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 :)