Distance: 78mi/125km__Elevation Gain: ~6,000ft
So, they blew the whistle and off we went. I immediately took charge and went towards the front as the other gals followed. It was best that we set the tone from the gun because getting intermingled with the guys wasn't in our best interest. A few miles into the race, I attacked on a climb and got a good gap, soloing away for a few miles with no one in sight behind me. I got caught by the combined group, but then attacked again not too long after. This time, I got a gap that lasted for let's say...50km. After about ten minutes of riding solo, I thought to myself...what the heck, I might as well just go for it. The race was 125km, so I had a long ways to go with some doubt in the back of my mind. But, you never know. Besides thinking that I was nuts, I had other thoughts in my head, like well maybe they won't want to work together to pull me back in. I spent a lot of time riding solo, with nothing but me and the pace car. I had a lot of time to think. Maybe if we weren't in the middle of nowhere, or maybe if there were spectators around, or maybe......just me and the pace car.
I cross the finish line to start the second lap of the 39-mi circuit, grabbing some neutral hydration a mile or so after. Not too long after, I could sense the calm before the storm. I look back on a gradual climb, the gals hunting me down like there's no tomorrow. I settled back in with the group, getting some kudos and "atta girl" for my efforts. "You are hard to catch," made me smile, but it would've been pretty epic and sweet to have stayed away for the entire race. Anyway, at this point there were far less men than what we started with, but the few that were left, were doomed to cause some ruckus. The girls were going strong, keeping the pace high, my legs not looking to have any juice left to go for another attack. I thought about it, but my body did not want to initiate. Well, maybe if my life depended on it.
I'm climbing out of my saddle, nice and relaxed, and a dude in a red jersey rides into my right side. "What the hell, watch it," I said. Hey, sometimes people need some tough love. I'm watching this guy, in the red jersey, ride in and around the group like a friggin' squirrel, thinking I need to avoid him at all cost. Fast forward to about 3km to go, obviously everyone is getting anxious now because the race is almost over. I had a weird feeling about the finishing km's so I went near the front with the other gals, keeping the guys behind me. Whew, that was a good idea because as soon as I did that, I heard a huge crash behind me. Carbon, flesh, and pavement...ouch. It did not sound good at all, as I was almost tempted to stop to see if everyone was okay because as I looked around to see who was all left, my friend Fabienne (and Liberty Classic teammate) wasn't in sight. I kept shaking my head in disappointment because I just knew sh*t was going to break loose.
With 500 meters to go, I got on a wheel and jumped with 300 to go...a smidgen sooner than I wanted to, getting nipped at the line. Despite the loss, I felt like a winner. The guys in the pace car and the other gals were congratulating me, impressed by my gutsy move only to still finish strong; hearing the words, "I like the way you race," made the loss OK.
I asked around to see what really happened behind me in the finishing kilometers; when I heard Fabienne went down but was okay, I was relieved. I should've warned her to stay away from the red jersey...it was a shame because to work and train hard, crashing out of a road race with not much left to go is a racer's worst "what if" reality. Anyway, as I traveled back to PA, I checked in to see if Fabienne was okay, then continued to reminisce about the race. I always say to myself, I'd rather lose trying than not try at all.