Well. Isn't that the story of racing? Sometimes you are the cat and sometimes the mouse - and sometimes, both! With just me and Caroline Mani on the line for the woman's pro race at last nights kick off for the Ascent Cycling Series, it would quickly turn into a game of cat and mouse with both of use playing each role at varying times. A shorter course with less road and more technical singletrack played to my strengths, but I wanted to try racing smart this time. Instead of bolting from the line and trying to get the gap - which I had done the first time I'd faced Caroline, i decided to try getting on her wheel and following. I think we both had the same idea! It was a slow motion start up the hill with neither of us wanting to take the lead, Finally, Caroline moved into the front and I clung to her wheel. For now, I was the cat - stalking my prey. I wanted to follow for as long as I could and either try to attack on the second to last lap or just be happy with second, depending on how things went.
The best laid plans often fall to the wayside and this was no different. I wanted to follow, but when she bobbled a rocky climb I took advantage of the opportunity. Would it stick? I had no clue - but I had to try. Taking the harder line around the rocks, I was free and clear. Or so I hoped. I attacked the next short little climb and took some chances on the descent into the start/finish line. A quick glance over my shoulder - I had a gap, but it wasn't big. There was a lot more left in the race then I wanted, but I was going to do what I could. I was now the mouse - being chased around the course by a very hungry cat. I needed to ride as clean and as hard as I could. I stayed clear on that second lap, but the gap was getting narrower, with Caroline using every chance she could to close the gap.
At the start of the third lap, it was all together again. The two of us rode the hill just after the start of the lap together, but it was clear that Caroline wanted the lead this time. I was to be the cat, chasing a fleet foot mouse though the woods Feeling the effects of my failed escape attempt, I settled back into plan A - follow wheels. Unfortunatly, that wheel did not want to be followed and despite my best efforts, the elastic started stretching. I'd bring it back a little through the technical rocks, but it would snap further apart on the clear trails. When I hit the blacktop road, it was pretty clear the mouse wasn't getting caught this time.
And I was starting to have to look over my shoulder for the fast charging pro men. As I rounded the corner for my fourth lap, Fernando was right behind me. Time to start looking over my shoulder as well as looking at the trail in front of me! Just cause I'm racing hard doesn't mean I need to get in the way of the guys racing harder! Cameron caught me a few minutes later, followed by JJ. I pulled myself together a little on the fifth lap and started racing again, but still with one eye behind me. Caroline finished about 3 minutes in front of me - a sizable but not huge gap. The cat remains hungry for that top spot - good thing there are four more races in the series!
Congrats to everyone who came out and raced - it was an awesome kickoff to the COS racing season on a classic Palmer Park course. Two weeks - Bear Creek!