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My bike buddy was/is having problems starting/stopping. He likes to put his left foot down and always ends up with his right foot at the top of the stroke, awkward!!!! I'll use his preference in a description.
Practice coasting and rotating your cranks backwards at a medium pace, smoothly. Then practice stopping by, stopping pedaling at any point in rotation, rotate pedals backwards to get your right foot at the lowest part of the stroke, unclip your left foot (which is at the top of the stroke), then you can push up on your right foot toe to get your butt off the seat and your left foot on the ground. Done!
Practice!
 

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What we do on group rides, is divide the groups up to A,B, C levels, and leave in order about 1 min apart. That way everyone has a small group of partners to ride with. And it is very difficult to stay with the A's unless you really, really, want to go hard, and some days it just isn't there.
It looks pretty flat there, if you had hills the group separation would naturally happen. Without hills, everyone trys to hang on to the A's, that's what I do anyway. On a hilly ride I end up as you alone between the A's & B's.
 
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