It wasn't my best race for a number of reasons. I finished 79th out of 90 finishers. However, I learn more every time I race, so I'm not too broken up about it. I actually had a really good time. Near the end of the last lap, some guy came up on my rear wheel and started yelling at me to regain contact with the dude in front. So I did. Before that happened, I thought I was going as hard as I could without standing and sprinting (and blowing myself out.) But with him shouting at me, I was able to dig a little deeper, spin a little harder, and get back on that rear wheel. At the time I thought, "He just wants me to pull him into position to take me and the three guys in front. But you know... I don't care." And while I'm not sure who it was behind me and I don't know if he actually did pass us all or not, I raced a little better because of him.
Earlier in the race, something very similar happened to me. I think I passed him first, but I'm not sure... If my memory of the race numbers isn't mixed up, which is possible, it was the guy wearing '451.' Anyway, after I passed him and rode for a while, he passed me. I yelled at him, "Are you going to be my race today?" He yelled back something that came down to "Yes, and I'm sure we'll both go faster." So we battled it out for a while, and then I lost track of him. In looking at the results, he actually finished one second after I did. If my memory serves, which, again, is questionable, my chain dropped some time after that interaction, so I must have dropped him and lost contact for a while. I think it was on an ascent that I had more legs for, but, again, it was the middle of a race - I'm not really sure what happened. Perhaps he was also the guy yelling at me in the last lap.
Anyway, there were a lot of mistakes I made that prevented me from doing my best race in terms of competing with the other racers. My biggest was probably that I didn't get to the event in time to pre-ride before the first race. That meant that I pre-rode after they finished, which took them a while - it was a tough course - and started at the back of the pack. There had been some bad crashes during the starts when the 9:30 races went, so I didn't start too aggressively - there's always a risk, but it seemed like a bad day to put myself out there. Luckily, none of those riders were badly injured - there were some broken helmets and some road rash, but nobody needed to go to their doctor. Anyway, I also did a ride on Saturday that ended up being harder than I anticipated, and I went into the race with tired-feeling legs. So when the first turns started happening, I was definitely maintaining contact with the guys in front of me, but that consisted of almost everyone who was at the race that day. I know I got passed some, so I could certainly have put myself in a worse position following the sprint, but I feel like I spent more of the day following, passing and bridging than struggling to maintain contact or being dropped or passed.
I feel like everything I did following the first turn was good racing, although not as hard or fast as I'd have been able to go if I rode fewer miles last week or a more conservative ride on Saturday. However, with the size of the men's category four field, starts are super-important and I think that my bad one was a bigger factor than anything else in where I finished.