Friday, December 14, 2007

Thredbo - first aussie race of the 2008 season

Cotic Bontrager Race Team - 'down Aussie under' KP in (post) Flying Form...

The first event of my mountain bike race season has been and gone ever so quickly. In fact the past 5 days since touching down in Sydney Airport have been quite surreal. At one point I was starting to think I had been possessed by vampires. I was my living self once the sun disappeared, but upon day light I suddenly became zombified. Sunny days were not appreciated in the slightest. However as I recount the beginnings of my Aussie Adventure (part 2), I remind myself that the past 6 weeks in the UK have been long arduous sessions from as early as 4am on the turbo, or out braving the freezing cold until 4pm sun down....and now here I am basking in the Aussie sun shine and enjoying a post training recovery drink with a twist of lemon, whilst listening to the squawks of Gallahs and Kockatoos in the back yard...oh woops that’s Ian, he’s calling me. He can wait. Life among the gum trees is "fair dinkum", as my Dad would say.
Writing a race report can be quite a difficult thought process, especially when one has not enjoyed the experience or had high expectations that are not nearly met. In this case my first race of the season was simply not expected to happen for me. I felt no pressure for a result and just wanted to ride and dust the cobwebs off. Looking back at the event brings back warm, fuzzy feelings of suffering and tummy turmoil that not only reminded me of the mistakes I made, but also about how addictive mountain bike racing really is. I thoroughly enjoyed my first race of the season, but I don’t actually know it really hurt. It’s always the same though, no matter where I cross the line, no matter how much suffering I endure. Every time I cross that darn finish line, I can’t wait to get back out on the race bike and go through the whole painful process once more. It’s even better when you have had such a terrible race and know that your next one can’t get much worse....well so you hope.
When I told my coach Matt Hart that I fancied a race or two in December he gave me one of those looks like, ‘you what?’ . I then realised that the race I wanted to enter was less than 48 hrs after we arrived in Australia as the dates had been changed. I told Matt a week ago. Matt laughed. Matt laughed a lot, but he understood why I still wanted to race. Matt said one of two things would happen: (1) you will truly suffer or (2) 24hrs on a plane might bring about a taper and some form will shine through....but as Ian and Matt were still giggling to themselves as my ear lobes were being pricked (I was enduring a fitness test at the time you see), I could tell they knew exactly what I was letting myself in for.
24 hrs on a plane with no sleep, back ache and little comfort room as Ian and another passenger kept trying to sleep on each shoulder, was the first part of my preparation for race one. Did I mention the roller coaster turbulent ride that reduced me to tears, screaming babies and the passenger in front vomiting for the entire 7 hrs of the first leg from Birmingham to Dubai. Such a pleasant flight. When the air hostess smiled sweetly and said ‘We hope you enjoyed your flight’, I simply growled.
Ian and I walked through Customs at Sydney Airport, feeling an enormous amount of relief that we had finally arrived. With heavy legs and ankles that were four times their usual size, with Ian referring to them as Elephant legs, new fears of thrombosis started circulating my mind. As Ian searched for our bike bags I sat on my back, legs extended in the air, hoping my ankles would return to ankle shape soon.
Stage 2 of race preparation began with an hour’s drive to my parent’s place, before borrowing their car and heading to Thredbo, 7hrs away. A road trip for the Potters is not a road trip without at least three wrong turns, who said you need directions and a road map? All I can say thank god for TORQ gels with guarana, that kept Ian on the left hand side of the road for most of the journey at least, except when he swerved to miss a kangaroo.
Ian and I arrived in Thredbo, shadows of our former selves, as we hadn’t slept or eaten properly for 48hrs. Once we had checked into our accommodation, it was time to build my beloved Soda. However, I soon said enough is enough when Ian suddenly walked into a foot rest and collapsed on the ground. He just lay there. I was so fatigued that if Ian had really needed resuscitating then he would have been in trouble. I simply turned around when I heard Ian’s pained giggle and collapsed into bed myself.
The next day I had my first play on the Soda since the last race back in September. I knew the course well from last season, but there were a couple of new sections to check out. As I pedalled gently towards the start area I noticed my heart rate was about 50 beats too high, and I could feel the change in altitude affecting my breathing. Then the yawns started and I kept drifting off into space, until I found myself flying over the handle bars. My foot had unclipped, but without realising it I kept on pedalling and down I landed head over heels in the grass. Luckily this fall woke me up and I completed the rest of the loop unscathed. Ian sent me back to bed, but my brain was in overdrive as I couldn’t wait to start the race the following morning.
Saturday morning was race day, and instead of waking up at a decent hour I was alert and ready to roll at 4am. Jet lag is most frustrating as I felt really tired, but I couldn’t sleep. I just lay there trying to convince my brain that it really is still sleep time.
I started warming up at 8:30am and tried to find some life in my legs, but they weren’t having it. The brain wasn’t feeling too alert either and every short sprint took too long to recover from. The race started at 9:30am and the temperature was warming up nicely. I was gridded 24 out of around 27 elite ladies. It was going to be a difficult start as there was only a short straight before the first piece of single track.
The gun sounded and the girls took off, all but me. I went backwards and found myself one of the last riders heading into the single track. Then a pile up of ten girls in front followed, and an even greater distance between the back riders and the leading group ensured. I chased hard, and started to make up a few places, but found myself stuck behind riders again as the next single track climb was quite technical, and there were virtually no passing points. Every pedal stroke was an effort, a massive effort, and to make matters worse my breakfast was trying to say hello, and stitch meant I had to slow down so I could actually breathe. I have a long list of inner and outer pains that were felt from every corner of my body. To tell you the truth I think my body was just going into complete shock as it has been a few months since my last hard session on the bike. My legs didn’t want to be pushed, but my brain was screaming at them to get a move on. I was about 19th half way round the first lap and I could only just make out a few girls in the distance who were storming further ahead. I wasn’t panicking, but I was feeling sick and wanted the tummy pain to disappear. I couldn’t drink anything on that first lap, but I wasn’t going to quit, we hadn’t come half way around the world to only ride one lap.
By the half way point I had started to make up places, but I was feeling slower and slower. The pain in my stomach had subsided, but everything about the bike and I felt slothful. I know too well what my race bike usually feels like, and it just wasn’t there on the day. Even on the tarmac climb I could hear the tyres sticking to the ground and I could feel my legs flopping about like jelly. However I was enjoying riding the technical single track, and there was a super piece of trail along the river that had a few little rocky drop offs and fast corners. I almost scared myself a couple of times as the rear tyre lost traction on the loose ground, but being as tired as I was my reactions didn’t do anything, which meant I didn’t stiffen up, and the bike and I stayed upright and together in one piece.
As I crossed the line, happy and relieved that I made it through all four laps, Ian informed me that I finished in 7th place. I was pleasantly surprised that I had made up more places than expected. Ian was pleased for me too, even though he said I was riding like an I stamped on his foot. Then he checked the bike over. I felt quite satisfied with my effort today. Until I heard a hissing noise beside me. I thought it was a snake. A second later I was wishing it had been a snake. Instead of that adoring look from Ian that always greets me at the end of any race, I saw Ian shaking his head in disbelief. He asked me if I felt slow today? I thought he was teasing, until he showed me a rip in my rear tyre. I hadn’t noticed. I had less than 15psi in the tyre......aghhhhhhhhhh.
Sorry I had to have a moment. I was so tired that I wasn’t really thinking about how the bike was feeling at the time. Well I won’t know now whether I could have made up some more time or not, but I had the most amazing work out. That was my first seriously hard effort in two months and from that one effort the legs have started to feel a little bit stronger again. I’m feeling very excited about my 2008 race season, and can’t wait for the next race, when that will be I don’t know, but will keep you well informed.
A huge well done to all my Aussie competitors. Would you believe we women outnumbered all the male categories on the weekend, which is pretty special if I do say so myself. Well done to Dellys Starr for taking the top spot.
As in 2007, I once again have the fantastic support of the Cotic Bontrager Race Team, which includes a wonderful group of co-sponsors as well who have made it possible for me to race again in 2008. A very special thankyou to TORQ Australia (Gen and Dean) for your race support out here in Oz, and also to a wonderful bunch of Aussies who have made Ian and I feel most welcome at our first race here in Australia. Special thanks to both families for your airport taxi service, plus my beloved Ian who goes above and beyond his role as husband, mechanic, skills coach, pit b’tch, taxi driver and motivational speaker… Ian would say "Pain is an emotion and emotion is to be enjoyed"

Sunday, December 9, 2007

HOW not TO PREPARE FOR A RACE...KP in post flying form!

Ian and I have returned to Oz to escape the coldest months of the UK, to train in glorious sunshine and also partake in a couple of races along the way. Already I am a tanned red, a deep lobster colour to be precise. To add to my tanned looks I have the added features of mozzie bites from head to toe and I can no longer call myself a I sadly consumed at least three flies on my training ride yesterday...sorry.
Anyway I have been in Oz for 5 mornings since we touched down in Sydney on Thursday at 8:30am to be precise. I have already experienced my first race of the season, so a detailed report of how not to race will be up ever so shortly....In the mean time here are my ten points on how to prepare for a race if you really want to SUFFER!

