When I spoke with Caroline Mani of Raleigh-Clement an hour before the start of her cyclocross race last night, she was feeling less than thrilled. Complaining of stomach problems (“During the short track, I threw up,” she confided), she wasn’t a happy camper, but ever the professional, she was kitting up and getting ready to go with the help of her mechanic. “I can build my bike myself,” she told me, as we chatted about her strong mechanical abilities and her pickiness when it comes to the weight of her bike. “But if he wants to do it,” she gestured at the team mechanic, “that is great.”
Mani is personable and fun to chat with, and her French accent makes everything she says seem just a bit cooler. And even as we chat, there’s a tension running through her: she’s ready to get on her bike, especially after her cross country race that morning didn’t go as planned.
“I raced this morning, cross country, but I felt really bad on my mountain bike, so I was like, ‘Oh no, I have to race cyclocross.” And so she did, creating a huge gap on the field along with Nicole Duke and Mical Dyck early on in the race.”I really wanted to be fast in the rocks because I knew you could make mistakes in the section. So I didn’t think about it, I just went to win this race.”
As I said before, Mani is a professional, and professionals don’t always have perfect days. Mani adds thoughtfully, “Sometimes you don’t feel 100%. But it was good.” And it’s that attitude that led Don Kellogg, the team manager, to sign her to the team for another two years.
“I would say in French, ‘Comme ci, comme ça,’” meaning ‘just OK.’ Despite a rough short track race and problem-ridden cross country race, the win at cyclocross against Dyck and Duke should have Mani feeling positive about the weekend.
There’s just one problem for Mani, as she turns her focus to the MTB. “I feel more like a cyclocross and road racer now, so I need to race mountain bikes to get better, but I’m sure it will be fine.”
“It’s just the beginning of the season. I don’t give up, I will be back.”