Motorpacing Behind the TGV

If you’ve followed cycling for any time at all, you’ve likely heard the term motorpacing.  The concept is that you can approximate a race pace (or faster than race pace) for a longer duration by drafting off of a motorized vehicle (like a scooter, motorcycle or car)

Motorpacing scene from the movie “Breaking Away”. Source: YouTube

It’s a pretty cool concept that I first learned about way back in the day when I first watched the movie Breaking Away.  The main character in the movie is obsessed with cycling (ultimately leading a team of local kids in Indiana University’s Little 500 bike race).  There’s one scene where he motorpaces off of a semi-truck, reaching speeds in excess of 50mph.

I’ve never “officially” motorpaced.  Meaning, I’ve never had someone go out and lead me through a workout.  I think most of us, though, have at one point or another in our lives jumped on the bumper of a car or city bus and enjoyed the benefits of a huge slipstream.

Well, last night during my ride, I caught on the tail end of a train.  Not just any train – it was a train à grande vitesse (a bullet train).

You may be thinking, what the heck was he doing riding on a train track? 

Let me backtrack (HA – nice pun there….backTRACK) and tell the full story.

We’ve had just awful weather here in Northeast Florida this week.  Tropical Storm Debby decided to pay an extended visit, depositing more than 20 inches of rain in three days.  This has led to some major flooding issues in part of our city, which is clearly not a good thing.  And, all this rain made it impossible to train outside.  Yesterday, the weather broke, the sun came out, and the pavement dried.

So I decided to get in some good bike training.

I was out about 12 miles or so, and cruising along happily at 20mph.  I got stopped by a light, and as I sat there, a group of 8 or 9 cyclists rolled up.  They were headed my direction, so I asked if I could hop on with them (always a good idea – I think it’s impolite to just assume you can suck a group’s wheel…and lots of cyclists don’t like triathletes anyway).  They agreed, the light changed and off we went.

This group took off as if they were shot out of a cannon.

Sixty seconds later, we were cruising at 28mph.  There were some pick-ups where we hit 32mph.  The slowest my Garmin had us at was 26mph.  It was as if I was motorpacing behind a train!

These guys (and one gal) were WAY above my pay grade in terms of talent.  I had no business riding with them….but WHAT A BLAST!

I rode with this group for only five miles or so – but it was the fastest five miles I’ve covered in a long, long time.  Finally, they hit a turn-around, and I kept going straight.  I thanked the conductor….er….group and got hunkered down in aero for the 20 miles I had left on the ride, knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing that kind of speed again.

But what a ride it was!

One thought on “Motorpacing Behind the TGV

  1. Fun! I love when you can reap the benefits of stronger riders and they are cool enough to let you enjoy it as well. I’ve only “motorpaced” a couple of times. I was riding through a small NY hamlet thinking, “damn, I am super fast behind this truck heading west through here,” only to find out it was an illusion once it turned and I was faced with a badass westerly wind.

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