The opening race in the Ascent Cycling Series began in much the same fashion that the series closed last year.

Cameron Chambers, defending series champion, took home first place in the men's professional category at Bear Creek Terrace on Wednesday night. Chambers completed six laps in 58 minutes, 7 seconds to take home his first win at the course.

But in the women's division, veteran cross-country cyclist Kelli Emmett beat out defending series champion Tracy Thelen, completing six laps - one more than both of her female competitors - in 1 hour and 5minutes.

Though he didn't hold the lead for the entire race, Chambers separated himself from close challengers Fernando Rivera and JJ Clark by pushing himself harder on the intense climbs of the course.

"You've got to get out of the saddle and swing the bike around a little bit," Chambers said. "I was really trying to attack those hard and make sure they were hurting at the top of each one of them. Even if it cost me a little bit, it cost them more."

Chambers said that one of the most difficult and unique aspects of this course are the brief descents.

"The descents are so short that there really isn't a lot of rest, it's just you kind of punch it and punch it and punch it," he said. "There's a couple seconds here or there, but that almost makes it kind of harder because you're just always accelerating and always on it."

For Emmett, the challenge was transitioning back into cross country racing. Emmett has raced in the Ascent Series since it began six years ago, but has recently switched disciplines to enduro racing.

Enduro racing differs from cross country racing in that the climbs aren't timed. Instead, the race begins at the descent, making the style of racing more gravity based.

"I've been switching my disciplines this year," Emmett said. "So to come out and do this is a little painful. It's like 'oh gosh, I can't believe I used to do this all the time.'"

But going between the two styles of racing is helpful to Emmett, who traveled to Italy to do enduro racing two weeks ago and will be headed to France in the future for more races.

"It's good and it all kind of carries over," she said. "If I have a better fitness from doing this style of racing, it'll carry over into the enduro side of it as well, and I think it's a good combination to do both."

Though Emmett and Chambers won first place in their respective divisions, the two racers acknowledge that they won't always grab the top spot.

"It's always a dogfight regardless of whether it's a Wednesday night race or state championships in a few weeks or national championships," Chambers said. "If it's in Colorado Springs, there's going to be fast riders there."