Saturday, December 20, 2008

MERRY XMAS and HAPPY 2009.....

It has been another busy couple of weeks here in Luchon for Ian and I. Would you believe I have only just started to think about Xmas. There has just been so much going on in our lives, from building work, training, organising AQR, to planning my 2009 race brain is actually in September 2009 right now as I have been organising my accommodation for the Champery world cup. Suddenly it is less than a week before Xmas, and the cards I had written weeks ago, when I decided I would be organised for Xmas, are still sitting in the bottom of my bag....sorry mum :(
Anyway right now I have a moment to think about Xmas while Atika sleeps. It's amazing how children can remind you to stop and smell the roses. I have been baby sitting Atika today (Russ and Bené's three year old future down hill mtb super star if Russ gets his way). I have destroyed cute animal figurines and have turned Mr Potato Head (That's Monsieur Potate) into mash, and best of all I have had a french lesson Atika stylee....I can't believe Atika corrected my French impersonation of Winnie the Pooh. After some very tiring playing and reading, we headed to the park to feed the ducks.
This was such an adventure. Usually I walk down the main street oblivious to the sights and sounds around me, but not today. Atika gave me her own personal tour of Luchon's main street. You don't need AQR guides for an adventure, just baby sit Atika. I made friends with loads of dogs, and jumped on every pavement crack Atika could find. I fed the bear statue, and learnt a new walk. I think Atika was playing a game called walk as slowly as you can or she was just trying to walk and do the splits at the same time. Then I discovered Papa Noel or Santa as we say in the english speaking world. Atika's face beamed and I suddenly remembered that Xmas when I receievd my first bike from santa.... It was my beloved green machine with training wheels. I couldn't wait to ride my first bike. I jumped on it and raced down our long steep drive way.....crash.....story of my biking life really :) Darn training wheels made me fall off my bike. So I cried for some extra parental attention and a sweet, before blaming those training wheels. Dad took my training wheels off the bike, then I raced down the drive way to the joy of another big crash as I forgot to turn the handle bars and rode straight into the gutter....more tears and more sweets later and I finally got to ride my beloved green machine. That was such an ace little bike until I destroyed it....yes another big crash.
So what will Sants be bringing the Potter household in 2008...well already all my Xmas pressies have arrived as I'm back riding for Cotic Bontrager in 2009 and 2010. I have updated from my green machine to my gorgeous gold machine...well Ian and Russ have just said that my Soda is not gold, it's closer to silver, but to me it is gold and I have just told them to stop spoiling my story! Honestly those two are always picking on me, now where was I. Yes I'm really excited about my new Soda machine. Cy has told me all about it and as soon as I'm allowed I will tell you more, and include stay it's a bit top secret at the moment so that's all I can say. In the meant time don't forget to stop and smell those roses! Remember what Xmas is all about and remind yourself that you are never too old to ask Santa for your first bike :) Enjoy those trails this Xmas!
MERRY XMAS and all the best in 2009!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Exciting and much warmer days and nights.

Originally uploaded by Kate Potter
Sorry I meant to finish my previous blog two days ago, but due to my previous blog I have been grounded. Ian doesn't have a sense of humour at times and so I was put to work. Work has always been really fun because it has involved cycling, training, breathing the fresh mountain air. But not this time, my holiday off from guiding, training and breathing the fresh mountain air has been to learn a thing or two about building. I have hammered nails, I have put insulation up, I have varnished and painted walls....I have even learnt a new swear word or two as there have been a few sore Potter moments, especially when Ian tried to knock himself out on the wooden beam. I haven't breathed fresh mountain air for almost two days now since being grounded as Ian decided no weekend for Mrs P, instead let's put her to work. There has been so much plaster dust in the air after we, or perhaps I should say Ian's a harsh life :) Well I was still helping and giving Ian moral support. But at long last I can reveal my exciting news....Our room has almost been born, we have almost finished the loft after 6 weeks of working on it day and night. Now instead of freezing our little toes off as all warmth disappeared out of the ceiling, we now have an insulated room. Our house has been sooooooooooooooo cold that we were opening all the windows and doors to let warm air in, how weird is that. In Australia where I grew up we opened all the windows and doors to let cool air in. Anyway I will be back with the almost finished product soon, and then from now on I will be ranting and raving about all my training rides, biking adventures and guiding which I'm so pleased to say starts again very soon.....I'm first to admit I'm a crap builder, actually Ian is probably first to admit I'm a crap builder as I hold most building tools like a pen (bad habit from my university days) and I'm always tripping over things, even my feet. I will also have a brand new gym and AQR office in this space next week, hopefully a phone line too, as we don't have one at the moment. No longer will I be trudging 3km to the hotel for emailing duties......once we get a phone line installed there will be no shutting me up....sorry :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mr Ian hubby!

