Tips: Hanging on in a faster group!

The scenerio is probably pretty familiar: you get in a group and find the pace a bit spicy. You hang on for a while, but find it tougher and tougher until you fall off (sometimes again and again).

Obviously, if a group is wayyy to fast, it just comes down to fitness. But, I often find myself a bit between groups and it’s a good challenge to try and hang in with a faster group. Here’s the stuff I’m learning, from experience, not to do (as it doesn’t work – this is the don’t do list! :grinning:):

  • I spend my matches too early. You are probably familiar with the idea that, as a rider, you have a limited number of matches to burn – matches being harder efforts. I often go out feeling pretty decent, take longer pulls than I should and pull hard in the hills. Having a sense of how many matches you have on a given day is important. For me, it changes from day to day and being a bit conservative early in the ride gives you more options later. When the matches are burnt – there ain’t no more!

  • I don’t listen to the onset of fatigue. This goes hand-in-hand with the above and really matters as the ride progresses. I sometimes wait too long to start looking for some shelter in the group. In my experience – the longer you wait, the more time you need to recover until you can’t hang onto the group anymore.

  • I let the wheel ahead get away from me. This can be a tough one when I’m tired and (finally) on the back of the group. It’s a terrible feeling when you’re tired, there’s a small rise or the pace picks up, and the wheel ahead of you starts to pull away. Responding quickly can make a huge difference! One tip that has worked for me – use the brakes while pedaling to moderate your speed if you are moving too close to the wheel ahead. Braking lightly while pedalling feels a lot more precise and helps reduce the yo-yo of surging than falling back. Plus, if people are behind you, they’ll appreciate it!

  • I don’t strategically use what I’ve still got. When I get tired, my form often starts to sag. I start mashing the pedals instead of spinning and I forget to stay low and out of the windstream. All that costs power and effort when I can least afford it. When I watch some of my fellow riders, the smart ones are really good at spending whatever effort they still have for maximum impact.

  • I feel obligated to take a “decent” pull. This is 100% in my head and has more to do with pride than anything else. The smart thing to do if you are tired is to not take a pull at all or to keep it short. I have dumbly taken longer pulls, then imploded, which – trust me – is not a good move!

  • I stay quiet. The saying – pride go before the fall – applies here. Having the group know how you are doing creates options – stronger riders might take longer pulls or maybe there’s a couple of others suffering and the group needs to split. That only happens if people are communicating (I’m terrible at this … but working on it!).

  • I don’t have a plan B. There is always going to be rides where the pace or distance are too long. I’m a ‘finish what you started’ kinda guy, but that’s dumb if you are suffering and miserable! Sometimes the plan b is waiting for the next group; sometimes it’s short turning and sometimes it may be just hanging on the back for the rest of the ride. My narrow focus on continuing hasn’t always worked in my favour!

I’m slowly chipping away at these for myself and know we have a bunch of riders who did the learn to group ride at the beginning of the season, so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes! And, we’ve got some strong riders here who seem to know how to maximize what they have, so further tips welcome.


Great tips. My top ones are:

  1. No ego, take short pulls, especially on the first half of the ride. If you are feeling good take harder pills on the way home. Also skip the sprints if you aren’t sure you can hang.
  2. Watch out for cross winds. Try to get on the sheltered side if possible.
  3. If in a paceline try to pick a good person to follow. Ideally you want someone who is just a bit stronger than you are, that are unlikely to break before you, and aren’t too hard to pull around.
  4. Being dropped happens, know your way home