Clinic: Paceline skills

Wow! We finally got some nice weather in February. Who couldn’t pass up a 65 degree day in the middle of winter. This year pedal Racing is continuing the skills based training for racing and group riding. Our first outside clinic of the year was focused on pacelining and group riding skills. Over 30 members of the pedal Racing family all got after it together making a great day of riding with new and old friends.

Jason Short of Threshold Endurance led the clinic and shared his experience making us all faster and safer. Aaron Hugen and Chip Brunk as well as Jason shared leading duties and embedded themselves in various groups. We broke into small A, B, and C groups and hit the path at a moderate pace. The Platte Trail is not the place for pacing. We left that for Chatfield State Park and because it is February, it had very few cars to worry about. We regrouped at the top of the Chatfield dam where Jason gave us an overview of the day and what we were going to work on. Single and constantly rotating lines were the order of the day going out to the end of the park at about 6 miles. We were also given orders to keep the pace moderate. (We had mixed success.) The good news was if a group was moving too quickly, the option was always available to drop out and get picked up by the next fastest group on the road.

My ‘B’ group had some seriously strong riders which made the day harder than I was hoping for, yet not so hard I could focus on technique which was the purpose of the day. After we descended off the dam, we started to get into a rotation rhythm in a standard line only pulling for 15-20 seconds. I think everyone picked that up pretty fast. I had a video camera running for later which did show areas we can all work on. (This cycling thing is a never ending learning process.) After 2-3 miles, we started to more constantly rotate although depending on the terrain, we occasionally got back into a more standing single line. We were passed once by a time trial rider in training doing intervals. It took serious discipline to ride our ride and not his and chase him down. By keeping our pace, we did reel him back in without additional effort after a few minutes. That was a great lesson on efficiency. Once we saw the end of the first out segment, the pace did pickup and how could it not. All of our friends were watching. (Nothing like peer pressure to make you perform)

Our C group which consisted of more recreational riders or racing who were smarter and wanted a more moderate pace where led by Chip Brunk. Chip took many who had rarely had any experience in pace lines, and got them rotating close together and comfortable trusting each other. Riding with others you don’t know can be unnerving, but Chip and his group handled it perfectly. Rotating the line within the bike lines takes finesse and talent and this group handled it well.

At the turn around point, Jason Short provided a great explanation of echelons which we were going to try on the way back. These help buffer you from cross winds but are hard to practice on the road due to traffic. With limited people in the park, we’d give it a try. We started in our standard lines for a mile or two before we broke into multiple echelons and began to take turns in the winds. While our standard and constantly rotating lines looked organized, we could use more practice time with this echelon thing. After checking the video, there were some rotations that looked quite organized and some, that well, didn’t. More work to do there, but the practice of being in the middle of them was invaluable.

We rode pretty organized in our groups until we hit some rollers with about a mile to go and a climb back up to the dam for the final regroup. Let’s just say that became a bit racy, but was fun to be in the thick of that again. Want to see it first hand? Check out our video below.

This is only the beginning of our outdoor clinics and with more to come throughout the year, it’s a great way to be taught by more experienced riders. Thank you to our host pedal of Littleton, Jason Short of Threshold Endurance, Aaron and Chip for being our ride leaders for the day, and of course all the riders who turned out. This was a great way to start learning and preparing for the season.

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