Rolling into the sprint spot, I weave Cynthia through the pack and plant her on Gretchen Stumphofer's wheel (riding for Amy D. Foundation). With TIBCO charging at the front and me leading out Cynthia without rolling all of my marbles (knowing the first QOM hill is just up ahead), Cynthia busts out a 3rd place in the sprint!
Now for the first QOM. steady, steady, steady, steady hard, steady hard, steady harder, steady harder, really hard, find wheels, find more wheels, get to the top. Descend descend descend, rotate, rotate, rotate, weave, weave, weave. I make it to the top with Gretchen, Miriam Brouwer from The Cyclery Opus, and Katherine Oullettee (Kath) from Rally Cycling. We descend for the next 20km trading pulls. As we approach the bottom of the descent a group of 10+ girls attach themselves to our group. I rail a sharp corner on the bottom of the climb and catapult myself up to the lead group from the pack with a respectable 5-10 seconds separation, only to find the leaders are sitting up :/. The group is now back together. Another 10km go by and we stop for a collective wiz.
We approach the 2nd QOM, the pack obliterates in a single line of riders to the top and I am with the leaders. Just past the crest is a sharp left and the beginning of THE DIRT/GRAVEL! A short 100m section of packed dirt followed by pavement followed by a 1-2km section of packed dirt/gravel. Alizee Brien from TIBCO attacks on the gravel and I follow. We drop more than half of our group and now create a separation with ~10 riders working together down the descent to maintain our separation.
Several riders from various teams are represented. Attacks are thrown out and brought back. Eyes all on each other, attempting to relax and also ready to pounce. The 3rd QOM approaches and this one is steep and then long and then steep. The climbers roll away with grace while myself and a few other riders hold on to each other to make it the rest of the way. Gretchen, Kath and I make it up to the QOM together and descend down to the base of App Gap, the final climb. Relax, spin, smooth, shoulders, core, head, breath, relax, push. I notice Kath has some kind of monster cassette which allows her to spin at like 100rpm on a 10% grade while I chug away at a stiff 65-70rpm at the same speed. Envious I am. Legs burn, grade steapens, legs dark grey not quite black feeling, grade steapens, breath heavy. In light of the pain and focus on the top, I allow myself a few brief acknowledgements of how shady, dry, and temperate this climb is. Thank you, Vermont.
An Amy D. Rider is just 100m ahead while I am at the 200m mark. I need to catch her. I begin paperboying (weaving back and forth to gain momentum and cadence) and pass her with 50m left, roll to the top in 7th. A volunteer stands at the top pushing all of the crippled riders over the very top to prevent a traffic jam of shriveled up cramping stage racers.