(1) Spend 6 weeks working on your base, that requires endless 6hr rides on the turbo bopping away to Kylie and Eminem.
(2) Travel for 25hrs from one point of the globe to the next 2 days before race.
(3) Don't sleep at any point of flight, and ask pilot for an extra dosage of turbulance just to make you feel alive.
(4) Don't recover from flight, but drive for 8hrs non stop, and if you really want to test yourself then take three wrong turns and add an hour on to travel time.
(5) Forget to pack sun cream and mozzie repellant so you can look and feel your best.
(6) Wake up at 4am on the day of race.
(7) Eat really close to race so you can experience nausea.
(8) Make sure you have a really bad start so you don't go anywhere on the first lap.
(9) Split your rear tyre on the second lap, don't even think about fixing it, so you can work harder up the climbs.
(10) Keep smiling...and remember 'Pain is an emotion and emotion is to be enjoyed!'

I will be back again shortly with my race report and photos of me chopped in half as Ian is not a Joolze Dymond when it comes to photography. Just so you know, besides the fatigue, pain, nausea and clumbsiness....really enjoyed racing again and had a fantastic weekend at the third round of the Australian National Championships.

Friday, November 23, 2007

AQR Peaks weekend - "It was this big!"

Both KP's (bike and moi) braved the snow, and loved every moment of it.

AQR Peaks weekend

AQR End of Season Social Weekend...a very chilled out weekend!

I love returning to the UK at the end of each guiding season in Luchon, there is no exaggeration in that statement….honestly. Ian and I left Luchon two weeks ago, and although I miss my mountain home already, it has been great catching up with the AQR Crew and participating in a couple of night riding ventures here in Nottingham. It’s also that time of year when I dust the cobwebs off my loovely turbo trainer, turn up the volume so the neighbours can hear Kylie to the extreme, and spin for hours on end. To make my turbo sessions even more exciting I have been venturing out to the back shed at 4am and watching the sky turn black to a day light shade of grey….ahhhh cycling bliss. I don’t know why the turbo trainer has a reputation for being dull to the extreme. I find it quite therapeutic, especially when I can bop away to Kylie singing “I should be so lucky…” . Ok so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration.

Winter should not be an excuse to whinge. I have decided to look on the bright side of winter here in the UK. For an Australian it’s such a novelty to feel the cold, and experience endless days of rain. I have been compiling a long list of things to love about winter –
(1) Night Riding – especially on my new Cotic Simple…who needs gears?
(2) Soup and hot crusty bread…just not made by moi.
(3) Riding in the snow…building snowmen.
(4) Xmas…presents.
(5) 6hr turbo sessions….6hrs of Kylie Minogue.
(6) Mud…I’m sure there must be something to love about mud?
(7) More mud…bring it on I say!
(8) I can’t think of anything else?

I’m certain there is a lot more to love about winter. However I won’t be here to experience it I’m afraid. Ian is dragging me off to Australia again. As much as I would love to stay and try and finish my long list of positive winter experiences. I tell you what. What if I compile a list of what to hate about summer in Australia –
(1) Horrible sandy beaches and crystal clear water
(2) Dry and grippy trails.
(3) Guaranteed warmth and a sun tan.
(4) Fresh fruit from the local market…especially the Lady finger bananas and Custard apples….perhaps I should stop there.

The point is that winter in the UK can be fun. I may love my turbo, but I will never become a closet mountain biker who only makes an appearance when the sun is shining. This Aussie braved the coldest day on Potter record last weekend. What I mean by Potter record is that it was the coldest day that the Potter’s (Ian and moi) have ever ridden our bikes. I’m certain my Aussie blood had turned into a cold slushy mixture by the end of the day. It was freezing, but one of the most enjoyable rides I have ever been on. In fact it was simply a great weekend all round.

The annual AQR End of Season Social weekend (16-18 November) saw bikers from across the UK gather at the Woodbine B&B in Hope, Derbyshire for an AQR adventure lead by Paul and Ian. Two days of riding in the Peaks and a huge meal on the Saturday night to celebrate another great year. There were plenty of laughs, plenty of comedy spills, Rich at his flipping finest (you will have to meet Rich to know what I mean) and plenty of snow drifts on the Sunday to keep everybody amused and in good spirits.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who came along for the weekend, especially the AQR Crew who have supported the company from day 1. It was also lovely to meet new faces and catch up with old friends who have been coming out to Luchon for the past 4 years.
Sunday was certainly an adventure. I haven’t seen much snow in my lifetime, but this was truly a memorable ride for an Aussie, and hopefully for everybody else who didn’t let the cold stop them from riding their bikes. Returning to the Woodbine café and warming up beside the fire at the end of the ride was simply divine and made one appreciate the finer points of winter…WOOD BURNING FIRES, another good point about winter in the UK.

Special thanks to Judith Lane from the Woodbine café and B&B for your kind hospitality, and we look forward to seeing you and another crew of eager mountain bikers again in 2008.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

New Supporter :: Sundog Eyeware

Kate, photo by Niall Flinn.

Welcome on board Sundog.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

End of Season Holiday with A Quick Release Holidays

2007 has been a wonderful year where all the hard work and long hours have finally started to pay off. No year in Kate Potter history has ever been easy. Like most people there have been moments of stress, fatigue, sadness and total frustration, especially when I discover Ian has stolen my last ginger and pineapple TORQ bar (grrrrrr!!!!!).

However this year has been a huge stepping stone and I’m proud to say that the Cotic Bontrager Race Team has made it to first base (huge sigh….), but there are still three bases left, and a second innings to follow. I have a lot of hard work and challenges that lie ahead….but for now I’m officially on go slow.

Ian and I decided to take a much needed holiday to Luchon with A Quick Release Holidays (AQR)….I’ve heard the mountain biking there is really good :) . In case you are new to my blog, Ian and I are actually the guides for AQR in Luchon. Luchon is also our home. I fell in love with Luchon the moment we visited the area back in 2002 to see Ian’s friend Russ (AQR chef and hotelier), and that was before we had even checked out the trails.

Since the company established itself four years ago, we only ever find time to explore Luchon when we give ourselves a holiday. I don’t know many people who take a holiday in their very own back yard, but I’m certainly not complaining. The days have been gorgeous, a little chilly for aussie blood, but every day has been sunny and sweet. The trees have turned the most amazing golden colour and the noise of rutting stags echo throughout the valley.

I know this won’t be a popular read for many, but waking up every morning at 9am is a luxury that Ian and I haven’t experienced for a long time. Taking the time to hold hands and walk along the river to buy bread from the bakery in town is a rare novelty for the Potter’s, golly gosh it actually sounds quite romantic. Ian even suggested we go sit by the lac and just watch the world go by, but on one condition….I wasn’t allowed to wear any article of clothing that resembled cycling kit, not even my AQR socks or Cotic beanie (doh!). I had to dress like a lady (huh?).

Pure laziness is not a feeling we Potters are used to, so as you can imagine boredom soon set in after a few minutes of watching the ducks on the lac. I wanted to suggest we go for a ride, in fact I had sneakily worn a pair of lycra shorts under my trousers. I was desperate to ride my bike, but I was trying to be on my best behaviour. Thank god Ian was bored too. I suggested we go for a walk, a long walk. Ian looked scared, from first hand experience he knows that my walks usually become full on mountaineering expeditions. Ian decided that we should go mountain biking instead. I tried to hide my joy by replying ‘alright, only if you insist’…that’s when the holiday was over.

Ian and I have two different ideas about mountain biking. I just want to ride my bike, all day, all night. I get a real buzz and sense of achievement from climbing high, really high. Ian on the other hand is a skills freak and takes great pleasure in trying to scare his wife (that be me) silly. I have always been afraid of heights, so if I see a huge drop, it takes every bit of mental strength to convince myself to stay on the bike. Usually I just close my eyes, then hope to god I will soon feel the ground beneath my tyres. That way I usually don’t panic. 9 times out of 10 it works and I land straight. Ian calls it ‘blonde’ logic.

Now it was past midday and Ian and I were still at loggerheads trying to decide who would be the AQR guide for the afternoon. Ian decided he was boss and that he was guiding moi, and he also said that it was time for my weekly skills lesson. Ian’s plan was to go for a short ride, before a skills session by the lac. I agreed so long as it could be at least three hours long and that tomorrow it would be my turn to guide Ian….I had a real beauty of an all day epic in store that would really show ‘boss’ who is ‘bossette’, as I like to call myself.

The easy ride started out on a trail I know well, before we turned off on to a narrow piece of off camber single track where there was quite an obvious drop to my right. A trail I didn’t know well. I froze. Decision time. I could cry or I could freeze, or I could possibly try and ride my bike like a tripod, or I could freeze and cry some more. Ian was calling out for me to hurry. I think I made some excuse that I was just pumping my tyres up. Then Ian suggested I might need the pump HE was carrying….mmm yes probably.

I knew I had to get on with it, and that I did. I caught up with Ian who said he wanted to check something on my bike. As I disembarked, Ian looked lovingly into my eyes, and then pushed me off the side of the trail. I was too shocked to argue or fight back. A split second later I realised I had fallen into a deep pile of autumn leaves. The trail wasn’t actually as steep as I thought, once I had stopped rolling. I was mad, but relieved that I was still breathing. My fear turned to anger as I scrambled back up the trail. It was time to show Ian that we Aussies do know how to tackle, but for some reason I always ended up the one back swimming in the leaves (well at least we can beat the Brits in the pool). 30 minutes later Ian decided to stop acting so childish as we were wasting quality bike riding time.

