Just a simple 6.4 mile route carved out of rural hilly roads with a parking lot plopped down on a small slice of field.  Ronit and I were surrounded by many other team colors but ours.  Not a big deal, but a rarity.  Nobody seemed any too eager to mingle.  To mention, though, it was a junior heavy race, so most of the crowd were parents focused on the kids.  After two junior classes were released, the Cat 4 ladies gathered.  It was there we found out:  neutral rollout but we had to ride “the wall” (18% grade hill) to start atop.  From there on out, the 6-8% grade hills would put a continual burn in the thighs, with a brief stretch of down (top speed 35 mph…wee!).

Lap 1:  all too common, I quickly was on the back end of the gap. Ronit’s chain had dropped on the rollout hill, so we were separated immediately.  There was one other rider that was close enough to work with, but dropped 2 miles in.  Alone … again.  Lap 2:  more wind, more hills, more burn.  I passed some juniors with immense potential.  I got swallowed up by two lead juniors, totally amazed by the strength in their young, developing legs.  Lap 3: It’s Gu time!  Lap 4: ride hard, save something for "the wall”.  I kept wishing I had one more gear, but then I wondered if anyone would be sick enough to ride a single speed.  Up and over, sprint … done.

I checked on Ronit's status.  The officials said she did ride and “finished”, but on lap 3.  Come to find out, when she finally returned back to the car, the judges had urged her to finish with the lead ladies, but she wasn’t done with that course, so she willfully pushed on to complete the 26 mile ride.  Impressive.  An added shout out to Ronit in her first, cruelly brutal road race!

We might not have come anywhere near placing, nor rode the prettiest bikes, but we both “rode with heart” and added a chapter (or more) to our racing knowledge ….

 -Jen Groen