Mr Potter
Originally uploaded by Kate Potter
I'm so in trouble for this blog.....but I couldn't resist. I don't think I have really introduced my husband Mr P to you all. So here is the man who introduced me to the mountain bike. Who now receives my bike bits hand me downs, when once upon a time he would buy me bike bits for Xmas, so that he could then put them on to his bike and give me his second hand bike I have always said Mr Potter "What comes around, goes around".
Anyway Mr Potter is my b*#%ch. Well that's what he calls himself these days. As he takes it upon himself to look after my bikes, and feed me at races and help me train. He really is a sort, if I do say so myself :) Doesn't this piccie speak for itself.
Anyway Mr P is also part of the Cotic Bontrager Team and owner of AQR......well that's all for now as I have been caught and must end this blog right now! Be back soon, well tomorrow if you are lucky as I have some very exciting news......
Cheerios for now

Friday, November 21, 2008

KP riding Luchon single track.

I love holidays!!!!! One of my jobs is to run a holiday company....A Quick Release may have heard of it :)
But It's November time and we Potters are on our own AQR-Luchon Holiday. This month has been amazing. In the past we have returned to the UK or Australia during Autumn, but never again! Sorry family, but Autumn is stunning. I love summer, but I'm afraid I'm loving Autumn and have decided it's my favourite mountain biking season of the year. The trees have turned golden and there are leaves, deep golden crunchy leaves across most of the lower trails. I had a clumbsy fall from the bike the other day, and it was such a soft landing. I was swimming in the leaves....or rather drowning in the leaves as Ian thought it would be really funny to keep pushing me over everytime I picked myself up.
It's quite surreal riding the bikes every day, both off road and on road, but looking up at Superbangeres (1820m) to see plenty of snow settled. I have never lived in a ski resort before during winter. I was always a fan of sunshine and beaches. I can't believe I can still ride my bike, go running and enjoy what I do in the summer time, but from December 5th onwards I can also go skiiing and snow boarding too. Although Ian's not letting me try either this year because of my dodgy knee....but I will be building snow men and going snow shoeing for sure with Helen, who is our new AQR guide this winter. I can't wait to finally experience proper snow, and apparently snow shoeing is an amazing work out, so here's to strong legs and awesome views of the Pyrenees.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

KP's End of Season Thoughts and Thankyous.

2008 has flown by, or should I say ridden by in a series of never ending switchbacks. When out mountain biking with Mr Potter I’m always reminded that ‘where you look is where you go....if you want to ride the switch backs well then look ahead and believe you can ride each one’.

Sometimes switchbacks can be fast, flowy and really easy....but then suddenly you come across a really tight steep switchback which forces you to slow down. You have to remind yourself to look ahead at the exit and stop yourself from looking over the edge at the huge drop below. Out of pure fear you stop still in the middle of the apex. Then you have a decision to make, do you take the easy option and refuse to ride the switchback or do you try again and keep on trying until you succeed. If you fall from your bike does that mean you will always fall every time you ride a switchback? Can falling from your bike actually help you ride the switchback the next time around? This year I have learnt that a fall can only bring on improvement, but only if you keep on trying.

