Another beautiful day, but with the time change we lost an hour of sleep (I'll try not to fall asleep as I write this). Jean picked me up at 7:00, and we headed out to Mason Lake. Even though this is the course that we had the major crash last year, the circumstances were different this year (dry roads, less people, no mentors), so I wasn't overly nervous.
There were 22 of us starting. Eleven were Group Health gals! There were three Starbucks, two Hagens-Berman, us two OOAs, and the rest singles (only one Bike Sale gal). The total newbies (first race) were all from Group Health (about four of them).
We rolled it pretty easy up the first long hill. I was at the back. I had thought that maybe I would try and push the pace, so I went up to the front. When will I ever learn? No one would go around me for the longest time. I was even serpentining across the road. Nope, they all just followed me! I thought, briefly, to make a game out of it...get them all zig zagging back and forth...but I didn't.
Finally, a few went by fast enough to create a small gap where I could hook on to the last wheel. But, when we went around the second corner (which goes into a good downhill), the gals on the front bolted down the hill. I caught up to Jean's wheel, but she had also been dropped--along with another bunch of us. As we came around the curve at the bottom of the hill, I took over so Jean could draft off me. (That's the beginning of the rollers.) I heard Jean say, something like, "Ack!" I thought she was just just having trouble catching her breath. Turns out, her front tire was going flat. Unfortunately, by the time she figured out what was happening, the follow car (carrying her extra set of wheels) had just gone around her. In the meantime, I was trying my hardest to catch back up to the group.
As I was pedaling, apparently, there were three Group Health gals drafting behind me. I thought I was alone. Finally, they came around, and I caught on to their wheel. It was better, but I was definately gassed out. Then they started doing a rotating pace line which, in theory, is a good idea. I, however, was still not recovered, and there weren't enough of us to give me any recovery time when I wasn't pulling. After about four cycles, I couldn't do it anymore. I told them to go ahead. At this point, we could still see the group, and the follow-car. I figured I was done for, and would be riding the rest by myself.
As I was coming back to the start, finishing the first lap, I saw the follow-car pull over, and they were getting something. I took that opportunity to get back "in" the race. Since I was alone, I was able to take the first corner pretty fast. That allowed me to catch up to the group. Whew, now I could really rest going up the hill! I know, sounds weird, but once I was back in the draft, and they weren't going super fast up the hill, I was really able to rest and recover.
I noticed, as we were riding up the hill, that there was a guy riding with us. I thought, "Oh, he's been dropped, and we're passing him." Strangely, he stayed with us. He was definately drafting behind the last gal. We were in a double paceline. I ended up riding next to him. Finally, since he did not seem to be backing off, I said to him, "So...it's a bunch of Cat 4 gals...and one dude?" He said he was a rookie, and this was his very first race. Being pretty sure that what he was doing was illegal, I said to him, "Well, you are no longer racing. Us women are racing. You need to stay out of the way!" Still, he continued to stay with us! Everytime I would look back, he'd be right there! Our follow-car was still behind us. I don't know why they didn't tell him to get out of our race!
I continued to recover, staying on the wheel of the person in front of me. Again, we came around the second corner, and they shot off. As I passed the one Bike Sale gal, I said, "Come on! We can catch them, right?" Well, not so much. The group took off, and left about 6 of us. Pretty soon, it was evident that we weren't going to be able to catch them. So, we had our own little race. One of the gals had a loose bottle cage. One bolt was gone, and the other one was loose. The bottle cage kept rattling around, and she would hit it with her calves as she was pedaling. She really should have stopped and taken it off, or ridden behind. I was very worried it was going to catch and make her crash, but, she kept going. At about 500 m, the cage broke off. Fortunately, it went where there wasn't anyone riding. If it had caught in someone's spokes, they would have crashed badly.
At some point before the 1 km, I was back on the front. It wasn't too terrible, as I had had several miles to recover. Also, since there is some really good downhill, I didn't have to brake, because I wasn't behind anyone. As we approached the 200 m (which is really more like 300 m), I was still on the front. Then, with about 150 m to go, most of the group came sprinting by me. I sprinted enough to not come in last of our group, but my legs were done.
I rode back to the car. It was there that I found out the group I had caught back on to, was not the lead group. I kind of suspected so, because I couldn't see the lead-car. So, which one of the 11 Group Health gals won? None of them. Sheila, from Hagens-Berman, won...by a lot. Of course, GH took 2nd, then 4th through 8th. Lindsay, from Starbucks took 3rd. Me? I waltzed in at 14th. Seemingly, better than yesterday, but not really, because there weren't as many racers today. As for Jean, she had gotten some CO2 from a kind stranger. It allowed her to finish (but the tire was flat again by the time she crossed the finish line), and she wasn't even last!