This was my third criterium, the first two having been a month ago at the Spring Super in South Beloit. The course was beautiful and I had fun.
When it came time to line up I was surprised to find myself on the starting line next to the gal at Hillsboro who came dangerously up the shoulder after a moto judge sent her to the back for violating the center line rule. I got a little nervous right off, because although she passed Julie and I without incident, when she bumped handlebars and shoulders with the gal in front of me, that gal wobbled and braked, which caused a cascading mess backward that probably resulted in Julie's crash. At the whistle or bell or whatever it was at the start (I don't remember) I wanted to get away from her, which apparently I did for I went off the line first and made a comment about leisurely pedaling at the front after we'd rounded the first corner, even. Some other gals passed me then, for which I was grateful, for I wanted to actually race bikes.
Oh the back side of the first lap I found the gals in front of me giving up ground to riders streaming past on both sides though, and then I was in the back. I had a while to wonder/worry about this and then we were going up the hill. On the hill I realized the line I was in was the slow lane and I went around and tried to bridge and found myself straggling. I straggled for basically an entire lap (I remember Art yelling "Bridge that gap!" from his post just prior to the hill and I wanted to telecommunicate with him that I was trying but I'd been trying for a while).
I wasn't alone back there though. Based on the results I saw later there were around 14 ladies in the front group, and then around 8 in my group. On the third lap I again thought we could close the gap in the same spot between the bridge and Art. I went to the front and let everyone know we were going to try for it, and that I could get us at least halfway there. I stood up and gave a good try but when I turned around to ask for a little help I discovered nobody was behind me. If I had been just a little fitter I'd've had it and would have (sadly) just left them back there. Guiltily, I might add, for sitting behind their wheels for half a lap had given me the rest needed for such a move, but I was just not quite there.
Our group apparently paced just a bit behind the front group for several laps. I lost track of where the main group was but if I were to guess we stayed about a third of a lap behind them for much of the rest of the race, but by the end were a half-lap behind. I make this guess based on the fact we did all of the laps, and I also heard the announcer almost apologetically explaining one time when we came through that the Cat 3s really up the pace for us 4s and that it seemed like we'd split ourselves into two races. I don't know if that happened but it makes sense.
They announced a prime for our group - a water bottle - and when we approached a gal who'd fallen off the main group on the back side I joked that she'd better not get our water bottle. Someone suggested it should be mine but I've never really tried much sprinting so I pointed to the Alberto girl, who had rabbited up that hill past all of us from the back every single time, and told them it would probably end up being hers.
But then this strange thing happened. Climbing the hill I realized that I had consistently been gaining ground on every other gal in our group except the Alberto gal, on the hill, and when I found myself there again, with her in front and nobody challenging her for the prime, I do not know what got into me. I don't even remember what else I was thinking from that moment right up until the announcer started letting her know I was coming up behind (and those thoughts were "Shut up! Now she knows I'm gaining on her!"). The strangest part was that I almost got it. I do not know where I got that energy. I didn't really pedal again until I was halfway through the next straight-away, so I must have gotten up at least a little speed.
Before the race I'd pinned a number for this super-nice gal Sarah from Peoria Bicycle Club and while I was recovering from my ridiculous attempt at a sprint she mentioned that she felt bad I hadn't gotten it becuase I'd pulled them so much. I wasn't really aware of doing too much work or anything (after I gave up on catching the front group I was kind of satisfied to just ride bikes), but that's something, anyway. I am not altogether sure the results table I saw was right, for it seemed to indicate I was 17/34. I was checking it during the aftermath of the Men's 3/4 crash though, so maybe I read it wrong. If that's right I guess I'm getting a little better at this, anyway.
Oh, at one point on the the front side of the course someone asked me if I would pull for a bit, and I did. I got us going pretty fast, and having heard that you could basically pedal through all the corners I tried to pedal through well, a corner. My pedal hit the pavement with a rather loud sound, but I held it together and kept pedaling. The gals behind me said something and I thought it was a complaint, so I apologized and said I'd never done that before, but that I would try to be careful and make sure it didn't happen again. They caught me and it turns out they were just marveling that I didn't go down. I need to file the sharp spot on my pedal down now, but other than that everything was OK.