2008 RACE, RIDING & GUIDING SEASON – A trying season with plenty of smiles along the way....

In 2008 my race season started out in Australia...and it didn’t go according to plan. I learnt that jetlag, crashing on rocks, flat tyres and heat stroke are not pleasant and won’t help you out on course when the going gets tough, no matter how hard you try. The one race where I really wanted to feel good was a complete disaster and I felt like I let alot of people down. A week later I was determined to try again and leave Oz in high spirits. I produced a good result at the final round of the Australian National Series, but more importantly had the time of my life as the single track was soooooooo much fun to ride.

Following Oz it was time to retire my trusty 2007 Soda race machine who had been a rolling good companion last year and return to Europe for another summer of mountain biking action. To begin with it was a quick trip back to the UK for some KP24 Cotic full suss guiding action on the hills of Shropshire and a couple of days at Sherwood Pines where I met loads of lovely likeminded ladies who by the end of the weekend were showing their partners a thing or two about riding a bike. Then it was a day testing Cotic bikes at the annual Cotic Big Day Out, where I turned to the Simple single speed dark side and laid my gears to rest. Single speeding around the pines in Sherwood was a laugh, but the next weekend I begged for gears as I took on Ian at a Gorrick race down up for KP, as Mr Potter crumbles under Potter pressure.

Then with my 2008 Soda machine I began a new adventure across the channel, to take on the world’s best (gulp), where I would experience new courses that test me both physically and mentally....Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Andorra, then back to the UK for the Fort William World Cup where I finished 33rd, and only 54 seconds off making the Olympic shadow squad and world champs team. I’m only disappointed at the time that I must say goodbye to a lovely group of Aussie racers and a national coach who have all taught me so much in a short period of time. However I’m thrilled to bits that I have achieved more than I ever expected to in my first year of world cup racing.

My next focus turns to the British race scene where I take home an unexpected win at the third round of the national series. I then head to another muddy Mayhem 24hr race where I have the pleasure of racing on the Scott mixed elite team.....and after a very close battle with SIS/TREK Team we secure the win....cheers Nick, Stu, Paul and the rest of the mixed crew for all your hard work.

Then it’s back to AQR Holidays base in Luchon for three busy weeks guiding, before the real battle begins. The Potters join forces at Bontrager 24/12 and take on the elite mixed pair competition. However the Potters are also racing each other to see whether husband Potter or wife Potter (that be moi) has the most stamina, speed and power over 12hrs....loser cleans house for a month....I lose! On the plus the Potters on their Soda race machines take home second place and Ian stands on the podium for the first time next to his favourite lady (you know who that is :) )....he is also the only rider on the podium who doesn’t hold an elite license, not bad for an ol’ Vet.

The Potters return again to France for more guiding in the Pyrenees, before I head to northern France to join the Aussie squad for the Tour de France Mountain bike race; A week of racing on every terrain possible, including the holy steps of Montmarte in the middle of Paris. I’m part of the Aussie Composite Team, who to our surprise win the overall mixed competition. High fives all round as we celebrate on the River Seine. Then it’s back to the southern part of France and the Pyrenean foothills to be part of the La Transpyrenees marathon. Both Potters celebrate the win in their respective categories (Kate–leading female 90km and Ian-leading male 60km), although Ian cleans the house for a month this time round because I change the rules and announce that the winner is the Potter who rides the most miles on the day.

Ian and I then return to our AQR guiding duties in Luchon....that have only just finished for the summer season....phew. Now we have a month of rest that involves some time at home, along with DIY building action and fun on the bikes every day. It has been one busy year, but filled with adventures all the way.

As I said before I see mountain bike racing as a bit like riding a series of switchbacks. Approaching the switchback is like approaching the race course. That’s the easy bit. Now you have to look around the apex as the bike starts to nose dive, and focus on the exit out of the bend. Suddenly you start feeling a bit nervous, just like when you line up against the best girls in the world and you don’t think you can even ride your bike...palms are sweating, stomach turning and you feel like you are going to pass out. Instead of just looking around the switchback at the exit, you freeze and you can feel your whole body tensing and moving towards the back of the bike. You have one choice in two different scenarios.....either move forward and look ahead or remain at the back and never realise your potential. Either way you only fail if you don’t try.

