rest stop deadlines are real deadlines, and if you miss one -- no matter how fast a rider you are -- you're done for the day at that point, and you are transported to that night's camp. This isn't because ALC is mean; it's because the hundreds of roadies who support us on the ride are volunteers as well, and they all need to close the route in stages and get to camp at the end of the day also. (Have you thanked a roadie lately?)

That said, it's also important during training and in June that you resist the temptation to keep pace with riders who are much stronger than you. Unless you're Ben Armstrong, there will always be someone faster than you on the ride. Cyclists of all skill levels are on the road in our group, and every one of us is equally important to the mission of AIDS/LifeCycle. There's no prize for getting into camp first or second, so develop a pace that you can maintain indefinitely. That's one of the biggest secrets to happiness in June.

Because we are faster riders, we'll often be passing other riders. ALC has strict rules about passing, and these rules also apply on our training rides.

We pass only when it's safe to do so. This means that if we need to go into a traffic lane to pass, we make sure that no vehicles are approaching from behind and won't be approaching until we're done passing. This also means that we don't block or slow traffic as we pass dozens of riders all at once. We give the other rider plenty of warning that we're approaching; we should call "On your left!" before our front wheel passes their rear wheel. (And don't hesitate to be polite when the riding isn't critical ... "Good morning, coming up on your left!" sounds a whole lot nicer.) And on freeways, we pass only when we can do so without ever crossing the white line and entering a traffic lane.

This means that sometimes we have to slow down and wait for a safe moment to pass. (We might even have a wait a minute or longer, especially if we're climbing a narrow road like Highway 92.) That's how it goes sometimes; don't get frustrated or angry. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to another rider. There are more than 2,000 incredible stories on our road, and there's always a new one for you to hear.

One skill that you need on training rides that you usually don't need in June is skill in reading route sheets. The ride in June is extremely well signed and staffed, but that's not the case with training rides. We don't mark the roads, and we don't post directional arrows, so it's up to you to study the route sheet and anticipate turns and other events so that you don't get lost.

We had a few folks get lost today -- nobody's quite sure what happened, but they got lost enough that they ended up back in Mountain View after the sweeps had returned, something that shouldn't happen. There's no blame or finger-pointing to be had, because stuff happens. But if you're lost -- or even if you think you might be lost -- never hesitate to stop and call any of the ride leaders listed on the route sheet. We can usually figure out where you are and, if you've strayed, get you back on course. Our goal is to avoid extra bonus miles!

What's next? The Cat-3 Distance Training rides continue every other Saturday through May, and we'll always meet at the same location in downtown Mountain View. The meeting times will gradually get earlier (ride #10 has a meet time of 5:15 a.m., yikes!) as our distance increases. Please be sure to attend other ALC training rides, because you need to be riding every weekend in order to get ready for the ride.

In two weeks, on January 23, we'll do a 45-mile ride to Los Gatos and beyond. The total climbing will be about the same as today, but we'll have a couple of bigger hills along the way. Nothing too bad, though. Please join us; details and RSVP are here.

This ride report is posted in my blog after each ride, and I email it to everyone for whom I have a valid address. (If you don't get an email version, it's most likely because I couldn't read what you wrote on the sign-in sheet. It's not because I don't like you!)

Thanks to everyone who made today's ride a wonderful kickoff to our new season, and thank you for being part of AIDS/LifeCycle.

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