I had the pleasure of riding the Bethel cycle fest in Connecticut this past weekend which is a tour with distances of 23, 54, 84 and 105 miles and for good measure a strava team challenge on the 105 mile route. Even though it's technically not a race, at times you’re sucked into the competitive nature and become part of it. And as a perk there's always Strava segments sprinkled throughout. I guess that's why I love doing these things. Another thing that makes these tours interesting is at various times your riding with perfect strangers at all different skill levels, much of the time in a pack or pace line. You have the recreational riders with just finishing being the goal (which is fantastic and everyone's very supportive) then A and B groups of riders mixing it up as well as the Tri folks on TT bikes with their own style. The Triathletes generally don't mix it up with pace lines due to the safety factor of tri bars and pace lines which is understandable.
What I also find fascinating it's only on these tours that you can study the different riding styles while being part of the action. It's a really unique sensation when you find yourself in a group pace line and no one really knows the level or experience of everyone else around them when inches apart at 26 miles an hour. You don't get that with your familiar friends on a group ride. It's amazing how fast your mind will analyze everyone around you. You stay pretty frosty to say the least. I have to say most everyone was focused and rode hard and careful. A really good crowd.
I find the Triathletes have very similar styles whether on a TT bike or road bike. In one of the pace lines I was a part of there were 1 or 2 Triathletes mixed in on road bikes and their style is always the same "steady". They've properly trained themselves not to go anaerobic if at all possible, stay just below lactate threshold, keep a good fast solid pace, don't sprint and conserve energy. Their all very disciplined and very good riders. Your general roadies are more explosive; love going anaerobic and love to sprint. Hmmm, sounds familiar. You even meet an occasional mountain biker who is using the long tour to really stimulate their cardio system and put long miles on a mountain bike to condition themselves for an upcoming mountain bike race. If you've never ridden a mountain bike on a road for a long distance at speed it's a workout.
It's not often on my road bike when I can ride one on one with a full-fledged TT bike and get that direct comparison. Fortunately, I had that opportunity when I came upon a Triathlete from NY on a Specialized TT bike. On the climbs I caught him almost too easy, again triathletes ride steady with very little explosiveness and TT bikes don't climb well at all. Once over the crest on the flats he just pulled away almost too easy with that aerodynamic advantage. This went on for 4 or 5 climbs and then flat sections; it was almost funny at times but really showed firsthand the differences on specific bike types.
All in all whatever anyone's goal was every one rode hard and were really cranking out those endorphins.