Are we saying goodbye to the Ascent Cycling Series for the year or forever tomorrow night? Who knows at this point - but regardless, it's the finale of the 2014 racing. Race Number 5 for the 2014 Ascent Cycling Series and lucky 101 for Andy. We are returning to the familiar trails at Bear Creek for the second time this year - how many miles have I raced there over the years? Too many to count, yet each race is different. Back to the traditional Ascent race style after the length of the CMPS event - a hour of riding all out. The only guarantee is assembling at the start of the regional trail, staring at the ribbon of gravel leading off into the fields of Bear Creek. Emotions will be running high - anxiety regarding the next few laps, excitement to finally line up and try to beat your best friend. That's what racing is. Regardless of category, its all the same. A chance to test yourself - against the rider next to you and the rider inside of you.

It's all coming to a head this week. There are series titles on the line - with some categories being very tightly contested. There will be fireworks with each tweet of the officials whistle - releasing the pent up emotions onto the singletrack. Sprinting from the line, charging up the hill. All the way to the top on that first lap before entering the twisting trail. Only once will we have to climb to the summit, but this one time is the key for the hole shot. Be there first and become the hunted. Miss out and spend the next few laps hunting among the cacti and scrub oak. There is flow at Bear Creek, the trails a network of climbs and descents, switchbacking rock gardens and false flats on the summit and in the valleys. On the surface, the riding is easy. But dig deep, up the intensity and those little rocks appear to be boulder, the climbs steeper with each lap and the descents claiming plenty of victims.

The final time at Bear Creek and returning to the big loop. My favorite course in Bear Creek - there is no where to hide, no where to recover. It's punchy climbs, power sucking false flats and deceptive descents. One mistake will leave you in a heap on the side of the trail. While Palmer Park might have bigger rocks, Bear Creek is actually the harder of the courses, especially when we do the long loop. It's also the most spectator friendly, with the riders passing the "hot corner" three times in each lap. Close enough to see the focus, concentration and sometimes agony in the eyes. 

And this time, there will be no scolding from fellow racers for showing up. There will be no holding back on tired legs, wanting to rage but needing to be smart. I get to race, turn myself inside out with each climb. From the whistle - all in until the bell tolls. This is the finale. Let there be fireworks.

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