The group ride is the fastest way to get my bike pace back after a long lazy winter of claiming "it's too cold" to ride.
But I have to be willing to suffer. The first 4-6 weeks are a big ego buster. Spend a lot of time getting dropped, rediscovering my riding skills, learning how to see the break coming.
Eventually everything comes together and BAM I'm back in the game.
Today was that day. Average speed for the working section of the group ride was 19.2mph. That's a big jump over the 16-17 of the past few weeks. The key was that I didn't get dropped to the back of the ride in the first 10 minutes. I tried to grab the wheel of the front pack. Held on for 5 minutes or so but got behind a rider who allowed a gap to open. I tried to pull us back but I can't hold 24mph for very long, yet, and the other riders didn't have it in them. Per usual, they let me spend my energy chasing, then drop me. This is fine. Chasing the front pack is a perfect opportunities to truly push my limits.
My strategy switched to doing a strong time trail, getting back my energy. When the second pack came by, I jumped on their wheel and held on. Even then I stayed at the back. The rubber band effect you experience at the end of the pack was built in interval training.
It's all progress.