I never thought I would be good enough to race at world cup level, in fact four years ago I never thought I would be racing mountain bikes full stop. But I knew I wouldn’t improve as a mountain bike rider if I didn’t challenge myself to tough courses and racing against stronger riders. A result is a number, but for me a result is to cross the finish line knowing that I finished something I started and gave it my best shot. Instead of worrying about the end result I looked on each race as an adventure, but also as my own personal battle. My nerves always try and beat me you see, but this year I destroyed them....well almost!

I have so much to learn, but that’s what makes the adventures ahead so exciting. Life would be as dull as dishwater if there was no challenge to it all. Sometimes I think the world is too preoccupied with the end result, rather than seeing the experiences along the way as something worth celebrating and a reward within itself. I never thought I would share my racing adventures with those of you who enjoy reading about them. I was once told a few years ago to write like a race reporter, and be really serious and straight to the point. The problem with that is I’m not a reporter, my conversations are rarely straight to the point, and I’m first to admit that I do talk....and at times alot. I’m simply someone who likes to ride my bike and keep a diary of my biking adventures. There is something quite amusing about racing mountain bikes, and the lycra clad cycling characters you meet along the way. There is also a serious side to the sport, but surely to be able to laugh at yourself and what you do doesn’t mean you are not a serious athlete.

2008 was the official start of KP’s XC Adventures. I’m at the bottom of my racing pyramid right now as I work towards my number one goal, with the top of the pyramid 4 years ahead. I have this romantic idea of representing Oz in the country that has made me feel right at home ever since I started mountain biking....that be in London 2012. The reality of this romantic vision is that I have a chance to work towards something huge, but so do others. There is no guarantee I will make it to the top of the pyramid, in fact there may be some falls along the way. However if I don’t try I will always remain at the bottom of the pyramid. If I can say I gave it my best shot, then the end result for me is hopefully a huge smile and plenty of laughs along the way, plus a head full of memories, experiences and no feelings of ‘what if...’. I’m after adventure, wrinkles and plenty of scars that can tell a story or two when I hit the ripe old age of 80...hopefully then I will still be wearing my Cotic Bontrager coloured lycra and taking on those of you who are still racing mountain bikes or zimmer frames as the case may be.

Back to reality, and the serious side to it all....I have alot of hard work ahead. It will mean living as cheaply as possible, sleeping on floors, spending every day working on certain aspects of my riding, eating as healthily as possible, early nights, early mornings, travelling from one airport to the next and spending time away from family and friends....even Mr Potter may not see me for a few months in 2009. Fortunately I have the support of the Cotic Bontrager Racing Team once again who include more than just a fantastic crew of sponsors, but who I can also say are many of my closest friends.

So this is my official goodbye to 2008. A huge thank you to everybody involved in the 2008 Cotic Bontrager Racing Team for believing in me and helping me start my climb up KP’s racing pyramid. I might be the only racer, but it has been a team effort all the way.

Special thankyou to –

Cotic – Thanking Cy for all your continual support, from managing the team and ensuring I have such awesome bikes to race, ride and guide on.

Bontrager – Thanking Griff and Andy for making my Cotic Bikes look the bling part and ensuring they are ready to roll each and every day.

Torq Fitness – Thanking Matt for coaching me, plus Torq for fuelling my training and racing needs.

Magura – Thankyou Tony and the rest of the crew for superb suspension that rocks the rocks...I really appreciate your mechanical help at the world cups too.

A Quick Release Holidays – Ian, Jon and Paul for all your skills coaching and support at the UK races.

Hope – Thank you for slowing me down when I really need to stop! I have really appreciated your constant support since I started racing.