Ian then admitted that he wanted Kate Potter to be really angry for the skills session coming up, he wanted Kate Potter to see the red mist, he wanted Kate Potter to act like an elite racer who knows how to ride her bike…but I’m scared was all I could mumble. At the same time I also thought about who was going to be scared tomorrow, as little did Ian know I was already planning tomorrows ride (evil laugh).

Why am I scared of heights? Good question, I don’t know why I’m scared of heights and I’m not about to jump from a plane in an attempt to cure my fear. I would like to know if there is anybody out there who doesn’t have a fear of some kind? I met a guy once who was scared of tadpoles. I personally couldn’t understand it, unless I was forced to eat one, now that would be scary for tadpole and moi. I tried to explain to Ian that as his Mrs I was entitled to a certain amount of understanding and that he should respect the fact that deep down I’m a right wimp.

“Just ride the switchback”

…but really as the woman who cooks your meals once a week and cleans your bikes and um does lots of things for you…

“Just ride the switchback”

…That really you should be concerned for my feelings.

“Just ride the switchback”.

So I had to face my fear. There’s no use arguing with the man. I was told we weren’t leaving the trail until I rode each switchback three times in a row, even if we had to stay there all night. I reminded Ian that I have ridden a few 24hr races in my time, in one of my best ‘so there’ type voices. He also reminded me that bears and bores come out to play at dusk. Ian wins. I had to go for it or face becoming a tasty meal.

There were six switchbacks and I was shaking in my shoes. Some of you may be familiar with the ‘Rabbit Run’, a trail in Luchon we only ever take a few people down. Well the trail I was staring at is tighter and steeper than the ‘Rabbit Run’. Perhaps a few of you will now understand what I was facing as I looked down at the first switchback.

I was in position and ready to roll. A few minutes later Ian reminded me to let go of the brakes. “Where you look is where you go” kept buzzing through my thoughts. The brakes released and I headed for the first bend. I missed the bend, flew straight on and in the air, straight lined the entire trail except the last switch back, which I then cruised round with style on my front wheel. What a manoeuvre! Sam Hill eat your heart out J

I would like to be able to finish on that high, but no, like a school pupil being walked to the head master’s office I was forced to explain to Mr Potter what I did wrong…um where you look is where you go? I was supposed to stay on the trail, look at the exit and at least attempt to ride the switchbacks.

I realised after my first attempt that I actually rode off the trail and survived. In theory even if I attempted the switchbacks and missed the trail altogether, I could still ride off piste. It was actually quite a thrill sliding down the mountainside with absolutely no control. Good god did I think that, did I actually do that. I suddenly saw the light and knew how to ride my bike. I had built up these six switchbacks as something much harder than they actually were in the end. Once I actually conquered the switch back I realised how easy a trail can be once you believe you can ride it. Overcoming the power of the mind is the first hurdle that many of us face when out on the trail and practising new skills. I faced my fear and I can now add those switchbacks to my list of can do’s.

Stay tuned as I promised Ian I would be the guide on tomorrow’s AQR adventure…(evil smile :)

Friday, October 26, 2007

2007 End of Season Thankyous

It has been a few weeks since the last national point series weekend where I claimed the British Marathon series title. I had planned to race solo at Dusk ‘til Dawn, but my excuses are quite lengthy: Firstly my legs were officially knackered after 2 years of racing without an off season in between, and I had no way of actually getting to Thetford with my Cotic Soda. I could have ridden to Thetford from Nottingham, and then raced solo for 12hrs, but Ian thought that might be defeating the purpose of racing.
It was nice to finish the 2007 race season on a happy high. I attended the Cycle Show and worked on both the COTIC and TORQ stands. I had the time of my life talking bikes, bits and over dosing on Torq bars. It was lovely catching up with people I see at the races every couple of weeks, and meeting new faces who took the time to come over and have a chat. It was also lovely to find out how many people have been following my blog this year. I love writing about racing and any other biking adventures that come my way. I hope it has inspired others to challenge themselves to a biking adventure of some sort in the near future.

2007 saw the beginning of the Cotic Bontrager Race Team. I don’t know exactly how it all came about or when exactly it all came together, but it did, and as a result I have a lot of very special people to thank for supporting me this year.

COTIC – Cy & Jeffa Turner, Kelvin & Niall.
I remember promising my good friend Cy Turner that one day I would race a Cotic bike. At the time, Cy had no race management experience, but he had, and still has the passion to build confidence inspiring and awesome handling bikes. Perfect for moi who is quite the ‘scaredy cat’ at the best of times…except when Ian steals my TORQ bars and then you can guess who becomes real scared!
I knew when Ian was testing the prototype Soda out here in the Pyrenees that I wanted one….badly. I was sick of Ian making me hurt up the climbs and then leaving me effortlessly on the descents. I casually mentioned how much I wanted to rip Ian’s legs off next time we go riding (in a lovingly way of course). Before I knew it Cy had created a race team around me. Cy was one half of the mastermind behind the race team and because of Cy I had my dream team of co-sponsors, I had fantastic bikes to race and guide on, and I had both the professional and personal support that one needs to race at elite level. Thank you Cy for everything, but most importantly for believing in me.
A good man needs a good Mrs (hear that Ian), and I thank Jeffa for putting up with all the extra time that Cy has dedicated to the race team this year. Also, special Thank you to Kelvin and Niall for your support and helping me learn more about computers.

BONTRAGER WHEELWORKS & COMPONENTS - Andy Gowan, Griff and of course Keith Bontrager.
When Cy announced that Bontrager were also sponsoring the team, I was shocked…”Bontrager want to sponsor moi?” Wow, I was going to meet the man himself Mr Bontrager and I was going to have a fully kitted out Cotic with Bontrager bits. Andy and Griff went out of their way to ensure that I had everything I needed to get through an Aussie and British race season. One minute I needed kit to survive sand and salt in Oz, the next the muddiest of mud in the UK, and all I can say is that the Bontrager boys delivered the goods without any fuss. Thank you for all your support, and on going support. You are all such a great laugh, but very professional when it counts. I’m really excited to be representing the Bontrager brand again in 2008.

A QUICK RELEASE HOLIDAYS – Paul, Jane & Jon, plus AQR friends….Ian can wait for a thankyou until he returns my TORQ bar.
AQR has a fantastic group of people behind the company, who have also been there for me throughout the year. I owe a very special thank you to Paul Dexter and partner Jane who gave up their free time to support me at some of the races this year. It was scary to see Paul and Jane become Ian on race day. They made sure that bike and body were ready to race two days straight. Even when I was at my most chattiest, they still forced recovery drink down my throat and took my muddy shoes and socks off…even Ian refuses to touch my feet.
Special thanks to the AQR Crew (they know who they are) for all your support over the years and constant skills coaching.

TORQ FITNESS – Matt, Sasha & Milly Hart, Anth, Dean & Genevieve from TORQ Australia.
Firstly a special thank you to my coach Matt Hart who has worked above and beyond to ensure I’m race ready this year. How you do what you do and still find the time to listen and train me I don’t know, but I really appreciate everything you have done for me this year. Thank you to the rest of the TORQ family, including Dean and Gen who looked out for me in Oz. I couldn’t train or get through the races without TORQ fuel.

JOOLZE DYMOND PHOTOGRAPHY and taxi service :) – A very special thank you to Joolze & Dave.
I first met Joolze and Dave three years ago when I moved up to elite XC. I was absolutely petrified, but Joolze and Dave made me feel relaxed instantly. Over the past three years Joolze continues to make me laugh even when I’m busting a gut out on course. You can guarantee Joolze and Dave will be hiding out on the trail ready to take a photo of you at your muddy best. Joolze and Dave have been great friends and have helped the Potters out on too many occasions to list. Thank you for all your support and the great photos that I will always treasure. My aussie family thank you both too, because they can now appreciate what mountain biking is all about.

Thank you for your support this year. It was great to be able to promote another British company. I was also fortunate enough to be given a Pace waterproof jacket that has saved me on a number of occasions. All our AQR guides are now using one too, as it certainly is the best waterproof we have come across on the market. It was great to have Pace forks on board the Cotic, and we wish Pace forks all the best in the future as DT take them over.

I have always loved Hope brakes and I always will. Thank you to the boys at Hope for supporting my Cotic bikes this year, but more importantly giving me the stopping power I want when I want it.

I have been fortunate enough to have on board the co-sponsors I really wanted in 2007. It’s very difficult to train long hours and also hold down a 9-5 job. Most full time athletes who ride a bike will tell you that every little bit of support goes a long way. No mountain bike racer does it for the money, it’s not why I race by any means. I wouldn’t be able to race without the support from all my sponsors and that includes the co-sponsors who have helped me achieve my racing goals this year. A very special thankyou to –

LUMICYCLE – for showing me the light.
CRANK BROTHERS – for keeping me clipped in and on the right track.
SRAM – for driving me forward in Oz, UK and France.
CATLIKE HELMETS – for protecting my head!
BIGFOOT BAGS – Thankyou for protecting my bike when flying.
PURPLE EXTREME LUBRICATION – My chain was always humming lovely.
NIKE SHOES – for keeping my best asset safe.

Ian is the second half of the brains behind the Cotic Bontrager Race Team and director of A Quick Release Holidays. Ian works above and beyond his role as husband, skills coach, training partner and bike mechanic. I can’t thank Ian enough for everything he has done for me in the past and also continues to do for me every day. I just hope that I can make it up to Ian and one day in the not too distant future our roles will reverse. One day I will be watching Ian Potter pedal round in circles for 24hrs, as I overdose on coffee and flapjacks and call out sweet encouraging words: “PEDAL! YOU CALL THAT PEDDLING!”.
Thank you Ian for your patience…I’m proud to be a Potter :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

British NPS round 5 :: Marathon :: September 23, 2007

Kate's race report. All photos by Joolze Dymond.

