Yesterday was my first Gran Fondo for this season, on the Italian coast 100km East of Nice, France. The race was 105km long, 2000m of elevation and attracted about 1500 participants. Having not done a race with so many people around, the imagination of riding in proximity with so many people was my main concern. I stayed in a hotel 6km from the start line, perfect for a warm-up. While riding to the start line with plenty of buffer to line up on time, I realized that I was too hot already. I was dressed way too warm and decided to turn around to change. That little extra time got me a bit later to the start line as expected and I was pretty much at the back of my start section. The moderator talked in Italian for 20 minutes. At some point, I decided to ask my neighbor if I need to know anything that has been said. He summarized everything in one sentence. :) Well, so the race started and I lost many places within the first few kilometers. Upcoming road furniture or any other obstacles were not marked. So either you keep your eyes open and anticipate traffic islands, cars, , holes etc or you are pretty certain to crash. I saw a man in front of me ride into a plastic pole (those 50m reflector markers) but managed to stay upright. We went an incredible speed right from the beginning. There was no "neutral start". So I was just waiting for the first hill so the field would slow down and disperse. It came 5km into the race. And by then I also realized that my legs felt pretty exhausted already. Great Monika. Here goes your pacing! I was so focused on staying with the pace of the group that I didnt realize how fast we were going. At some point I saw 52km/h going uphill!!! We went along the mostly flat coastal line . I gained time on the little climbs but lost big time on the descent. After 10km or so we turned inland and that meant we would be climbing finally. And sure enough everything dispersed. I felt quite strong and stayed with a group of 6 up the hill (elevation of 590m) . But lost them on the descent plus all the women I just passed, passed me back. I knew that would be happening at the next two climbs as well. I caught them again on the flat or on the next hill only to be passed at the descent. As the race finished on a climb I was in high spirits that I would have an advantage. Unfortunately, the last descent had so many corners, that I lost too much time to catch up again. So I had to be happy with 6th in my category and 10th women. I dont want to start with "if's" but let's say that 3 women were within one minute ahead of me. Of course, I wish I had done better but for the first race I was quite pleased. There is no replacement for the intensity and adrenaline you get from racing. Although I was worried about the amount of people at the start, it is absolutely thrilling to be part of such an incredible experience. I am very excited about this Sunday's Gran Fondo Versilia.