Populaires usually draw quite a few people, especially when held on a day with great weather. At the start I noticed that there were a few of the fast riders there, guys like Jan Heine who is almost always the first to finish a brevet, and Chris Ragsdale who won one of the top endurance events in the country last year, the Furnace Creek 508. These guys are endurance cycling monsters who could keep up with just about anyone.
I decided that since it was a relatively short ride, it might be a good time to try staying with the lead group, to see what life is like at the front of the peloton. I generally tend to finish brevets in the second or third group which is often quite a ways behind the lead group, so I figured I could stay with them for at least a short while. And if I completely blew up 20 miles into the ride, it wouldn't be such a big deal to limp along for 40 miles to finish the ride.
Out of the gate the lead group was cruising along at 25+ mph on the flats. It was fun to be part of that, but I knew right away I wouldn't be able to keep up that pace for 100km. Sure enough, about 12.5 miles in we came to Montreux hill which climbs several hundred feet in a couple miles and during that climb I got completely chewed up and spit out the back of the lead group. So, my time with the elite riders was brief, but it was fun. At the top of the Montreux climb, I could still see the lead group a couple hundred feet ahead of me but I knew that catching them would mean burning every match in my book with 50 miles still left in the ride. Not a smart strategy, so I let them go.
There were a couple of other riders that also fell off the lead group at Montreux and the three of us ended up working together for most of the the rest of the ride. In the last five miles or so that small group dropped me too, so I rolled into the finish alone. Still, it was a fantastic ride. It's great to finish a ride like that with absolutely nothing left in the tank; it lets you know you really gave it your all.
I finished the ride in about 3hrs 40-something minutes. This was a pretty hilly ride, with over 4,000ft of climbing, so I felt pretty darn good about finishing in under 4 hrs.