Cait is in her second year of racing cyclocross and rides for Geekhouse Bikes. When she’s not racing, she’s a horse-training, figure-skating, gymnast-ing, computer-nerd-ing, bike-mechanic-ing mermaid. If you see her at a cyclocross race, be sure to ask her about power animals. [Editor’s Note: it will be the best conversation of your night. Guaranteed.] She currently works in web marketing and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Cait Dooley. Power Animal: Unicorn. Marty Walsh

Cait Dooley. Power Animal: Unicorn. © Marty Walsh

Shredding with Your Power Animal

I was incredibly excited for Providence because I loved the course last year. And because I knew my unicorn was ready to shred.

Wait, what?

I’m not normally one to buy into positive thinking techniques, but let me tell you, I am all about the power animals. It has become somewhat of a joke among my friends, but I do actually think about unicorns while racing (maybe pedaling or turning every once in a while, too). For me, it’s all about keeping a good attitude while racing. I’m not a very competitive person, so the motivation to keep going and pedal harder dies within me around lap two. I was excited for this race because I was ready to do well and have fun doing it. And thinking about unicorns shredding with me helps me do that.

On Saturday, I do what is too often the case — get to the venue, get my number, drink coffee, don’t preride, don’t warm-up and then race. The start was uphill on pavement and then a right turn over a curb onto dirt. I had a third row start, but I didn’t really take advantage of it. I spent the first two laps picking off people that had better starts than me. By lap three, I had settled into a good pace and was now riding in a group. The course was awesome and I was loving all the dismounts and swooping turning sections. Then disaster struck.

I passed the pit, passed a rider going up a hill and then immediately flatted. For a minute, I was in denial and tried to keep riding it. This is not exactly the best idea on clinchers. I wanted to keep on riding, not run with my bike on my shoulder for half a lap. Then I thought about my power animal and thought, well the faster I hustle to the pit, the sooner I get rolling again. I had friends cheering me on — who did not know I had a flat — telling me to hurry up and get back on my bike. They were also telling me to stop smiling, because I was supposed to be racing.

I made my way to the pit and, thanks to Shimano neutral support, I was racing again in no time. At this point, I had no hope of placing well, so I just tried to ride as smoothly as possible. I finished 51/73, but I had so much fun riding on the course, I really didn’t mind the flat (my legs did mind the running later, though).

Sunday was a different story. I prerode the course and warmed up a little bit. I kept talking about going over to the trainer right before the race, but I was having too much fun hanging out at the team tent. At the starting line, I was ready to try to hang with women that are typically a few places in front of me.

I was worried about the start of Sunday’s race because, well, it was a lot of pavement. We had a bit of a surprise start, since the official blew her whistle twice to get someone’s attention shortly after saying one minute. That was not supposed to be our start whistle, but away we went, with half of the field unprepared and trying to clip in.

I had a better start than I had anticipated, so I was trying to keep as close to the front as possible. I was having a great race — cornering well, pedaling hard on all of the climbs and passing riders in my field. I was moving it and feeling strong, despite how far up in the front I was. Coming into the last lap, I was sitting somewhere in 12th-14th place, swapping spots with two other women (Dana from and Becca from Team Type 1) throughout the lap. We all had some trouble getting around a junior in the whoop-de section of the course, but eventually got around him safely.

At some point after this, Dana used her watts and took off, so Becca and I tried to chase her down. We took a corner that went from grass to gravel side-by-side and I took a bad line, promptly crashing on the gravel. Seven or eight people passed me while I was trying to get back on the bike. I landed on my shifter and my saddle was turned 90 degrees, so I got up as quickly as I could, punched my shifter and saddle into place, and pedaled like a maniac. I had a hard time shifting after the crash, but caught up to a group of women and sprinted my face off. I tried to sprint past Christin from Competitive Edge, but she beat me to the line and I ended up 19th.

At the finish line, I had a megawatt smile on my face. Despite flatting one day and crashing the next, I had successfully gotten rad at Providence.