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.