I had the first pull out of Walmart. We knew there were a couple teams behind us - T402 was a 4 man team from Germany and T800 was an 8 person team. We didn't know exactly how far behind they were, but it wasn't much. I left the time station feeling pretty good - I ws going to take the first two climbs while Steve was shuttled ahead for an exchange.
Steve met me at the top of the second climb. I felt a little cheated that I didn't get the descent, but oh well. Ron and Kevin drove me over the third climb, then around a left turn to head up the 4th climb of the section. We were going to drive about halfway up and meet Steve there. We headed all the way to the top to check out the turn at the top, and then came back down.
As we got ready to set up for our exchange, we got a call from Steve's van. They had missed the turn at the base of the climb and were heading back to get back on course. They requested that we drive further back down the climb to set up an earlier exchange as Steve was pretty fried from the bonus miles.
We saw Steve coming up the climb - T402 and T800 were climbing together with Steve about 50 yards behind them. As I knew where the next turn was, my goal was to just stay with the other teams and then take the lead on the descent. I exchanged with Steve, and kicked it up to threshold power, knowing that I could maintain it for 5-6 minutes to the top without frying myself. I stayed right behind the other teams, not losing any time, and hit the throttle as we began the descent after the turn. I quickly rocketed past them, but missed the light a mile down the road...aargh!
The light changed and the racers came by me...I throttled it again. It couldn't catch them. A mile or so later, they had missed the light, so I caught them and then passed them as I made the right turn. In retrospect, I should have stopped behind them and waited...they had outrun their support vehicle and were poised to go straight thru the intersection. The only reason they knew to turn right was they watched me (I was on Gps and had my support vehicle right behind me). Otherwise they would have gone off course and we could have taken back a nice lead.
I made the turn and they gave chase, cutting off my support vehicle. Not wanting to get away from Ron and Kevin, I feathered the brakes while still pulling away from the competition, trying to leave enough room for my van to pull in behind me (I could see lights behind me, but didn't know which vehicle belonged to me). They finally got behind me and I let the hammer drop to open up my lead.
We exchanged at the next control and Steve rode easily over the first, short climb. This next section to Hanover, PA, had four longer climbs. We broke them down into sections and started moving ahead to stage.
Note, while very competitive, everyone is quite friendly. We would say "hi" to crew and racers as we all leapfrogged each other on the course. As we approached the top of the first climb, T800 rode past us and eventually passed Steve. Try as we might, on these steep climbs we just couldn't keep up. Steve bombed down the first descent but T402 caught us halfway up the second climb.
We continued climbing, hoping to keep their lead as short as possible. I knew that after this stage, the terrain would become very recumbent friendly (except for a couple short climbs). We worked our way up and down the climbs...man these were hard. How could any solo racer get to these climbs 2800 miles into the race and still be motivated to continue?
We arrived in Hanover about 20 minutes behind. While we had lost some ground, I was confident we could make it up in the remaining miles to come.