That win at Spooky Cross on Saturday night was a long time coming for French National Cyclocross Champion Caroline Mani. 279 days long to be exact since she won Le Tricolore in Lanarvily.
“Yesterday I was thinking, oh I really need to learn again how to win, because it’s nice to have a good race and fight with the girls but it’s different to be able to win.” a breathless Mani said a few seconds after crossing the finish line.
“My first race was Vegas so I know I really needed to learn again how to race, care about my line, my bike and all so it was a really good race for me and I was really surprised because I don’t know what happened.”
For Mani, learning to win again meant having talks with herself.
“I think it’s the difference when you have the same level, how you are able to keep going.” she said. “I don’t know for all the girls but I’m always speaking to me, ‘okay you have to push hard and go, and breathe, care about your line, you can do it’. When you are in pain, sometimes you’re like maybe I just need some rest but no you have to keep going and push hard so it’s just training and learning because I think some people don’t know how to win.”
When she lined up for CrossVegas, the 24-year old had not raced since the World Championships where she finished 25th. Since Las Vegas, she has been racing every weekend and training when she could, all the while working as an intern at the SRAM headquarters in Chicago,
“I work all the week, and traveling, I wake up at five o’clock to go ride, it’s not an easy life but I’m really happy to be here.” she said.
Mani left nothing to chance on Saturday, taking the holeshot and just kept on going, solo’ing to victory. “There is a gap at the beginning and I’m like okay perfect, now you have to go, perfect to learn how to win.”
And then she did it again on Sunday. “I wanted to do the same thing, I’m really working for the beginning of the race because it’s a really big problem for me, and I think this year it’s pretty good.” Mani explained.
Mani also took the hardly fought holeshot at the second day of the USGP Planet Bike Cup in Wisconsin.
Though on Sunday, she had Teal Stetson-Lee (CalGiant) chasing her. “Teal was really fast, the two first laps and I thought oh maybe, I need to attack and do something. It’s really hot, you’re still tired from yesterday because we raced late and we don’t have a long time to recover but it’s awesome.”
“I just wanted to accelerate, and do a really great training, push really hard to be able to push hard, and it was not easy.” She did managed to increase her gap by the third lap. “The gap was growing and I thought, now it’s okay, I have to care about my line, my bike, all and just keep going and push hard.”
Fitting in. Since making her first race appearance in the USA in September, Mani has obviously been enjoying the people and the racing. From joking around with her competitors to helping younger racers with their tire pressure, Mani is fitting right in.
“I wanted to be fun with my sunglasses, I love to race in America.” Mani said after the race on Saturday where she wore fun glasses to participate in the Halloween atmosphere.
Mani will next be toeing the line at the two UCI races in Boulder, Colorado.
“I think I will take a weekend off, there are no UCI races and I raced a lot since CrossVegas so I need some rest. I need to enjoy a little Chicago before I leave America.” she said. “I will leave America 15 November and I will race all the World Cups and I have to finish my schooling, I have one more year.”
But Mani very clearly wants to come back and race in the United States. “I will like to really find a team here. I enjoy to race here, and it’s fun, you have many races, the racers are just awesome, the ambiance, it’s fun, relaxed and it’s hard too, it’s good racing. I hope so. If I could live in America, it could be pretty awesome.”
It would be pretty awesome indeed.