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Starting the Series with a Schooling

Despite the cold weather and looming clouds, the start of the 2013 Ascent Cycling Series proved to be yet another success. There were solid fields in every class, ranging from the youngest of juniors to a spunky 65 year old. Smiles abounded as riders turned racers maneuvered around rocks, up steep hills and down tricky switchbacks. Number plates adorned bikes of all kinds, proving that everyone can be a racer - no matter how fast or brave.

Many of the finishers from the early races stuck around to watch the main event - the throw down among the local (and national) speedsters. For the first time, the Pro/Cat 1 women were started right behind the Pro/SS men - and our start speed must have been inspired by watching them take off!

A small but quality women's field featuring Kelli Emmett bolted from the line like we were struck by lightning. In third as we made the first turn, I accelerated to get on Kelli's wheel. A simple goal - stay on her wheel for as long as I could. Hopefully, I'd at least make it to the top of the hill! Well, I made it halfway up the hill and then she was gone. A familiar feeling - I'd had a similar experience at the Whiskey 50 in April. But these were local trails and I'd been doing workouts on the course for months. I'd hoped for better and maybe giving her a little competition for the hour. No such luck. She was gone with the guys streaming around me and I was alone to suffer.  And suffer I did. The beauty of the Ascent Cycling Series - it doesn't matter where you start, the guarantee of suffering is always there. Pushing to the max for as long as you can, hoping for the bell every time you pass the official's tent.

After Kelli dropped me, my next goal was to not get lapped by Cameron and company. It's always a standard goal for those races, but another hard to achieve goal. The courses are short and that makes getting lapped almost standard. I put my head down, focused on the trail and rode as hard as I could. Attacking the hills, trying to flow down the descents.

Admittedly, this wasn't my prettiest race - I was all over technically and really sketchy on some of the corners. Every time I slid out on a corner or tinked my wheel on a rock, I had to refocus. More self talking, more flow.  Ride smooth, ride fast. I was sloppy, taking my multiple rides on the course for granted, but not using the hours of practice to my advantage. I was able to see Kelli in several places around the course - always putting more time into me, stretching out the distance between us. This was a perfect race to highlight the importance of focus. Had I managed to keep focused the entire hour, I would have been a lot more satisfied. Maybe not faster, but happier with my performance.

I came through the finish line, starting my fourth long lap. I knew Cam was close - I'd seen him climbing the hill behind me. But would I be able to hold him off and get another lap? The answer, as usual, was no. He caught me in the valley, just before the turn back east. A quick pass - I knew he was coming and got out of the way. That meant I was done - he'd be finishing on this lap and I would be finished as well.  A sense of relief, but also disappointment. Each year, I get closer to not being lapped. I was hoping that this would be the year . Sure enough, I was finished, the short start lap and four long laps in just under an hour. Kelli would finish her five long laps at 1:05 - beating me (and many of the guys) handily. Always good to get a wakeup call and a solid schooling, even on "home turf."

The next race is June 26th at the playground we call Palmer Park. Hopefully, there will be more fast and fun action. See you there.

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