I entered the British marathon championships in an attempt to claim the marathon series title. The series win was my number one goal for 2007, and I’m delighted to have achieved my personal aim for this year. As I’m Aussie born and bred, I knew I wasn’t eligible to race for the championship title, but after a puncture the day before during the cross country destroyed any chance of a podium place, I didn’t take any chances and raced the marathon hard from start to finish.

This weekend has been quite strange for me. I have been suffering with the most incredible fatigue and cold like symptoms the last couple of weeks. In fact I really expected the worst form this weekend, even though my coach Matt Hatt reassured me that my power was high and that I would be competitive….but I wasn’t convinced. After two years of virtually no rain, or cold conditions, I found the heavy down pours on Sunday morning frightening. From the moment I woke up my brain was trying to talk my body out of racing. Fortunately for me I had an amazing support crew or should I say counselling crew thanks to Paul, Jane, Matt, Joolze, Dave. Who all convinced me that I would love the 100km race and not to let Mr Potter down. Ian wasn’t here on the weekend as he was guiding in the ‘sunny’ Pyrenees. He would have loved nothing more than to be at Coed y Brenin passing me water bottles all day….mmmm maybe.

I didn’t want to be in the way of any of the British girls racing for their marathon title, so I decided early on that I would race myself, and not think about the opposition, just take one lap at a time and get out of any British girls way if they were close by. As the gun sounded the mass of bodies with their own personal goal took off. I hung on to the back of the elite men hoping to find my own space and rhythm. However, I discovered early on that there was a certain person on course who wasn’t even female, who appeared to be trying to prevent me from riding past them. I wasn’t too bothered at the time as it just fired me up, and eventually I was able to ride by. Unfortunately, later on I found out that such tactics from this same person caused a friend of mine to fall and abandon the race. I’m not going to go into too much detail, but was it really necessary? In the spirit of these events, surely winning is not always the be all and end all, especially when it causes somebody to be hurt. In the end I’ve always believed in what comes around goes around...

Enough said. The race was as expected very challenging. My legs were strong and I tried to keep consistent laps, but I was freezing. Aussie blood and welsh weather are not a good mix. For the first two laps I knew Amy Hunt was close behind, but I didn’t want to be in her way as it wasn’t my personal goal she was after. However, Amy remained on my back wheel until I was forced to pull in to the side of the track to adjust my saddle pack. It had partly fallen off and had started catching the back tyre. I managed to catch Amy back up again on the next climb, and wondered if we were going to have another battle as we did the day before during the XC. However 100km is such a long distance that I simply focused on my own race goals and soon enough I was riding by myself. It was lovely to hear the cheers and encouragement from people on course or onlookers waiting in the pit area, even though I’m not a POM (sorry I had to throw it in). It always makes me want to ride harder and finish the race so that I can go and be social afterwards, as the race scene here in the UK is such a ‘loovely’ one. I actually forget I’m not British a lot of the time, even my new Nottinghamshire accent is starting to be accepted.

Kate Potter , Coed y Brenin

On lap 4 disaster struck. I had taken one sip of my water bottle when I realised it had fallen through the bottle cage. I still had over 10km to go until I could grab another bottle. I was a little concerned, but tried not to think about it. Lap 5 soon came round over 45 minutes later. I went to take a sip from my drink before realising the bottle had slipped through again. At this time I knew if I didn’t drink soon I would be really struggling to finish the race. Fortunately I was passed some bottles by fellow competitors and a very kind person in the pit area, but to no avail as I’m afraid I lost those bottles as well (sorry…please come and see me for a replacement). I started lap 6 looking for my bottles out on course so I could try and consume some drink along the way. I was starting to feel the effects of dehydration and brain wobble. Fortunately for the last two laps Paul found a bottle that remained in place, but I didn’t drink nearly as much as I needed to because I was worried about losing the bottle again if I took it from the bottle cage.

Marathon , Coed y BreninMarathon , Coed y Brenin

I had two more laps to complete 100km and to claim the series title, but I was growing weary and the wet conditions had worn away my brake pads. I considered changing them, but realised that little brake pad was making me ride faster on the descents. Scaring myself silly was actually keeping my mind off the fatigue I was experiencing. Until I realised I had too much speed to turn. I took a different line, a much smoother line in the air and into the arms of a tree. An interesting manoeuvre, but one I wouldn’t recommend if you’re pushed for time.

Marathon podium , Coed y BreninMarathon podium , Coed y Brenin

Finally, the 8th lap started and I just wanted it to end. My brake pads were singing the most dreadful tune, and I growled at every rock in case it dared puncture my tyre again. I refused to stop now, even if it meant riding on the rim. Only when I had crossed the line first lady home, and first out of the Aussie contingent of ‘me, myself and moi’, was I convinced that I had completed the 100km and won the overall series title. I had achieved my goal for 2007, and I could proudly say that the Cotic Soda is an amazing race machine that I will be riding again in 2008……thank you CY!

Well done to Liz Scalia who won the British Marathon Championships, and who raced her own race too. It was great to see you up there on the podium in your national colours, a deserving win to such a lovely person.

A special thank you to Paul Dexter and partner Jane for taking on the job of Mr Potter, who couldn’t support me this weekend. You two did an amazing job, and made my weekend a less stressful one at that.

Thank you to my coach, Matt Hart and TORQ for all your support this year, and for giving up your arm warmers Sunday morning.

Another special thank you to Clive from Climb on Bikes who ensured I had enough air canisters for the marathon to avoid another walk to the finish line.

As always, thank you to my title sponsors Cotic Bontrager and all my co-sponsors who have made it possible for me to race in 2007. Thank you for allowing me to use the equipment I wanted to use and for all your continuous support. Cy and Andy thank you for making it all happen.

Mr Potter can’t miss out on a huge thank you either, my number one team mate who taught me how to ride a bike and supports me in every way. I know you feel like you missed out this weekend, so I have two bikes waiting for you in the UK to fix :)

Marathon podium , Coed y BreninMarathon podium , Coed y Brenin

Finally, a sad farewell to Martyn Salt, TREK and the Inevent team who have decided to pass on responsibility of the cross country national series to another crew for 2008. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the sport over the last four years. I have loved every event, even the muddy ones :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

British NPS round 5 :: XC :: September 22, 2007

Round 5 of the British National Point series was held for the first time at Coed y Brenin. A new venue was a refreshing change of scene and as expected Martyn Salt and his Inevent Team, plus the TREK crew, once more organised a fabulous weekend for mountain bikers of all ages, fitness and skill levels.

I knew from November 2006 that I would be in for a long, lengthy and very tiring season. The last round of the national series has left many, including myself a little jaded. For myself, I chose to race and train in Oz, where the sun was shining, rather than make the most of a proper off-season over the winter period. Then it was time to move house from Australia to the UK and then back to France again, before working 16 hour days as a mountain bike guide, secretary, waitress, dish washer, event organiser and even ‘labourer’, as Ian and I turned our building site of a house into something that almost resembles a home and I learnt what a flat head screw driver is. In between the demands of daily life that we all know and experience too well, I managed to complete all the training Matt Hart prepared for me this year, which can be any thing from 2-5hr sessions, race regularly in the UK as well as out here in the Pyrenees. Finally, it was time to celebrate Ian’s coming of age over an entire week, which meant 7 fun filled days with old friends and family, that rolled into very late nights. By the end of that week in September, up until the race this weekend, I have been feeling totally ‘done in’, hung over to the max, which I didn’t think was possible without touching a drop of alcohol.

Phew, I had to get that off my chest, as a few people made comment that I was looking fresh as a daisy, presuming I had been chilling out all summer, when in fact I had mixed feelings about being fit enough to race this weekend. Like most elite mountain bike racers I work full time and it has been an exhausting year, no regrets at all because it has been full of excitement, adventure, plus new found friends and I have loved every moment of it. This weekend of racing, my final event of the season, not only produced mixed results, but more importantly it has taught me some valuable lessons.

I must admit I was feeling quite lethargic on race morning of the cross-country. I sat in the Cotic Bontrager tent and was quite concerned that my body would not make it round the course. I wish I could say I was really excited about racing the XC, but I just wanted to go back to bed and watch day time TV, which is quite scary as I hate day time television, in fact I hate sleeping during the day. I needed every ounce of mental strength to take myself off to warm up. I had read in one of those ‘informative’ ladies fitness magazines a little breathing trick that was supposed to make you more alert, but it left me feeling like I had bruised lungs and provoked a few concerned looks from people passing by. I began a few sprints to prod the heart into action and spent those thirty pre race minute re-acquainting myself with my shiny Soda which had been hung to rest since July.

The start of the race remains a blurred vision, but I found myself out in front early on, leading Jenn O’Connor, Amy Hunt and Jenny Copnall for some of the time, before they took their turn at the front. My legs felt surprisingly strong, and they didn’t recognise the long draggy climb as being particularly hard. I really enjoyed pushing myself and the intense breathing that followed really forced my brain into action. When the descending started on the first lap, down a twisty fire road, before a couple of short sections of rocky single track, I felt a soft feeling in the back of my rear tyre as I hit the first few bends. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it as the rain overnight had left the course quite moist. I moved back to 4th place and lost touch with the three girls who cruised past me. I stopped to check my tyre and it had lost some air, but it didn’t appear to be going down quickly so continued on hoping that the sealant inside had sorted it out.

