Cyclists work to get faster, one sprint at a timeRosemount group trains every Monday on an isolated stretch of road
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
There is a steady ebb and flow to the activity that takes place Monday mornings on a rural stretch of 152nd Street. Men on bicycles ride at a furious pace down the road, then slows, turns around and rides back to where they started.
It is a small-scale imitation of the sprinting efforts put on by teams during the flatter stages of this month’s Tour de France, but instead of cheering crowds the only witnesses are rows of corn and the occasional passing motorist.
That doesn’t seem to matter, though. Every Monday morning when the roads are clear, a group of about eight cyclists gathers here. They power their bikes down the road, one rider in the front lifts the pace as far as he can, then peels off to let the man behind ratchet things up another notch. At speeds of 30 miles per hour or more they race past sets of half tennis balls that mark the finish line, then regroup and head back to the beginning to talk about the speeds they hit and how they can do better next time. Then, they do it all again. They continue like that for an hour or so — back and forth, back and forth — then go out for coffee.
Jeff Thompson started the sprint sessions three or four years ago after riding with a group of cyclists that gathers to ride every Saturday morning at Starbucks in Rosemount. The rides typically have sprint points marked along the route where riders can compete for glory within the group, and after a while people started to ask Thompson about how to improve their performance. He started the Monday sprints as a response.
“Sprinting is a part of cycling, just as riding hills or the ability to ride in a paceline. It’s just part of the sport.” said Thompson, who makes the sprint sessions part of a regular routine of training rides.
The riders who show up for the weekly rides have different reasons for doing so. A few are high-level riders who use the sessions as race preparation, but most of the men will never pin on a number in competition. For them, the short, intense efforts are a break from the long rides they normally do.
“It’s just a change of pace for us,” said Fritz Ferris, one of the group’s regulars. “We get our heart rate up pretty high.”
Dylan Knutson is one of the riders who might put his Monday morning ride into practice in an actual race. He was recently elevated to Category 1, the highest level of amateur road racing, and showed up to a recent sprint session in the jersey of a team sponsored by St. Paul bike shop Grand Performance.
“It’s good for racing and it’s good for skills, as well as just to get a perspective of what it’s like to ride a bike fast,” Knutson said.
14-year-old Rosemount resident Max Johnson, who rode with the group for the first time Monday, is a budding triathlete who competed in the Life Time Fitness triathlon over the weekend in Minneapolis.
It seems pretty clear the efforts pay off.
“It’s fun to see the speeds go up over the course of the season,” Thompson said.
There are benefits beyond just a good sweat, though. The sprint training comes into play on longer road rides when riders want to close a gap that opens up in the group, and the bike handling skills that get a workout help make those group rides safer.
And, of course, there is the entertainment factor. In between sprints the riders spend time talking about bikes, or about the Tour. Thompson said the people who show up for the rides all have a good time.
“It’s way more fun to ride with people,” rider Charlie Townsend said. “And it’s fun to ride with people you know are good riders.”
The group starts riding as soon as the weather permits and continues until snow starts to fall. Nobody seems to mind that the crowds are all in their heads. For more information, email Thompson at email@example.com.