The course is good, but there is one mean and nasty hill. It comes in the last section of the loop before returning to the start/finish. I was pretty sure my time with the pack would end at that hill, and I would ride the rest of the race on my own (or with any other poor hill climbers like me--hopefully).
We had just 11 gals in our race. OOA (my team) had the most gals, with three of us-Jean, Debbie, and I. Sadly, Maria was not able to race today.
We took off at a reasonable pace. Down the first hill and into a curve we were braking more than I like, but, I know the road, and I know how fast I can take that corner--the other non-OOA gals don't. Up the hill into Corner 1, then down the steep hill and through the rollers (that mostly go up) to Corner 2, I was doing fine. After Corner 2, I made a somewhat critical error in going to the front and staying there until the next hill. I wasn't warmed up enough yet, so when we got to the big hill, I had burned up a lot of energy. Consequently, I got dropped off the back going up the big hill (it's the hill that keeps on giving--it goes up, then turns and continues climbing--that's the hard part). As I made the turn and had to continue climbing, Donkey had definately taken up residence in my lungs! I was working like mad just to suck in enough air!
As I was wheezing my way up the hill, I thought to myself, "Yep, just what I thought would happen--dropped the first time up the big hill!". BUT, I managed to catch back up to the pack (down to 8 now) once the road leveled out and then started going down. It was then that I had the great idea of NOT going off the front! My, how much easier it was sitting in the pack! I also think I was much more warmed up (especially my lungs). When it came time to go up the big hill again, I was actually one of the first ones up! A few passed me on the last part, but I was able to stay in the middle of the pack.
Third time up the big hill I was again in the lead. This time I managed to stay in the lead coming into the beginning of lap 4.
Just after the beginning of lap 4. I'm creating quite a wall of protection for those little things behind me!
I stayed on the front down into the first curve coming down the hill. I was finally able to take the curve as fast as I wanted. However, as usual, they passed me on the uphill into Corner 1. That was okay, though, because I didn't want to stay on the front too long (learning my lesson from Lap 1).
Things were going okay until the last part of the 4th time up the big hill. I was near the front again (it's because there is a nice downhill coming into the hill and, as we all know, weight always wins on the downhill!). Once we made the turn, they all passed me, and I just couldn't catch them. Oh, I tried! I hammered down the hills (but so did they). I pushed my legs as hard as they would go up the hills (yep, they did too). On the back side of the course, I finally got passed by the Follow-Car. The driver, a fellow teammate, told me after the race that he really thought I would catch back on. The thing is, even if I had managed to get back, I would have been dropped the final time up the big hill, because I would have used so much energy just trying to catch back on.
Overall, I did much better than I thought I would. I managed to hang in with the pack for most of the race! My average speed was 20.3 (after cooling down and riding back to the parking lot)--pretty peppy!