Skins – Thankyou Ed and the crew from Skins for helping me to recover after every race and training session.

661 Gloves – Cheers Des for protecting my hands and making my finger tips look bling.

Catlike Helmets – A year of head banging, but thanks to the Whisper helmet my head remains in one piece....thankyou Tracy.

Cranks Brothers – I made it around every muddy course without any pedal problems....thanking you!

Sundog Eyewear – Thankyou Barnie for protecting my eyes and stopping my glasses from steaming up.

Bigfoot bags – Thankyou to Mark for a superb bike bag and travelling equipment that has made my life much easier to travel.

Ergon Bags – Thanks James for supporting AQR’s guiding needs.

Purple Extreme – Thanks for keeping my chain running smoothly.

Plus a special thankyou to –

• Neil Ross the Aussie National Coach for guidance and support this year....thankyou for all the time and help you continue to give me.

• Joolze Dymond Photography, taxi service and a top mate who makes me laugh even when I’m hurting out on course.

• AQR friends for all your support and friendly emails.

• Torq Australia for your race support in Oz.

• My family in Oz and the UK for all your love and support.

Last but not least thanking Ian (Mr Potter) for helping me in all aspects of my racing and training, plus allowing me to talk and talk and talk and talk when I’m having a bad day on the bike; But most importantly thankyou for encouraging me to ride those switchbacks, even the really steep terrifying ones. Cheers love :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Potters head to the Cycle Show 2008

Originally uploaded by aquickrelease
Ian and I have been on holiday for a week. I hate holidays! This holiday has involved paper work and moving house....grrrrr! We have spent a week glued to the computer to ensure our accountant is kept happy and we can return to Luchon with all our belongings for a change. I'm in a very grrrr mood because I'm currently nearing the end of my forced time off the bike. At the end of the season I'm always encouraged (well forced) to have time off the bike, complete rest, chill time to recharge the mind, body and soul for the next race season. So if I can't ride my bike, but have to face a computer for endless hours, then I run morning and night. I sneak my running shoes out of the house so Ian doesn't know and I run and run and run. Yes I know I'm an addict, but I thrive on the fresh air and endorphins that come my way. But after 2 weeks of running, sore knees and blisters, I'm ready to start my winter training by bike big time. Ian still harps on to me that I need a proper rest, which apparently means lying around, sitting around and basically not moving with any other words feeling trapped! I hate just makes me moan, whinge, and become a proper pain in the arm.
Anyway I'm all smiles this week because we head down to Earls Court for the London Cycle Show to work on the TORQ stand. Yes I do realise I said work, but this is the really fun and sociable kind of work. I love working at the Cycle Show because it's an opportunity to catch up with biking buddies and meet new biking buddies as well. As always there will be a wonderful TORQ crew on board over the four days. I guarantee we will all be high on Torq because when all the samples of bars, gels, drink are right in front of your eyes, you can't help but keep taste testing the products just to make sure you know which your favourite flavour's all in the job contract right Matt :)
I hope to see you all there, so please come and say hello and work out which is your favourite flavour too.
Cheerios for now
ps - Thanks to Joolze Dymond I actually have one photo of Ian and I together....with Ian actually smiling. This was taken at Cycle Show 2006.
pss - ian with northern accent 'I dont doo smiling!'

Friday, September 26, 2008

TORQ week 2008 - Thoughts and Images from the week.

Another day in Luchon on our favourite trails.

TORQ week 2008 - Thoughts and Images from the week.

AQR's Ian Potter and my 'always smiling' hubby spends TORQ week focusing on mountain bike technique and skills. The key is to understand the basics before adding more advanced manouvres. AQR set some challenges along the guided ride to see who had mastered the basics. There are plenty of trails here in Luchon where having just strong legs won't get you to the top of a trail....strong legs, perfect technique, confidence and a sore backside are the key....see AQR skills coaching for more info....plug plus :)

TORQ week 2008 - Thoughts and Images from the week.

