Mastering the etiquette of group cycling

STEVE MEERTENS
Last updated 09:58 10/02/2014

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OPINION: Steve Meertens is digital manager for Fairfax Media in the Waikato region and has accepted a challenge to complete the Avantidrome REV Cycle Festival's 100-kilometre race. As he counts down to the event at the end of this month, he will write weekly about going from novice road cyclist to taking on one of the most popular and toughest annual cycling events in the Waikato. 

Well I survived the Saturday morning group ride.

At 8am a group of around 10 keen cyclists rolled out of The Base in the Cycology Avantiplus group ride and headed into the back roads of Te Kowhai. We rode through a tangle of roads that I never even knew existed for about one-and-a-half hours covering around 40km.

Now I had been trying to do a bit of research into the etiquette of group riding but I didn't find anything too concrete so I just decided to pay close attention to what those around me were doing as opposed to creating those crash scenes from the Tour de France where all the riders end up in a tangle of body parts and broken bikes. One common acronym I came across in my research that I found particularly funny was MAMIL - middle-aged men in lycra. Classic.

The group were really experienced riders and only rode two across and everyone was really aware and conscientious of all passing motorists.

A flurry of hand signals and barked orders informed the group regularly of anything of note, potholes, changing direction, trucks, roadworks, winning lotto numbers and anything else deemed worth yelling about.

All in all the experience was both really enjoyable and beneficial and it has given me a lot more confidence in my ability on the bike, though it has really reinforced how challenging the REV is going to be.

I learned a few useful tips about conserving energy and the best way to manage my workload over long distances on my bike which will be crucial on a tough 100km course. Everyone was really friendly and chatty which was a nice change to the personal sessions I had been doing up until then.

Following on from last week's article I was fortunate enough to catch up with just retired world champion cyclist Alison Shanks over a cold drink - albeit a low carb, natural sugar one.

Shanks was down to earth and resonated a huge passion for the sport of cycling. It felt strange talking to her so soon after her retirement announcement last week as I could still see the great competitor in her.

Personally I really don't think we've seen the last of Ali Shanks as she has a heck of a lot to offer.

I was keen to discuss a few gaps in my training schedule, particularly around the nutrition aspects leading up to and during the REV itself and I got some useful insights. I particularly enjoyed Shanks' advice that the week leading up to the event I shouldn't ride too much and that I should eat plenty of food - basically in my mind I heard it as: "Put the bike away and triple my KFC intake because an Olympian told you so, sweet."

Now that training is something to look forward to.

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- Waikato

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