I suddenly felt this urge to chase hard and if possible catch up to the three girls out in front. The lethargy I had suffered all morning had disappeared and a new wave of determination and excitement prevailed. I eventually caught the leading girls and together we headed towards the best section of the course. The fast rocky straights and bermed banks were good fun, but I was struggling on the rocky sections as my forks seized solid and I could feel every bump. So now with soft back end and rigid front end, I simply tried to take the smoothest line possible. By the end of the first lap I was in third and still digging deep for that extra speed, hoping my legs could find another gear. I was surprised to bridge the gap on the start of the second lap and find myself back in the lead, with Amy Hunt right on my tail. As we hit the rocky single track I could feel myself tensing and tried to pick the smoothest line possible between the rocks. Ian has this little mantra “where you look is where you go”, so I put it to the test and found myself staring straight at a huge rock in the middle of the trail, which forced me to fly across the handle bars and not only look closely, but kiss the ground as well. Amy called out a few words of ‘encouragement’, and flew off down the trail. I cursed than giggled to myself, and took off down the remaining single track, feeling quite fired up and ready to race. I know this may sound ridiculous, but I always ride quicker after I have fallen off my bike. It allows all the tension to be released from my body, and I feel completely relaxed and at one with the ground…in other words it makes me realise that I can fall off the bike without hurting myself.

I caught up to Amy again and together we took it in turns to lead before making our way to the start of the third and final lap. I can’t remember very much of this final lap. I knew I had a chance to finish in the top two, if not take the win, but I also knew that I needed a faultless ride, as I had no idea how far the competition were behind. The fatigue had completely disappeared, and the end was in sight. I had a small gap over Amy, but knew I needed to increase the lead if I was going to keep away on the descent. Then I felt the tyre soften a little more with only a couple of kilometres until the finish line. A huge knot developed in my throat and I knew this could mean race over. I stopped to check the tyre and it was now noticeably soft. I only had a small amount of climbing left, before the down hill section to the finish line so I plodded on. Amy left me standing still and I was now riding on the rim. I tried to fix it, hoping I had enough lead to at least remain in the top 5, but then I discovered a leaked air canister, a fault on my part for not checking it before the start of the race.

For those first few seconds when I knew my race was over, I was absolutely gutted, and kicked myself for not checking the seat pack before the race. I couldn’t finish the final lap. I was sent off course, so as not to be in the way of other racers. I had a long walk back to the arena, and time to reassess the last hour and a half of racing. I was naturally very upset with myself, but it soon dawned on me how strong I actually felt today. The adrenaline from racing brought me out of my slumber of fatigue and I was buzzing from the experience. I still had the national marathon championships the following day, and felt fired up to race hard….and hopefully not puncture.

I was unable to walk fast enough to make it back in time for the podium presentation, but congratulation to all the girls out there who finished today. It has been a pleasure knowing and racing you all, and I look forward to future battles in the UK or perhaps if I can tempt you, I might see you at some races out here in France in 2008.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Midi Pyrenees, Haute Garonne Regional Championships

I accidently became the Haute Garonne Midi Pyrenees Champion on Sunday 12th August. I love routine, and hate being disorganised, but every now and then a little spontaneity and a good ol’ training session on the mountains here in Luchon reminds moi that I’m alive…just.

It all started Saturday evening when AQR’s bike flying chef Russ mentioned a mountain bike race was going to be held on the top of the Superbagneres (1800m) out here in Luchon, French Pyrenees. Russ giggled as he described part of the race course he checked out that afternoon, a course where his Orange Patriot felt every bump, and that even rocked his insides. Now, for those of you who know Russ and know the death defying trails he plays on, know that if he thinks a trail is technical then it really is technical. If Russ says a trail is bumpy on his six inch, too heavy for me to move, free ride bike, then for mere mortals it will be an absolute killer. Russ also has this little giggle, an evil giggle when you know he has discovered a ‘challenging trail’, a red bull death wish, or when he has just scared himself silly or even worse…when he has planted a little seed in your mind, when you know your husband expects you to be resting after a 6hr training session.

Ian and I finished working at Russel’s hotel at 11pm, and the thought of taking part in this cross country race the next day continued to stir my thoughts. It was too late to call my coach Matt Hart to ask his opinion on whether I should race or not, but I knew if I didn’t decided before going to bed, then I would just be tossing and turning all night thinking about it. However, it turned out it would be a sleepless night for the Potter’s anyhow, as our village summer festival had kicked off, and what’s usually a sleepy little village of only a few houses and holiday homes had turned into a mega street rave party until the wee hours of 3am.

After 4 hours of sleep, I was definitely not racing. Ian would be in Toulouse all day waiting at the airport for AQR guests to arrive, and I was going to enjoy my rest day, and chill out at the hotel with our guests, fellow xc-racers Paula and Luke Mosely.

After chatting for a while the Mosely’s suddenly looked at their watches and said I must hurry if I was going to race. Before I had a chance to protest, I had jumped on my reliable guiding work horse (Cotic Soul) and charged for dear life to the lift station. I narrowly missed two cars as I zoomed down the narrow lanes that make up the back streets of Luchon. I arrived out of breath and all a fluster, just in time to find the gate to the lift locked. Never mind, I was supposed to have a rest day anyhow. I decided to spend the afternoon by the pool. I have always believed things happen for a reason, and my tan could really do with looking like a tan since it’s now the middle of August….but thoughts of the pool soon disappeared from mind as one of the lift workers recognised me and let me on.

As I headed towards the top of the Superbagneres, I still hadn’t decided whether I should race or not. Then I realised that I had my down hill tyre on the front of the Cotic Soul. A great tyre for going down, but certainly not a tyre I would recommend for a cross country race, especially when climbing started at 1800m (gulp). I also had my guiding kit bag, which contained an assortment of spare bike bits, 6 tubes, and the bulkiest first aid kit known to woman. The bag was far too heavy to use for the race, plus my leg armour was strapped to the outside of it, so it made perfect sense to spend the afternoon down hilling instead of racing. Just as I made my way across the car park, I bumped into one of the race organisers who I knew from a previous event. He convinced me to race (double gulp), took my guiding pack, and before I knew it I was signed on and waiting to be called to the start line.

I tried to warm up, a very weird sensation at 1800m, as your legs try to find that second gear and your lungs burn from the lack of oxygen in the air. I found myself called to the very front of the start line, as the organisers were thrilled that an Australian/Angleterre/American (they couldn’t quite work out quite what I was) had turned up to race.
Les Femmes started at the same time as the men, but I couldn’t work out who my competitors were. I was surrounded by stern looking men in lycra who looked like they were about to go to war. I knew it would be a fast start and prepared for a big ring take off. I didn’t have time to check the course out, but as I know the Superbagneres mountainside so well I didn’t think it would be a problem.

The gun sounded and I took off…only to discover that I was in the lead by quite a distance. I thought that seemed quite strange, so I slowed down and as I looked behind found myself engulfed by the entire group who were riding at a very leisurely pace. Now I was completely confused, but enjoyed the fact that I could breathe easily. As we hit the first off road descent I let the brakes go and blasted down the grassy bank, thoroughly enjoying myself in the process…before riding into the back of a rider who had suddenly stopped still. I ended up on my side, still clipped in, and the rest of the group looked down on me as they had stopped too. I picked myself up with the assistance of three very nice competitors, and I looked around to see everyone helping me rather than getting on with their race.

Then I realised the race had not officially started, and in fact we were riding for a position on the start line. I looked in front of me and noticed we were heading towards a long steep bank, a trail we would normally use as a descent (triple gulp)….I had three minutes of normal breathing left before take off…..T.B.C

Trois! Deux! Un! The race had started for a second time and I was off. Tired legs and altitude don’t mix, and I struggled up the first steep climb. I noticed one girl shoot off to a good position behind the leading group of men. I dug deep and managed to move past riders as the gradient flattened and I managed to catch the leading woman on the next descent….I was so grateful to have my Bontrager King Earl tyre on the front, as the descent was fast and very rocky. However the next climb was murder, and I was cursing myself for not swapping to my lighter XC tyres. Bodies were falling from bikes in an attempt to push their way to the top as quickly as possible. I could feel the resistance from the front tyre, but I had the grip and the determination I needed to ride past people walking out in front. Feeling quite chuffed with myself for clearing that particular section, I ended up mincing my gears and was forced to jump from my bike anyhow, in order to put the chain back on. As I looked ahead all the people I had passed were back on their bikes and charging ahead. I soon realised I was back chasing again (doh!).

The course was surreal. In all honesty, it was the most brutal course I have ever had the pleasure of racing. It really tested you physically, mentally and I learnt plenty of french along the way, not the french I would come across at my weekly french lessons mind you. As soon as I hit the next piece of single track I caught the leading girl again. The single track was narrow and off camber, with slippery rocks and roots to ride across, and a huge drop to your right if you decided to take some air. There was no where to pass, unless the person in front fell off the edge, which ended up being the case, as the girl in front slipped and fortunately found herself in the spiky arms of a pine tree. I didn’t increase my lead though as I was still caught behind a lot of racers who were struggling to ride this particular section. I hit the next steep fire road climb out in front, and once again my chain fell off. A few girls moved past me at full speed. I took off and looked ahead to see where the climb finished, but all I could see were the thick clouds as they settled over the top of the Superbagneres. I managed to reach the top in the lead, but was unable to see two metres in front as the trail became a steep fire road descent. I almost missed the next turn, but soon found my way back down the next piece of single track that I knew really well. Here I could let the brakes off without worrying about the technical sections as I felt completely at one with my Soul and knew exactly which lines were the quickest.

