With yesterday being Monday it was time for group/individual skills training with Team Bikin’. The weather was perfect and with 16 of us showing up it had the makings for a great evening of cycling.

After a four mile warm up we all gathered together in one of the large parking lots adjacent to the loop. For our first five laps the leader had us leave the parking lot and take the next half-lap easy (recovery) and for the half-lap back to the parking lot we were to sprint. Once at the parking lot we were to do six figure-eight drills for handling and then a quick-stop drill. After that we head back out onto the loop and repeat for four more laps.

We do have one stop sign on the loop that we do stop at. At the stop sign the group leader has got us practicing track stands in order to keep us from having to unclip at a stop sign. It was hard at first but I’m starting to get the hang of it. I can’t maintain it for long but I’m sure that’ll come with practice.

Once everyone was done with those five laps we re-grouped again in the parking lot to discuss the next five laps where he would have us work on pedaling out of the saddle.

For each of the next five laps he would have us do the following – one the uphill section leading up to the stop sign shift into the big chain ring and smallest cog for max resistance. Once shifted stand up out of the saddle and practice ‘walking’ up the hill. This is a deliberately slow pace to practice form out of the saddle including balance and spin. It actually takes an effort to not go fast despite the resistance from the gearing. Once at the stop sign we shift into a comfortable gear and for the next 3/4 lap sit 10 seconds in the saddle followed by 10 seconds out of the saddle. This helps get those riders not comfortable with this technique to practice being out of the saddle for a short period of time since this is the technique used to cross railroad tracks and cattle guards. The key was to mantain your weight back over the pedals so the front wheel remains responsive.

I’m very comfortable being out of the saddle for the 10 second obstacle crossing but am very glad we worked on going up hill out of the saddle since that’s a technique I really need to practice.

You’ve heard me talk a lot about how the terrain is different here in Texas than it was in Florida and that the hills have been giving trouble. I’m not talking big hills either. Most are, max, several hundred feet long and the grades aren’t severe except on a couple. I’m not used to them but I think my fitness has started to improve as of late and I’m wanting to ‘attack’ them now and I’ve seen better results. I think the ‘walking’ drill is going to help me take it up a notch in this area.

The last drill of the evening was five laps of two-person pacelines. Everyone was allowed to choose their own partner and it should be a slower rider paired with a faster rider. Since I still don’t really know anybody I just kind of waited for someone to come to me. I ended up paired with a guy named R.J. and we headed out.

Me being the slow rider led the first lap probably averaging about 15 mph. I could have gone faster but it was supposed to be a slow lap. R.J. took over for the second lap and took us around. I’m getting better at holding a wheel but felt we could have gone faster. I’m pretty sure he’s in much better shape than I am and he may have been taking it slow for me. On our fourth lap I was following again and he picked it up a little more. I looked once at the computer and we were going over 20 mph but I felt I had more to give. I’m sure that’s because I was drafting off him though. I felt we took the last turn perfectly with him leading in and me maintaining about 12 inches off his wheel at a fast pace. We came out of the turn and I was still nicely tucked in and on his wheel. That felt great.

We didn’t get the fifth lap in since the group had gathered up near the stop sign to call it a night. I felt it was a very good night of training and am glad I’m doing this. I think it’s helping a lot. I road two more laps by myself to push myself over the 20 mile mark for the night.

Next Monday, due to the holiday, we’re meeting early and planning a 3 hour training session. Can’t wait.