As you know the Potters brought home some fancy looking trophies from La Transpyrenees. But we weren't the only winners from the event. The race is an extra option we give AQR guests on the TORQ Inspirational week. Everybody finished and as far as I'm concerned you were all winners that afternoon for making it across the finish line. The course was physically and technically very challenging and it was wonderful that you all crossed the line with huuuuuuge smiles and enjoyed the event as much as we Potters.
Unfortunately we almost lost the TORQ man himself Matt Hart, who tried to take a short cut and ended up a bit stuck out on course :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

2008 La Transpyrenees

Every September AQR Holidays host the TORQ Inspirational week, where guests can learn a thing or two about fitness, skill, nutrition and bike set up, whilst riding the trails of Luchon. Guests also have the opportunity to take part in the Transpyrenees event, one of my favourite events of the year where there are three distances to choose from between 30-60-80km. In 2007 the Potters went head to head and took on the 60km circuit. Ian finished only two places in front of his Mrs (that be me) and it was less than 5 minutes; Now that might sound alot of time for a 3hr race, but to Ian that was too close for comfort....I mean imagine being beaten, or close to being beaten by your wife! This year he has been in training, and this year he planned to destroy me on course. However I wasn’t too sure whether I wanted to take on Ian this year, because if he did beat me by more than 5 minutes then I would certainly be doing even more house work over the next month. I have only just completed my month of house work after he beat me at Bontrager 24/ will need to read that ‘little’ report to know what I’m talking about. If you don’t have time then basically every event Mr and Mrs Potter both enter I set a challenge....loser cleans house for a month....and that loser is often me, so why I set these little challenges I don’t know.

Anyway the day before the race was a wet one and to top it off I wake up with the early signs of a head cold. I’m starting to think the 30km option at a chilled out pace is the healthier choice, but then I remember that I actually find shorter cross country races harder than marathon distance. I know I will get carried away and race really hard if I choose a shorter distance. So I’m back to thinking I will race the 60km event at a chilled out pace, knowing full well that Ian will try to wind me up, regardless of how bad I feel....nope I won’t have that as I’m bound to try my darnest to keep up with him. So that option is out....which leaves me with the 80km distance. I quite like the sound of riding my bike for a long time rather than trying to breathe hard with a blocked nose. Ian thinks I’m mad, plus coach Matt Hart is also a bit confused by my logic. Deep down I just know I will take it steady if I ride the 80km circuit, and at the same time have a cool little single track adventure along the way. So I decide that today’s Potter challenge is about distance not speed, whoever rides for the longest period of time wins...I just forget to mention it to Ian as it’s about time I win a Potter challenge, especially one that I set.

I wake up at the glorious hour of 6am to a cranky husband who accuses me of snoring all night. There is no sympathy from Mr Potter as I complain that my sinuses feel blocked. Ian doesn’t want me to race, but I know I will feel worse if I sit on the side lines. I promise Ian that I will be sensible. The sun is shining and I’m hoping the trails aren’t too slippery after the down pour of rain yesterday. I stand at the back of the field with my good friend Viv who happens to be admiring a nice pair of tanned legs out in front. There are some seriously fit looking guys with shaved legs who look fast. The two of us are still choosing our favourite pair of legs when the race begins...I always say to stop pre race nerves find something to focus on, so nice legs it is (just don’t tell Ian). Then together Viv and I hop on to our trusty Cotic Sodas to start the Transpyrenees, and already I’m feeling alot better just from being out in the fresh mountain air.

I’m really enjoying riding with Viv and a group of racers who are also taking it steady. It is 8:30am and there is a chill in the air which means arm warmers and gillet stay on for now. The sky is clear and the sun is starting to melt the dew on the grassy slopes. The trail starts on a winding piece of fire road before heading into the trees and along the first rolling sections of single track. The rain from yesterday has made it slippery in places, but not impossible to ride. However everyone is trying to avoid the small rocks lying across the trail that are slippery as ice, and every now and then we have to quickly dodge fallen bodies who have been caught out by the wet rocks. I catch myself making strange noises as I try to carry my speed across them without wiping out. The single track is tight in places, but to my surprise there are no bottle necks and everyone is moving forward at a comfortable pace, well those of us who haven’t fallen from our bikes just yet.