The next section of the course was very difficult to navigate, no clear trail to ride, just tape in the trees that you had to ride towards. I had no one in front to follow, and found myself way off course. Some how my competition ended up a long way below me, and I could see one of the girls take a short cut through the trees. I tried to follow her line but ended up tangled in some branches as I tried to fight my way through the forest, which felt more like a jungle. I had lost a lot of time trying to work out where to ride, but knew the big climb of the day was still to come and I looked forward to the challenge.

This climb is one of the most popular switch back descents on the Superbagneres. It is steep and technical as a descent, but as a climb, impossible to ride without pushing your bike at some point; even pushing your bike was difficult, and there was no resting as every muscle fibre in your body was forced into action. I finally reached the top, gasping and spluttering from the intense effort that was needed. To my horror the climb continued and we headed up a loose dirt track that is normally used as a competition ski piste in the winter. I love steep technical climbs, but this climb was taking the ‘wally’. I won’t go into anymore detail here, but I saw this climb reduce grown men and a little aussie to tears….it was horrible!

Soon the course turned to a traverse across the cow filled meadows. I took a longer route around the herd, as the bull didn’t look too pleased with all the mountain bikers riding past. The trail was tight, with some testing narrow sections that were not suitable for large feet. I found my wide or should I say quite ‘muscular’ feet kept bouncing from side to side, and a couple of times tripped me up to add more bruises to my already battered body.

Some how I managed to move into second place, and as we hit a gentler fire road climb, I started gaining time on the leading lady, passing her just as the course turned to a descent. The clouds had dropped again, and it had started to rain. I was riding within myself as the rocks were becoming very slippery. Call me a wimp, but I wasn’t risking a fall, as I heard the rumble of thunder in the distance.

When we hit the narrow single track for a second time, I was passed again, but my competition had too much speed and lost control. The girl missed the trail and headed off down the side of the bank. I tried to help her (honest…but I couldn’t stop myself from giggling), but when she started throwing her bike at me to stop me from taking the lead it was time to race. I had the ‘red mist’ in my eyes and it was time to race hard, to hurt…even more so this time. The adrenaline was pumping as I took off and started spinning on the spot at 180rpm or more….but the chain had fallen off….again . I was going no where, but over the edge, as I lost balance and fell into the arms of that same pine tree that had saved the french girl on the previous lap. By the time I had scrambled back on to the trail, I was all alone, it really was a comedy of errors. I figured all the other girls had passed by as there was no one in sight. I didn’t ease off though, as thoughts of second helpings at dinner crossed my mind and I knew I had to earn it, so I pushed on, and was determined to race hard all the way to the finish line.

I left behind the single track only to find the girl who I had been fighting it out with for all this time had fallen as well, but unfortunately this time her race was over. I stopped and helped her to a marshal, as it was obvious she had broken her collar bone. I was told to go on, so I continued to ride hard, although it was difficult to push on knowing that my main competition was badly hurt. I still had half of the second loop to ride, and that horrible climb to face, which I wasn’t looking forward to.

I had no idea where I was in the field, and frankly didn’t care. However my climbing legs were back in action and I must have passed half the field who decided to walk from the very bottom of the climb. The storm was really growing in intensity by now and I charged back to the finish line as fast as I could. The cloud had dropped even lower and I didn’t fancy being caught on top of the Superbagneres with lightning around.

After almost 2.5hrs on the bike I crossed the finish line and became the first Aussie Angleterre to become the Haute Garonne regional cross country champion.

My Cotic Soul, not built up as a race horse by any means, did the Cotic Bontrager Team proud….and I earned double helpings at dinner that night.

This race was not part of the 2007 plan, but it will certainly be on the racing agenda next year as it was the most punishing, gruelling, horrible, exhausting, painful race of my life…that I had the pleasure of finishing. Why return for more aches and pains? For the simple reason that it made me feel alive.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bontrager 24/12 :: A Cotic Mixed Team

Less than three weeks ago I completed 24hrs solo at Mountain Mayhem, and knew from past experiences that my legs would be feeling blobby and not worthy of racing my trusty Soda. I didn't want to miss being involved at Bontrager 24/12, and had origianlly been asked to ride a couple of laps as part of a fun team alongside Keith Bontrager and friends. However an annoying tiny thought started creeping into my Potter brain that kept teasing me to race 24hrs. I couldn't shake this thought, and mentioned my idea casually to my coach Matt, husband Ian, Cy, Andy, and all the lads who joined us out here in Luchon. All of them said NO, that it was time to recover. Ian kept reminding me that I haven't had a break for three seasons and it was time to chill before the heavy training load begins all over again.

Then Cy had this wonderful idea! Why don't we enter the mixed team category and race for 12hrs. Numerous phone calls later and our team still consisted of just Cy and moi. Apparently all our Cotic and AQR crew were really busy that weekend, especially after checking out the weather forecast. So I had no choice but to book a ticket back to the UK for Mr Potter only four days before the event. It would be a surprise, an early birthday present.

Ian looked at me in disbelief when I announced his birthday present, 'a ticket back to the UK, woopy....doo'. There is no pleasing that man sometimes. I thought he would be chuffed to bits to spend time racing alongside his beloved (that would be me, Cy), and enjoying the Cotswolds single track. I gathered he was going to miss me for those five days if I left him here in Luchon all on his lonesome, with nothing better to do than ride down hill runs off the Luchon lift each day with Russ.

The Cotic mixed team was truly mixed, but truly Cotic. Firstly there was Mr Cy Turner, Cotic guru, and the least likely of all three team members to be wearing lycra. Cy's bike of choice for this weekend would be the Cotic Hemlock. Next up was the grumpy guru himself, my darling Mr Potter, who wouldn't stop moaning about the weather or the fact that he hadn't raced for over 15 years. Ian had no choice but to use the Cotic Soul with brakes the wrong way round to what he normally uses. Then finally there was moi. I had nominated myself as team mechanic for the weekend, as well as racer. After all the events I go to where Ian and Cy work tirelessly to support me, I thought it were only fair to give something back to the boys by helping them with their own bikes. Cy even presented me with my very own Cotic mechanic apron, and bright yellow rain coat that Matt said made me look like Captain Pugwall (whoever that might be) [Pugwash Katie dear. No culture, these Aussies - Cy], so as you can imagine I felt very important. My bike of choice for the weekend would be my loovely Cotic Soda.

Well the start of the weekend was a chilly one, and I worked very hard pumping tyres and pumping more tyres and then changing tyres as the rain continued, and then changing tyres again when Ian decided he wanted a faster tyre on the back....between you and me I think Ian was starting to become a little bit of a race diva or he was just keeping me busy pumping tyres as he prefers to be seen as the mechanic in our relationship. I even caught him trying to hide my mechanic's apron would you believe.

The race started on Saturday at 12pm and I nominated myself to start the first lap. I hadn't ridden a bike for over 24hrs and I was itching to start. Meanwhile Ian wasn't even in his racing lycra and Cy who was suffering from a cold on Friday, was now suffering from the brandy flavoured medicine the TREK boys had encouraged him to consume the night before....although it truly did wonders for clearing his sinuses.

I decided to use the first lap as a little warm up, and just enjoy myself on the single track. There were some muddy sections that made the course exciting in places, and I really enjoyed the final section of woops, until I found myself, along with two other riders, totally lost some how. It was probably my fault as I was really enjoying that section and didn't want it to end. I finished my first lap buzzing and couldn't wait to have another 'ride' around the course. However something very strange happened to my husband. When Ian came through and handed the batton over his first words were '10 minutes quicker!', mind you he looked like he was going to pass out. But it was like he was saying to me, the current elite racer in OUR relationship, 'beat that!'. Where was the love I ask you? I thought we were just having a bit of fun, but oh no Ian had to try and take me on, even though we were meant to be on the same team!

From that moment onwards the Potters were at war. Poor Cy had to put up with Ian and I trying to out do each other for the next few hours. Every lap we were checking each others times, winding each other up, and doing our best to beat the other Potter. I cheekily mentioned at one point that my last lap was 41 minutes so 'beat that', only 8 minutes off the truth, but he needn't know that. I was determined to rip his legs off, as he was mine.

With 7hrs to go Cy was forced to quit as his cold had taken it's toll. The Cotic mixed team was down to the two Potters and I could feel my post 24hr solo legs wanting to go no faster. So I had to think tactically, what would really wind my husband up. As he came through to pass over the baton I smiled at him sweetly and informed him that we would now be riding alternate laps. I figured this would really tire the man out and he may slow down to ensure he would make it to the end, but then I realised that I actually prefer riding double laps. After some lengthy debate, where I basically did all the talking and Ian just tried to catch his breath and shoo me off, I decided a double lap it would be.

