Natalie and Chris, in the distance, chasing Darcy before the flowy descent
Of course, as soon as the straightaway section came, everyone except one woman passed me, so I was now in tenth place. I could feel eleventh place directly behind me, but I knew I needed to focus on clearing the next sector cleanly. I readied myself for a fast, fllowy descent that included a grade reversal in the middle that had sent a man to the hospital with a broken collarbone in an earlier race. This was directly followed by weaving through fast corners and over a set of barriers set on flat ground in the middle of a grassy field. After winding and jumping my way through, I heard a woman named Zoe closing in on me fast from the 3 / 4 category, which had started 30-60 seconds after the 1/2/3 Women. I flew down the steepest descent of the whole course, which was simply mowed kudzu, and barely saw Zoe passing as she zoomed by me. Darcy and Chris were also in the 3 / 4 race, so I knew I needed to start paying attention.
The ascent out of the lowest field proved to be my downfall through each lap of the competition. It was a near vertical run-up, about twenty feet long, that racers came to after riding in thick grass on false flat ground, thus, there was no way to get a running start at it. After it leveled out enough to allow riders just enough time to jump back on their bikes, the course continued uphill at a less steep, but no less painful, gradient. It wandered along a hillside utilizing off-camber sections, abrupt five foot punches, and mulch so deep it effectively became a thirty foot long sand pit. This segment ended in a downhill that led to the final precipitous hill climb, which was rideable thanks to the speed accumulated beforehand. Finally, the race meandered steadily, but comfortably, uphill until it reached the pavement leading to the finish line.
At that moment in the course, Darcy caught and passed me. Because we were on pavement and she was cooking it, I jumped on her wheel and let her pull me to the first turn. I was able to stay right with her until the lowest field, where she did the run up as though she was part mountain goat. I did not. Darcy quickly left me in her dust, followed immediately by Chris doing the same as soon as I jumped back on my bike at the top of the run-up. I was already gassed, so I just focused on turning the pedals and didn’t worry about damage control.