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How to avoid getting dropped on a ride

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Group ride

Getting dropped is one of the realities faced by each and every cyclist at some point.  The feeling of watching the group ride away from you can be demoralizing, but it’s also a great learning experience.  

What caused you to get popped off the back?  Did you make a tactical error?  Did you crack physiologically and just couldn’t stay with the pace?  Did you break a chain or cable?

Don’t ride at the back of the group

Slower riders often feel they need to ride near the back of the group because they don’t believe they are strong enough to ride up near the front of the group. However, the further up in the group you ride, the more riders have to pass you before you get dropped.

If you are at the back and the pace picks up and you are immediately gapped, then you have no one else to rely on to help pull you back up to the pack. If you are further forward, a number of riders will come by you. Try to jump on their wheels as they go by and stick with them to stay with the pack, or at least delay the time til you get dropped.

Get in the draft

Learn to draft off other riders and be comfortable riding in close proximity to others. If you draft behind another rider who is cutting into the wind you gain an advantage. Up to 40 percent less energy can be used in the draft when a group of people are riding together. To be the most effective when drafting, a cyclist needs to be as close as possible to the bicycle in front of them. The shorter the distance, the larger the decrease in wind resistance.

Be mentally willing to give it all for a short period of time

When the pace picks up, ride like it’s the end of the race and give everything you’ve got to stick with the pack. The pack will slow down sooner or later and you will be able to recover by sitting in the draft. Don’t be afraid to let it all hang out when it’s needed. Hours-long races are often decided by these short, decisive accelerations. It will hurt momentarily but if you accept that fact, it’s a lot easier to actually do it.

Be aware of terrain changes

Every time a group ride comes to a hill, the riders surge and the pace picks up. If you pay attention and see the hill coming, you can be ready to shift, stand up and follow the pace of the group. If you are not aware and did not see the hill coming then you are caught reacting to the group and you are already a step behind, slowing down and struggling to keep up. Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to act on what is going to happen- be proactive. If the group is riding in a tail wind and then makes a left hand turn, there will be a cross wind. Plan ahead (before the turn) to be on the side out of the wind when the group exits the turn.