By this point the course was super, especially as light faded and off camber roots became slippery. There were some difficult sections that really tested your skill, but made the course more exciting. When I had finished my double lap I returned to Cy and suddenly felt this huge wave of hunger. I realised that I had forgotten to eat enough carbs on the double lap and I quickly overdosed on some TORQ bars. As I set off for my final lap I was shaking from cold. I had many layers on, but I knew I was feeling weak and that my final lap would be a tough one. Half way round I was feeling dizzy and knew I had made a huge mistake on the last lap by not consuming enough carbs. It seemed like forever and a day before I returned to Ian who had a storming final lap. In the end the Cotic Mixed Team finished 5th place, and after only 6 laps I was can't tell me racing as a team is any easier than solo.

Once our racing lycra had been packed away, and the poor 24hr riders were past the half way point, it was time for the Potters to chill. Deep down I was surprised, but very proud of Ian who really ripped my legs off this time round. While I had to drag Ian away from his beloved Pyrenees to take part in the Cotic Mixed Team at Bontrager 24/12, it won't be the last time. Ian actually admitted later on that he would love to ride 'against' me again, together as a mixed pair....what have I created?

It really was a top weekend and many thanks to Martyn Salt, Keith Bontrager, Rob Lee and all the team for organising such a great event....Look forward to the next one.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mountain Mayhem :: To Solo or not to Solo, that is the Question?

Racing, riding or simply surviving a 24hr solo is an enormous feat, and one all soloists should feel great satisfaction in completing. This year at the 10th Anniversary of Mountain Mayhem I was facing my 5th 24hr solo experience. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert at riding this distance nor would I say I’m a novice, I simply pedal and hope to God I will keep pedalling until 2pm Sunday afternoon. I don’t have any set tactics or plan in mind, it’s just wait and see how the legs feel and fingers crossed I will pedal all the way. I’m often asked how on earth I can keep riding my bike for that length of time. Well to be honest, what I have learnt from these experiences is that I’m a fraud, and cannot truly say that I race solo. I love riding my bike for 24 hours because it’s the only time I can truly say I’m part of a’s just that I do all the pedalling.

This year, like every other year, I have dragged Mr Potter away from his beloved mountains in Luchon, to sit in a field for 24hrs to watch me ride around in circles, and ensure the bike is working in tip top condition. I had friends from across the UK who very kindly gave up their weekend to cheer me on and help Ian and other soloists in the pit area. I have an amazing coach Matt, who not only runs TORQ, but who found the time to talk me through a low point in the race when stomach cramp and nausea well and truly set in. I even had fellow soloists, and team racers, including elite men and women, who were racing very hard, who all found the breath to wish me well and cheer me on. What’s more I had a gorilla jump out of the trees, and I’m presuming all those monkey noises meant ‘PEDAL!!!!’, and no it wasn’t Ian J . All this support and team-work in the soloist pit area makes the whole 24hr experience a memorable one, and the real reason why I keep biking back for more.

Like every other 24hr rider who competed at Mountain Mayhem this year I have my own story to tell, one that may interest some, or provoke a few yawns, but one I’m very proud to be able to write about.

The start of our 24hr experience began on Wednesday afternoon for the Potters when we flew back to the UK and discovered my bike had been lost on the plane (gulp). It was a mad rush to sort out a full suspension bike for the event, but thanks to Cy I was going to be using a small Hemlock.

On Thursday and Friday morning we frantically made check lists, packed and repacked our bags, as the rain in Nottingham got heavier, and I kept adding more and more wet weather gear. By the time I finished packing Ian couldn’t physically lift my bags, and we realised I had packed more than our 5 month trip to Oz (woops).
On Saturday morning I waited patiently as Ian put the final touches to the Hemlock. I was quite excited about riding it, as last year in Luchon I would often steal Ian’s Hemlock prototype for the technical climbs and knew it was a great trail bike…I just hoped I was worthy.

As 2pm approached on Saturday afternoon I was nervously watching the seconds tick by. I know when I’m nervous, as I kept tripping over my feet, and forgetting peoples’ names (sorry Ian). Suddenly it was time to sprint, and in typical KP form, I ran straight into the back of a few blokes who had stumbled. After quick apologies and a helping hand I was back on my feet using all my mental strength to imagine I was running in true Olympic form to the tune of ‘Chariots of Fire’. After what seemed like an eternity, but what was really only a few minutes, I was back on my bike and ready to roll. From that point onwards I knew my KP 24hr battle had begun, and it was up to me now to survive the next 24hrs, 48 ginger bar bites, and over 10000 sips of my carb drink in order to make it back to Pat’s well earned hand shake at 2pm on Sunday afternoon.

Before I knew it, light turned to brighter light, as the night-time laps began, and my Lumicycle lights went into action. This was my favourite part of the race. I missed out on night riding this winter with the AQR crew, and had forgotten how much fun and scary it can be at the same time. However my lights were so good that I didn’t actually notice the darkness and that fear factor was taken away from me. I also managed to stay on course, which will please Mr Potter no end.

As the sun rose you could be forgiven for thinking the end was almost in sight, but there were still 9hrs left. I knew there were still thousands of pedal strokes to be had. I was focusing on reaching 30 minute intervals and rewarded myself with a pat on an aching back every time I reached that point. My legs actually felt good at this point, and I was riding comfortably within myself. I had survived the night without any problems and not even a sleepy moment had crept in. I didn’t want to over cook it at any point during this event, as I wanted to finish and not be forced to stop at all.

As the 17th hour struck, I rode through the pit area and Ian said it was a good lap. That gave me oodles of confidence and I could feel my legs wanting to start cranking it up a little, as they were feeling strong. However, the next lap was my worst and nausea, followed my stomach cramp, had well and truly set in. The next few hours were hell. I was fighting that little voice inside my head that begged me to stop. There were 4 hours to go, which is still such a long time, and I was struggling to pedal. It was then I noticed Matt and Ian appearing at different spots on the course, talking me through the pain, and helping me to stay focused. As each 30 minute interval drifted by more and more people appeared on the side of the track who were cheering me on. Well the pain didn’t subside, but I felt quite lucky to have all my team mates supporting me, and knew I had to keep going as I didn’t want to let the team down.

I had made it to the 22nd hour and Ian informed me to make this my final lap. I was slightly confused, as I knew I still had two laps still in me; Although, after past experiences knew to listen to Mr P, who usually knows best at this point in time (but don’t tell him I said that). I met up with Jenn Hopkins at the DJ stand, who had also decided to make this her final lap. How that girl rides 24hrs on a single speed I do not know, but who I have enormous respect for. Together we made the most of the final lap and finished our personal 24hr battle together…..well until next year rolls round and we start the clock all over again.

A huge well done, and pat on the back to all soloists and team riders who made it through the 24hrs. Thankyou Pat Adams and your fantastic crew for another great event.

If you really want a personal challenge then I can definitely recommend taking part in a 24hr solo event. There are quite a few to choose from, including the Bontrager 24/12 in a few weeks time. To really prepare for riding 24hrs then try and take part in other endurance events, and talk to people who have participated in these events before to find out how they have coped with the experience. Every 24hr rider has their own individual way of riding, and their own personal story, but only you can discover what works best for you.

If anyone has any questions or would like any information about riding a 24hr solo event then please don’t hesitate to have a chat or contact me at any time.

A very special thank you to my hubby and friends, for making this weekend a memorable one. Looking forward to the next challenge…will let you know soon enough where I’m heading.

Cheers Team – Ian, Cy, Andy Gowan, Matt, Abbie, Stewie, Paul, The John’s and Joh, plus Effin Rich, Niall, Kelvin, Kinger, Sarah, Ian and Beth, Jenn H and everyone out there who spared a cheer for me, really appreciated it.

Special thank you to my title sponsors –

Cotic Bikes (
Bontrager Wheelworks and Components ( )

Plus my co-sponsors:

TORQ Fitness (
AQR Holidays (
Pace Suspension (
Hope Brakes and Headsets (
Nike Cycling Footwear (
SRAM Transmission (
Catlike helmets (
Endura Gloves (
Crank Bros Pedals and Tools (
Lumicycle Lighting (
Bigfoot bags (
Cyclops Powertap (

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mountain Mayhem :: Dinky Hemlock

Here's the small Hemlock that Kate was riding at Giant T-Mobile Mountain Mayhem this weekend, dripping with super light yet reliably strong carbon fibre kit from Bontrager, Pace, DT and Hope. Sub 24lbs all in, using a standard production frame that can handle up to 160mm forks up front. Yum.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

British NPS round 3 :: Back on the Soda

Margam Park
June 2-3, 2007

Round 3 of the British Mountain Bike Series was held at Margam Park in Wales. I have always counted Margam Park as one of my favourite venues, especially as every year I have raced here the sun has been shining bright. I also love the mountains, and although not being the Pyrenees, the climbs are long and in places quite steep to really challenge your lungs, and test your skill level; There’s also the added bonus of the fast and flowing single track and fire road descents that always leaves racers buzzing. However, the weather forecast didn’t look too promising as a large black cloud appeared to be heading towards Wales. With the taste of Sherwood Pines mud from round 2 still ingrained in my mind, and two weeks off from training due to a persistent cold, I wasn’t expecting it to be one of my best races. Nevertheless, I was really looking forward to taking part, but more importantly getting back on the bike.

The cross-country race began at midday, and after a good start, I was leading the group down the tarmac straight and into the first section of single track. I tried not to over cook it early on, as I reminded myself that my legs had 4 laps of climbing to get through and with little speed in the legs I was relying on my endurance to get me through the race. By the end of the first lap Amy Hunt and Jenny Copnall had a 20 second lead over Liz Scalia, Jenn O’Connor and myself. I soon lost touch with Scalia who was too strong on the climbs, but managed to break away from O’Connor and for the rest of the race maintained my fourth position. I really enjoyed the race and thanked the sunshine gods for being kind to me today.

