You either like 'em or hate 'em. I think I fall in between, I like AND hate 'em. You have to choose your group rides wisely though. Sometimes group rides means riding at 16 mph all day, no attacks, with the purpose of having fun. On the other end, a group ride could mean riding at 25 mph, with intervals (or speed sign sprints) over 30+ mph, and the purpose is to drop as many riders as possible. Both are great an both serve a well needed purpose. However, you have to be conscious knowing what you are getting into when showing up for "group" ride.
I will only show up for a group ride when I need to work on speed drills or need to get a very hard (race simulation) workout in, something that is difficult to do on your own unless your are highly motivated and have access to motor pacing.
There's been much talk in town lately about Bend's Tuesday night "hammerfest" ride, which if you don't know is roughly a 30 mile loop with a mixture of some rollers and 1 somewhat climb. This ride can at times be much faster than most road races (at least on a consistent basis) and depending on who shows up. The big controversy lately though has been the debate to ban riders from using TT bikes during the ride. There a re a few who complain that the TT'ers have an advantage and ride too fast. Are you serious? I did mention the rides name is "hammerfest" right? Again, this goes back to my first point about choosing your group ride wisely. If the ride is too fast, choose another group ride. For those that can lay down the hammer, why should they have to slow down to accommodate slower riders. It's not like you are out in the middle of nowhere and if you get dropped will have a hard time finding your way home. I won;t spend to much time on this subject because it is ridiculous that I even had to bring it up. The Tucson, AZ "shootout" ride was my first introduction to a hammerfest-type ride, and you pretty much had to ride at your limit the entire ride...that's how it should be.
Chris Horner (Team RadioShack) was in town this week and decided to show up for the group. What began as a pretty mellow ride turned ugly just before the climb up Horse Ridge. With the group rolling along at 26 mph, one of the front riders veered to miss rolling through some gravel and took down 5 other riders with him. Luckily there were no major injuries; just some pretty bad road rash and a few flat tires. The scary part, however, was the number of riders that swerved into the lane of traffic out of instinct. Fortunately there were no cars/trucks coming from behind.
After 10 minutes of gathering bikes/bodies and trucks honking as they pass, the group rolled up Horse Ridge. The top of the climb is usually the turnaround point, but today myself and a few other including Horner decided to roll-on towards Millican and do the longer loop around Alfalfa. It was great to talk with Chris and get his thoughts about riding/racing in Europe and what his favorite races were. He mentioned that Leige Bastogne Leige race as his favorite. The most interesting thing I learned was that during one of the Tour of California stages, he said that he averaged 309 watts during a 4.5 hour race...ouch!
Group rides can be fun, although you have to be prepared for just about anything. Whichever one you choose to participate in, the goal should always be to ride safe.