I'm new to a ride that has been rolling through south eastern Contra Costa and Alameda Counties for many years. The original group called the route/ride the House of Pain (HOP) and is evidently (Because I am not strong enough to ride with them), frequented by racers and others much stronger than I.
All of this I am told by the group of 20 - 30 riders that frequent what is called HOP Light - a ride that starts about 30 minutes ahead of the true HOP ride but takes the identical route.
But don't be fooled, leaving around 8:45 am on Saturdays from Peets Coffee in Danville, HOP Light isn't for the slouch cyclist. Just today, after 3 weeks of practically no riding and still suffering the effects of a flu-like malady early in the week, I was barely able to hang onto the draft at the back of the group. I pulled - like a fool - out front for a few miles on and off near the beginning of the ride, but knew I was likely to suffer for it later. I did. I was unceremoniously dropped on the climb up Collier Canyon. Several others fell of the train - but I was the first to throw in the towel.
The ride is forgiving though and makes a handful of regular stops to allow any not-too-distant stragglers to regain the group.
From the top of Collier, over half way into the 50 mile combination of "out and back" and "large loop" forming on a map the image of a stout lollypop with a short stick, I was able to hang in the middle of the group. But just barely, as they could have blasted me out the back any time they wanted to.
My first 2 rounds with these guys and gals was 2 consecutive weekends over a month ago. I met many great riders and see that some of them are well respected and fairly consistent. During those first rides I found myself to be in great condition and rode strong - even up Collier Canyon - coming in 3rd at a - sort of - sprint line.
I've obviously been off the bike for too long. The 19 mph pace over the course of 50+ miles was exhausting to me this morning. No more 3 week sabbaticals.
This is a great group to ride with. They are very kind and I've learned a lot about riding in a peleton. The confined spaces at 30mph still make me jittery at times, but the communication is phenomenal and so far all the rides I've joined have been very safe.
I've made this somewhat of a default ride when nothing else is planned, and suppose I will ride with the bunch for many years to come.