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Lesson #1 from race four in the Ascent Cycling Series - ignore the crazy guy hollering at you to do wheelies and other crazy stunts during your pre-ride... Oh yeah, can't! Enthusiastic spectator turned course tear down volunteer was my husband and I wouldn't want to disappoint him - so I did the wheelie at the top of the hill and promptly fell off my bike. Oh well - that's what I get for trying to show off! And at least it was during the pre-ride.... A great start to the evening! Anyways... I had a chance to look over some of the awesome photos taken during the race and in most of them, I have a huge smile on my face. I'm racing! I should be suffering, not smiling! Well, at Palmer Park, during the Ascent Cycling Race #4, it was all about both - suffering, smiling and just having a great time riding my bike fast in little circles. How can you not smile when there's great trails, great people and perfect weather to race?

Like Cam, I was concerned that the showers rolling off the mountains would turn the trails of Palmer Park to mud. A few rumbles of thunder sent the 5:00 racers out onto course and I followed them for my final pre-ride. Concerned enough about the weather to wear my rain coat for the first half of that lap! Well, the anti rain strategy worked and halfway through my warm up, I was stripping that coat off and stuffing it into my jersey pocket! But I had fun on my pre-ride, double checking the course, cheering on some of the Cat 2 racers, getting heckled by my husband, almost running over the Gazette's photographer.... (He was on the most technical line in one of the rock gardens, getting some really good shots - I decided last minute to take the easy line, not realizing he was hiding in the rocks.) But after two laps of easy warm up riding, it was time to toe the line and race.

The three women (Kristi O, Tracy H and I) were behind all the guys and making more noise then the whole lot of them. No wonder Andy always gives us the evil eye when giving race instructions! We were having way to much fun to be serious about the racing, even though we all knew it would be game on once the race started. The fun of local races - it's all fun and games, practicing track stands while waiting for Andy to blow the whistle, then time to rip the legs off everyone in the race for 60 minutes, then back to hanging out and telling stories after the finish. Maybe that's why I was spending so much time smiling. Anyway - back to the racing. I was seriously working on my track stands and almost had it - but 5 seconds before we started lost my balance and had to unclip. Whoops, chart that up as a goof off mistake start. So I was in the wrong gear a few seconds behind the 8 ball when I finally got racing. Made up for that with a few quick shifts and was quickly right behind Kristi. She took the start out like a champ and I had to work for the hole shot onto the single track. 

I knew the course was a little different from my two laps of warming up and was hoping that I would be able to ride the new climb with the tight right hand switch back and little rock garden. I'd tried five times during my warm up, but without success. Maybe during the race... No luck. (I tried to ride up that section every single lap - persistent yes, conserving energy, not so much!) I was starting to catch the juniors who'd started just in front of us and two of them were off and walking at that point. So I was off and running, still with a smile on my face as I passed two of the guys in front of me. Because of the different climb, we approached the first road crossing from a different direction. Thanks some rain and some use, the trail was rideable at the road crossing - but the same volunteer was there, cheering us on. From there back to the finish line, the course was the same as the June 13th race - traverse across Grandview trail to the overlook, back on the road, the technical drop to Kinikkinik, and then back to the Council Ground. I was pretty smooth through most of it, but had to remember that I was riding big wheels and HT. Use the legs for suspension, Tracy and ride like it's a tractor-trailer! I need to race and ride that bike more at Palmer Park - pinged my rear wheel on a few rock features...

Onto my second lap and I was solidly in the lead, going back and forth with a few of the juniors and one of the single speeders. Still missed the rock garden right after the switchback, but had a good run on the rest of that climb. I was surprised by the number of spectators out on course during the race this week. It was really cool to come around a corner and see cheering people, egging you up the climbs and down the rocks. Of course, I did my best to oblige all request. And even the horses on the course were cool - not sure how they got there or why, but they were just out for an evening ride and trying to get out of the way. Hopefully, they didn't get in the way of any of the other racers! Came through the start/finish line with 25 minutes left and the leaders of the pro men somewhere behind me. I was hoping this time not to get lapped - Call me crazy, but I wanted to ride four laps this time. The course was that much fun. I headed out onto my third lap with that goal in mind and attacked the climbs and rocks. Kept repeating - smooth is fast and fast is smooth, remembered the wide turning radius for the big wheels in some of the tighter sections. Onto the black top and still no sign of the pro men. Maybe I would get my fourth lap this time? I took the drop off the road at full throttle, and took off down the trail. Another smooth run around the bluffs, then the drop back to the finish line. Much to my dismay, I was greeted with "all riders are now finishing..."

Booo... I wanted another lap! I was having such a good time and had just gotten into my Palmer Park rock rhythm! Cam finished seconds behind me - I had held him off and not gotten lapped (barely). It made sense not to send me out for another solo 20 minutes of fun - course clean up takes some time and all the volunteers wanted to get going. Loved the course this time - would never have guessed it was "mis-marked" if Andy hadn't said anything! Patrick and the rest of the Ascent Cycling gang did an awesome job at the course crossing - so much smoother then last time. I'm gonna miss racing at Palmer Park - do we really have to wait until September 23 for the next round on the rocks?

The last race in the Ascent Cycling Series is on August 8th at Bear Creek Terrace. Let's make this a rousing series finally and show up in numbers to ride our bikes fast in circles! I can't think of a better way to spend a Wednesday night then hanging out with some of the local fast cats on two wheels and then trying to keep up with them for an hour. I'm definitely going to miss these fun local races when the series ends. It's been a blast this summer, with the different venues, fun courses and awesome people to race against.

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Comment by Rob Lucas on July 26, 2012 at 9:18pm

Love that course!

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