One race down, and the 100km marathon to go. I awoke feeling perky and bright, but didn’t know what to expect from my legs today. After a good start, I tried to keep up with as many of the elite men as possible, but I suddenly suffered an intense stabbing pain in my stomach. As I hit the top of the first fire road descent I tried to breathe through the pain hoping it would subside, before the long steep rocky climb that I remembered from previous years….but it didn’t. Loads of people started passing me who were very sweet as they cheered me on and asked if I were alright. Thank you for your support as I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep going at that point in time.

By the end of the first lap I had lost touch with Jenn O’Connor who was looking very strong, but I had maintained second place. I knew it would be impossible to catch Jenn up, as I just didn’t have the strength to race hard, so I road a steady race as part of my training for riding solo at the 24 hour Mountain Mayhem in a few weeks time. I really enjoyed the rest of the race as the course had brilliant descents and challenging climbs. I ended up riding with a few different people and together we encouraged each other to keep smiling and spin those legs.

I crossed the line in second place after 5.38 hours on the bike and was pleased as punch that I got through it.

CROSS COUNTRY Top 5 podium
1. Amy Hunt (TrekVW)
2. Jenny Copnall (Subaru Gary Fisher)
3. Liz Scalia (Team Bikes Ragusa)
4. Kate Potter (Cotic Bontrager)
5. Jenn O’Connor (Patterson Training)

MARATHON Top 3 podium
1. Jenn O'Connor (Patterson Training)
2. Kate Potter (Cotic Bontrager)
3. Jenn Hopkins (Minx Kona)

A Special thankyou to AQR's Paul Dexter and partner Jane for giving up your birthday weekend to help me out at the race, and even helping me take off my grubby shoes, cleaning my bike after each race and as always all your support and friendship.

Also a special thankyou to Joolze Dymond and Dave for your hospitality and showing me all the back roads of Bristol :) Thankyou for getting me to the race, and always making me laugh.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Home is where the mountains are....

Since my last race at Sherwood Pines I have been focusing on recovery time more so than racing or training, as I caught a bug and it just wouldn't fly away (darn it). I have been surrounded by the beautiful Pyrenean mountains and my trusty Cotic Soul has been eager for adventure, but unfortunately the body has not been so ready for rock and roll riding. This has also meant I was unable to go to Germany for the second cross country world cup, which I was gutted about, as I was looking forward to the challenge. However after making it through the mudfest of the second round of the British Mountain Bike Series, I was determined to race at Margam Park.

As always it was a brilliant weekend, and I was so pleased that Ian let me fly over for it. I had no speed in the legs, but was feeling alot perkier and really enjoyed being back on the bike. A race report will be posted shortly, so I shan't reveal too much of the race action but it was a good weekend for the Cotic Bontrager Race Team. Thankyou to Paul, Jane, Joolze and Dave who supported me all weekend, I really appreciated your help.

Just so you know, for those of you who are interested, my next major challenge is finishing Mountain Mayhem as a 24 hour soloist on the weekend of 23-24 June. It certainly will be an epic adventure, especially since Pat Adams and his Mayhem Team will be celebrating 10 years of Mountain Mayhem. I'm really excited....and as always terrified about the adventure ahead, but like all past events it will be a huge one. So if you have nothing planned then make sure you check it out and come down and say hello.

Until then I will be making the most of life out here in the Pyrenees, which I can now truly call home. Ian has given me time off from guiding duties, so that I can just focus on training and preparing for the 24 hour battle that awaits me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

British NPS round 2 :: Full Race Report

MAY 12-13, 2007

Round 2 of the British mountain bike series was held at Sherwood Pines in Nottinghamshire. I faced a tough weekend of racing by entering both the elite cross-country event on the Saturday, followed by the 100km marathon on the Sunday. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to the challenge as a strong elite field was expected and the opportunity to race against world class mountain bike racers from across Europe, Australasia and even America.

A Quick Release Holidays were responsible for designing both the cross-country and marathon courses, which has never been a favourite course for many people due to the lack of hills and unrelenting bumpy single track. From my three years of racing, I have always found Sherwood Pines to be very fast and requiring an almost road racing style with lots of packs of riders. However, series organiser Martyn Salt wanted a technical course and something a bit different from previous years. This was quite a daunting task as we (the AQR crew – Ian, Paul and myself) really wanted to create a course that made the most of the technical trails on offer, but due to freak storms over the winter period, many of our favourite trails had disappeared. However, AQR were up for the challenge and together we devised a loop that we hoped would be loved and hated to different degrees. Loved by many for the experience, hated by few for that pain it brought to one’s body... ..that be me then :^) The inside knowledge of the course did not do me any favours though, as I well and truly suffered.

The cross-country race was a Class 1 UCI event, which meant double UCI points, and the opportunity to race a larger international field. On the starting grid there were past and future Olympians, national champions, experienced world class racers, plus America’s Mary McConneloug who is currently UCI ranked 5th in the world. All those months back when Martyn Salt announced round 2 as a Class 1 UCI event I was very excited about racing, as I would be using this race as a taster for the two World Cups I would be entering later in the season. Unfortunately, I woke up on Wednesday morning with the first signs of cold, and as I don’t like being dysfunctional in any way, I soon became ‘Monster Potter’ to all those close to me (sorry Ian).

Thinking about Saturday morning is a bit of a blur. I knew it would be a painful race as my body awoke without any zip. For four laps my brain fought with my legs as one said ‘go’, while the other said ‘no’. I managed a good start after being mistakenly gridded 13th, when my world UCI ranking of 24th should have had me gridded third, and found myself riding with a bunch of girls who were all fighting it out for third position. Mary McConneloug remained in first from start to finish, while Rosara Joseph took control of second place from the word go. Both girls were in a league of their own and most of us knew we would be over cooking it if we tried to chase them down.

Half way round the second lap, I started to feel the affects of my cold. I was struggling to maintain the strong pace the group set. Then Great Britain’s Amy Hunt had a mechanical in front of me on the single track, and didn’t think to move to let me pass by, forcing me to jump from my bike and run up one of the steep banks. By this point I was by myself, and looking for a soft landing, as I thought about curling up for a little siesta. I only have myself to blame for even considering an easy way out. I chose the wrong landing, although not purposely, as I slid out on a piece of fire road, and my legs scraped across the ground. My ribs felt the handle bar and I lay winded. I only had three quarters of a lap to go, and I knew before too long the other girls would start to catch me up.

Soon enough Paula Mosely stormed by and looked very strong. I had dropped back to 7th and was still fading. I dug deep and managed to hold her wheel. I used Paula to give me something to focus on, to help me get me back to the finish line. As far as I was concerned Paula had earnt 6th position. But with 1km to go Paula backed off and appeared to let me go in front on the final stretch of fire road. I presumed she was saving herself for the sprint finish across the line. I didn’t look back, thinking Paula was on my back wheel, and just pedalled as hard as I could. By this stage, I just wanted my bed. I crossed the line in 6th position, and realised Paula hadn’t stayed with me. I was disappointed for Paula, as she looked much stronger than I felt and was deserving of my position.

Top 5 podium –
1. Mary McConneloug (Seven/Kenda)
2. Rosara Joseph (Giant)
3. Jenny Copnall (Gary Fisher)
4. Jenn O’Connor (Patterson Racing)
5. Janka Stevkova (CK MTB Dohnany)

I really struggled today, but was pleased as punch that I finished. Only one place off a podium position was a good result for me against a field with such strength in depth. Perhaps more importantly with the next few races approaching, including racing solo at Mountain Mayhem, today was great training for my mind. I came so close to quitting during the second half of the race, but I fought that little voice in my head and beat it.

A restless night, with body temperature high and achy joints wasn’t what I needed before the start of the 100km marathon. I had an hour to decide whether to race or not. In order to be eligible for a series podium I had to finish today’s race, as I’m unable to attend the fourth round of the series. My coach Matt Hart warned me of all the possible consequences of racing with a cold. Ian didn’t want me to start, and the weather forecast was looking grim. I went against their better judgement (sorry) and decided to start, with the aim to finish. I was under strict orders from Mr P, not to race hard and if he thought I was suffering too much he was going to pull me out of the race (well so he thought). All I can say about the 100km marathon is that it was a blur of a battle from start to finish. As promised, the rain started at midday and didn’t stop. Not only did the course test bodies, but bikes as well, as many people were forced to quit due to mechanical problems. By the last two laps I was numb from head to toe and struggled to even collect my water bottle from Ian. I was shivering and thinking about stopping to layer up as I couldn’t ride hard enough to warm up, I do have Aussie blood after all. I wondered whether I would be able to keep going if I did make a quick pit stop. I kept expecting chain suck and my brake pads to wear away, as the mud was like grinding paste. But the Soda made it to the finish line, all in one piece, I’m very happy to say.

As for me, well I made it to the finish line and that was the best result for me today. I did manage the win, but as far as I was concerned everyone who battled their way through the 100km deserved podium positions. Although I helped design the course, I promise you I didn’t order the weather.

Well done to all who made it through the day, including Maddie Horton (2nd) and Mel Alexander (3rd). Thank you to Martyn Salt and his team for another great weekend, plus all the volunteers who gave up their weekend to support the second round of the national series.