Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

This is not a race report. There is nothing about my race, my tactics or how I felt riding my bike. This is a reflection of the series and how having something as simple seeming as the Ascent Cycling Series can become the focus of the summer. It's also about development as a rider - both in skills and confidence.

There's something fun about racing a series. It's more then just go out and suffer one time, then done. There are second chances to make up for a bad race and the opportunity to test yourself against the same racers time and time again. There's also a lot of planning involved in performing well through the entire summer. The training (or just riding if that's what it takes) can be hard to organize with mini tapers, mini peaks and five different races across two months. And then there's the scheduling issue - how to be at as many races as possible. That's the trick with series - sometimes it comes down to not just the fastest rider, but who's been the most consistent at all the races. And while I had competition at all the races, many of the other women didn't do more then one or two of the events. That meant each race was hard - with some fast women showing up, I always had to bring A game. But for the series, it wasn't as much of challenge. At least not for me. Many other classes had tight battles where showing up and riding hard at that last race meant top step or off the podium. That was really cool to see - how many people were focused on the series and making the last two months a priority for racing. It didn't matter what class or how old - the battle for Ascent Series Titles were in full swing on Wednesday afternoon.

One such race that was entertaining to me (simply because of my relation to the rider involved) was the Women's Cat 3 30+ group. That was a small but still rather competitive group and it would all come down to the last race. The lead in the series had flipped flopped a few times between Susan and Carol, with Carol 3 points behind Susan as they entered the last race. Because Susan couldn't be at the finale, it became a question of placement in the last race. If Carol placed second, she would win the series. But if she placed third, she and Susan would be tied on points and then Susan would win. It was a race - both out on course and for the precious series points. And it was close - Carol got 2nd by a mere two seconds, securing her top step on the podium. What made this even more amazing was how excited Carol was after the race. She came up to Nick and I, just bubbling over. "I had a race today! I really had to ride my bike hard!" That would sound funny coming from anyone but her - a 65 year old who just started mountain biking a few years ago. And now she's out there, racing the series and so excited about actually having to ride hard and having a goal to accomplish.

Wow. Two years ago, riding the Bear Creek course was a challenge for her. It took an hour to ride one lap of the course. Every little rock, every switchback reduced her to walking. Last year, she was able to ride three of the Ascent races - the ones at Bear Creek. But she walked down the steep hills and the ditches and every time someone lapped her. She had fun, but was still intimidated by the courses and the terrain. Palmer Park was way beyond her abilities and she didn't even try. This year? She did four of the five races - opting to skip the Cheyenne Mountain State Park event. But she rode almost everything in Bear Creek and gave Palmer Park a good effort. Every year an improvement in her skills - even if she always anticipated finishing last in her class. Until this last race. Suddenly, the chance to win the series became all the motivation she needed and finding an extra gear and more then a few ounces of courage, she even rode down the steep hill overlooking the finish area! Wow. Impressed and proud with her accomplishments - from walking over every rock to getting down one of the more technical features in Bear Creek Terrace. It's been quite the journey for her as a mountain biker and I'm happy that I could be a part of it.

That's one of the reasons I keep coming back to the Ascent Cycling Series - the inclusiveness for all levels of riders. I've said it before and I know I'll say it again. There's something special about a local series that's so cheap, with such quality racing and mostly fun courses. Show up, cheer on the other riders, then go deep into the pain cave for as long as the officials let you. Each year become the chance to highlight improvements in skills, fitness or confidence. Spectator friendly and a great introduction to mountain biking for beginners - as well as competitive battles among the higher classes. We should be thankful that we have the Ascent Cycling Series and the opportunities the races provide. This was my fourth year racing the series since 2008, with my third series title. I'll be back next year, ready to ride as hard as I can in what ever size circles Andy provides. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue sharing some insights, tips and random thoughts about the races as well.

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