So I might have crossed the line in 76th place (of 144 starters), just over 8 minutes back, but I finished! I had 3 goals going into the race:
1) Stay with the front group for 4 laps (half of the race for a total of 60km), and
2) If I did get dropped to ride in within the 5% time cut as to get a finish and to ride it in with a group.
I succeeded on both accounts! The first 4 laps of the race were relatively tame and the field stayed in tact. The course had one hill in it similar to the hill in the tour de Delta, but a little bit longer and a bit steeper (for those of you in the bike game), and another gradual hill used for the feed zone. All in all, it was apparent that a sprinter could win on the course (as Ina Teutenburg showed quite aptly), but with the right tactics, the hill is hard enough that it would be possible to drop the pure sprinters. So yeah, the first 4 times up the hill were more relaxed - not to say that it was easy - but I chugged overtop of the hill in the middle of the bunch. Watching Ina was a little like a clinic on sag-climbing (where you start the hill at the front and let yourself lose ground over the climb as it allows you to take the hill easier) and it was interesting to see that one of the other T-Mobile girls was always a little farther behind - presumably to be there to bring it back if there was a split that Ina didn't make. On the 5th lap, the heavy hitters in the race decided it was time to turn up the heat. The field was strung out through the feed zone. Of course this was the lap that I was convinced that I needed a feed - and in doing so, I hit the bottom of the climb farther back that I had on the previous attempts. Consequently, as I crested the hill, I was in a group that had been somewhat detached from the front 50 or so riders. This made the jaunt over the cresh and onto the next bit of false flats absolutely lovely and not at all unbearable...luckily, we caught up in not to long. But I did say that it was on, and the next lap over the hill I was gapped again, and this time it had nothing to do with my positioning! Having said that, when I got to the top, I saw I was in good company and felt pretty horrible trying to hold the wheel in front of me. I looked up and understood why that was when I saw that it was Tina Mayolo-Pic trying to bring us back. This time we weren't as lucky as the front group kept pushing and it took us most of the rest of the lap to catch back on (probably 6 or 7 km). We had made contact through the start/finish and I realized that I had made a fairly decisive split - as I was moving through with the top half of the field...unfortunately, the little legs died out not long after and I found myself all alone on the race course. Strong winds and the fact that I had already done 90km made it a bit of a slow go, but luckily I was caught by another group not long after. I road it in with this group (perhaps known as the groupetto as the girls were rather adament that we take the hill chilled out - which I was fine with). I kept rotating through the front of the group though, as I was determined to get a real finish! In the closing kms the speed picked up in the group and I know it's lame, but I figured that I might as well stay at the front, seeings as I had been up in the top 15-20 of the group since I joined it (I wasn't to find out just how many girls were actually in my group until I looked at the results!) A few girls actually sprinted to the line, I tried just to rev it up so not too many girls passed me, but at the same time, I knew that it was in bad form to actually sprint (this may sound a little silly to those who don't bike race, but really, we're not in the race anymore!) So I'm quite stoked with the result - first of many World Cup finishes I'm sure, but this is a step that I needed to take. I'm off to New Zealand this afternoon and hopefully there will be more learning and exciting racing to come!