I did this race last year, and I liked the course enough that I signed up for it again this year. I ended up signing up for the B race, after much internal debate, mostly because I was convinced my bike fitness was pretty abysmal, and also because if I had done the later race I probably would also have done some orienteering that morning, and my knee hurt. Because I wasn't quite as good about time management as I would have liked, I ended up in Bedford with 45 minutes until race time, and the registration line was out the door. I decided that since I'd pre-registered, I could probably bust through the line and get through it pretty quick just before the race, and I wanted to pre-ride the course, that was more important than getting my number pinned. I was glad I prerode, because there were a couple changes from last year, all for the better, but all worth seeing beforehand. Ended up getting my number with minutes to spare, and given that I'd gotten two laps in, I was almost warmed up!
I lined up 3rd row, and then they pulled out the 45+ women to start a minute ahead, so I squeezed into the second row. I probably could have begged my way into the front but it didn't seem necessary. It would be preposterous to assume I am a bike racer these days, so I decided to start comfortably and see what happened. Off we went and it was a bit of a cluster, but I quickly found myself in the top 5-6 girls as we headed down the hill after the finish. Made a couple passes, and then almost ran over one of the 45+ women, who we were passing as we approached the giant bush you have to ride around. It appeared that she rode into a post, bounced off and onto her back right in front of the field. Luckily she quickly pulled into a fetal position and nobody hit her, but that was close, and probably terrifying for her. I love that they have a masters category, but I don't think they should have started first.
I ran up the run-up after the barriers in the first lap, anticipating the traffic, and going through the chicane by the pit I saw I was in 5th. This was comfortable, and first wasn't moving away too fast, so I hung out there for most of the rest of the lap. Coming into the sand, I dismounted early and ran past two girls who were bogging down, and then into the second lap Libby came by just after the chicane at the bottom of the field. I let her pull me up to the girl in front, Emily Curley, and Libby went right on by her, so I followed. Just after the ride-up though, Libby bobbled and managed to get her bike sideways, so we both dismounted and Emily got by. Her dad (I assume) was cheering for her, telling her now she had a real race on her hands, but it wasn't that hard to pass her in the sand.
Now I was just trying to stay out front without having her catch me - I stuck it in the big ring and spun those cranks as hard as I could on the pavement, a couple times I thought she was right on my wheel, but it turns out that wheezing was coming from me, not a competitor. Coming through the finish I saw 2 to go, and I thought I could hold her off, but she closed the gap on the straightaways before the barriers. I just made sure to get in front before the turns, but we were playing cat and mouse through the rest of the course. At this point I realized that the race was mine to lose, with no challenge coming from behind, so I backed off just enough that my heavy breathing wouldn't scare anyone. I had a decent gap after the ride-up, but then on the second set of tight turns I took one too aggressively and went down on my hip. By the time I was up, Emily was close, and she closed the gap on the pavement. I pulled ahead around the sandy corner, but she quickly came by on the pavement, so I hopped on her wheel. I was feeling good, so I just made sure I was tight on her wheel coming up the hill to the finish, and when she stood up to sprint without changing gears, I just changed from pedaling squares to pedaling circles, and went on by.
That was a fun race, and I was pleasantly surprised with my bike fitness. I was definitely feeling a bit trashed afterward, though, probably mostly as a byproduct of Saturday's adventures and the throbbing in my knee. But they had good prizes, and I was super psyched to see so many women racing in the B field! Time for most of us to move up and create a midpack in the elites...