Don’t Get Dropped : Analyse Your Bunch Ride

Don’t Get Dropped : Analyse Your Bunch Ride

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We have all been dropped on bunch rides at some point. This week we are going to look at advice for not getting dropped. Find out a way the 3 steps to analyse the power numbers of your favourite local bunch ride.

We’ve all been there…


Watching the bunch ride away from us when we’ve hit our limit and just don’t have it – it’s at this point many emotions run through your veins. Thoughts in your head. Some days you want to fight and other days you want to give up.


This week we are going to look at advice for not getting dropped. But not with your traditional position yourself better and ride as aero as possible. More on what it takes not to get dropped when it counts.


First things first though – this idea was brought to me by Bill from Dallas. A long time supporter of the show and a tenacious competitor. After being asked for advice on how not to get dropped from the “South Ride” – the hardest group ride in Dallas. Which even by his own admission he hasn’t mastered finishing every time, yet. Saying


“I finish the ride most of the time but not all of the time. The best guys can ride away from me at will. I’m just trying to learn how to hang with the big dogs.”


To me hanging with the big dogs is pretty much what it’s all about.


Bill went about analysing the power demands of the ride. But there’s more to it than this…Another reason for Bill’s focus…in his own words… “Training with power is “easy” but ask me what kind of power you need to stick with a fast ride I do every week and I got nothin’.”


I’ve started with Bill’s approach and put together 3 steps for you to follow to analyse your local bunchie. This way you can know whether you’ve got what it takes or not – and how much better you to get to stick with the local heroes.


BTW – In episode #64 I did a similar take but for course analysis for your A race.


Step 1 – Identify points of Interest on Your Bunch Rides


What are the standard attack points, climbs, sprints and cross wind affected parts of the course? These will dictate what duration of efforts you are looking for in the ride file. Part of the issue here is how unpredictable these rides can be.


They are open to everyone – and while the strongest will always come out on top – the strength of these riders on any given day may vary. Also, the fitness of even the fittest local hero will wane over the year. Meaning Jan is probably going to be slower than June. Or the other way round in Oz.


There are a lot of factors to consider – so my recommendation is to collect data from more than just one ride. In a perfect situation, there would be the best numbers from numerous rides that make up your data set. This way you’re covered and know if you have what it takes if the ride is all out from start to end.


First look at the following figures from the ride:

  • Normalised power for the entire ride without stops
  • Best 60 minute normalised power


This will give you an idea of the overall load. If you can’t match the watts per kilogram for this analysis then start here. Most of the time though – it’s not going to be the overall load. Especially on shorter rides.


As Bill makes note of in his South Ride analysis – “what I learned is that the hardest one-hour effort is not the problem for most people since it only comes in at 3.7w/kg.” If this isn’t a problem for you – it’s going to be the efforts over threshold or FTP that are affecting you. These are what I am defining as POI. So now is the time to define those points of interest. I use a Google spreadsheet for this part, which includes:

  • Start
  • Finish
  • Type & No
  • Distance (Km)
  • Elev Gain (m)
  • Avg Grade (%)
  • Elapsed Time
  • My Power (W/Kg)
  • My Avg Speed (km)
  • Other Power (W/Kg)
  • Other Avg Speed (km)


A quick note here – Bill actually chose a different path from a hunch about why riders get shelled the South Ride.


“I think what’s hurting people are the short attacks which I defined as 2 min efforts (two minutes is kind of random but it seems like the length of time it takes to string out the field).”


I don’t mind this approach – but don’t necessarily believe it applies across all bunch rides. So for me, it’s easier to just separate out the moments that are linked with a hard effort. Specifically, ones that are a little more predictable. This way you can prepare for them with more specific work. Finally, it helps eliminate anomalies in the analysis. Like if you got caught behind a split and had to fight to get back in.


While these might be part of the ride, they are hard to plan for. Stick to the known ones for now.


You could also run a comparison a match chart report on each ride file. This way you would be able to see if there are any specific durations you are burning matches at. Matches – as a reminder are what Hunter Allen and Dr Andy Coggan describe as:


“an elusive term used by riders, and coaches within the bike racing world. When you burn a match, you have done a hard effort. It’s an effort that in which you had to dig deep, or you had to really push yourself.”


Look at the placement of these matches, did you get to recover? Are you strong at this duration? Matches can also break you…but let’s collect more data to make some comparisons.


Step 2 – Strava Stalking


If you don’t finish the the bunch ride – can’t get a friend or teammates ride file to analyse. You have to turn to the greatest cycling spying database of them all. Strava. Find the ride on Strava as an activity. Identify a rider that you know finishes the ride. Look for files with real power. I was easily able to find local Dallas hero Bret Crosby’s file of the ride.


It’s actually not that easy to find out anything more than overall data and segment data. Both helpful – You can also manually find the points of interest in the map and compare the power data to your own. Put this data on the spreadsheet as well so you have a good idea of where you may be struggling to make the necessary power.


Go through and make direct comparisons to using W/Kg as the main metric. This is a little tricky as riders weights are not always publicised. They can be found though, so have a hunt around before giving up. If you can’t find the weight you will have to stick to average watts.


It’s here that you need to start looking for patterns. Like Bill noticed when he looked at his 2-minute efforts – “These efforts can top 5 w/kg and are seldom followed by a recovery period. (I almost always miss the break when guys that can put out 5 w/kg with one leg decide they have had enough with us Freds and ride away from the field.)”


Try looking (or think back) where don’t you get any rest after a hard effort? What type of effort do you struggle with – where do you get dropped?


What was your power for the 20/10/5/2 minutes leading up to that point? Keep a look out for short burst over 15 seconds. These can really wear you down. And if you don’t have the time to recover – can really affect you.


Step 3 – Map it Out


One way that could help you is listing each Point of Interest on a map that is on the bunch rides. It makes for a great visual for a pre ride psych up, but more importantly, it may help you identify trouble spots that numbers alone cannot. Bill produced a great map – he used Golden Cheetah to do his analysis – and I don’t. So I’m not sure if it automatically generates this map. But basically, it’s a map of the ride with the 2-minute intervals highlighted.


If you could go one step further and put a W/Kg figure on these sections then this would give you an idea of where the hard parts are. If there are bunched together or you have a chance to rest. How to train for this is for another time.


Bonus Steps


Print out the POIs, km’s and W/Kg needed. That way you know if you have something in the bank if you’re below the watts that will get you round with the group. Or if you are running hot and need to find some shelter before you are spat out the hoop.


My final idea is set up average lap power and hit the lap button at certain points in the ride to also know if you are riding too hard. This would help if you know how hard you went before you got dropped, so you can hold back before it counts.




Photo Credit: lincheong on Flickr



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Build fitness on a realistic schedule with this time-saving planner.

Get your free copy of The Weekly Workout Stack™

Build fitness on a realistic schedule with The Weekly Workout Stack™

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