The first big climb starts and there are some rocky obstacles forcing most people off their bikes. I manage to stay on and there are loads of riders around me shouting ‘Allez! Allez! Allez! To my surprise all the riders out in front stop, pull to the side and allow me to pass by. I even have a nice ol’ chap pat me on the back and shout ‘bravo’, but unfortunately he doesn’t know his own strength and I end up being pushed over rather than helped along. I run the rest of the rocky climb and by the time I reach the top I’m feeling quite warm. I keep thinking about taking my arm warmers and gillet off, but there are too many technical sections of trail to stop suddenly and I don’t want to get in the way of the other riders. Then I realise I really need a toilet stop...DOH!

I still need a toilet stop and I’m riding harder in order to find a decent place where no boys will see me dropping my lycra. I’m starting to descend when I spot the perfect tree....OUCH! I have crashed, yes where you look is where you go and I hit the ground and slide into a tree. My left leg has gone painfully numb, if that makes any sense, plus my leg is too stiff to even contemplate dropping my lycra now (double DOH!!) I drag myself back on to the bike when a Frenchman passes by and calls out that the descent is ‘tres dangeroooooooos’....crash! He has gone splat too. Now I’m feeling really confident. I can see some difficult rocky sections ahead that look slippery. So with only one properly functioning leg I muster some courage and make my way down the rocky steps. Speed and a relaxed body is the key down this tricky section of trail, but there isn’t much grip, so once again I’m singing a song full of ‘oohs and ahhs and yikes and go go go!’ Singing was never my forte, but it certainly helps me down this descent.

Left leg is still hurting from the crash, and now a sheep dog is trying to eat it. (surely this can be a triple DOH!!!) I’m riding through one of the many villages up a tarmac climb when I’m forced to go as hard as I can because the dog’s teeth are only inches from my heel. I’m afraid I’m forced to kick the dog from my foot or end up dog dinner....sorry Fido and any dog lovers out there. I’m a little shaky from the experience, but I’m sure Fido will find other feet to chase. Now I’m back off road with quite a long rocky climb ahead when I see Ian....WALKING!!!!! He is about 30m in front WALKING this technical climb where you really have to choose your line carefully. Now this is the man that taught me how to ride a mountain bike, so I call out some encouraging words like.....’What are you doing? You call that mountain biking?’ He ignores me. I remind him that I’m still on the bike and he is pushing. He ignores me, but reminds me later that ‘I never caught him and he is still the faster Potter!’

More single track, so much more in fact that you actually look forward to any tarmac sections that come your way just for a little break from all the concentration involved in riding the technical sections. Every so often the course arrows take you through small villages, but at least 90% of the course is off road. My head aches every so often on the descents when I really need to focus. I can feel body and brain tiring. I start searching for a Torq guarana gel, but I keep pulling out of my pockets other flavoured gels, bars, inner tubes and multi tool, but no hit of caffeine when I really need it. I find myself riding the longest piece of single track. I love single track, but I’m really forced to keep the blinkers on as I don’t like heights or the thought of falling off the side of the trail as there is quite a noticeable drop. However I recognise this piece of single track from last year and realise I must be very close to the finish line. Finally I’m back on tarmac, I actually feel like kissing the road, but I know there are a couple of kilometres to go before I can relax completely. I jump on the wheel of a rider who is going for gold and I enjoy the feeling of going fast without actually doing very much work. Then I get bored so try to sprint past him, and we end up having a little battle as we go head to head into the narrow path that leads to the finishing straight. I decide to let him go by at the very time he decides to let me go in front, and then we end up slowing right down as though neither of us want to out sprint the other...such a gentleman.

HOUR 5, plus about 50 minutes.
I cross the line first Femme home, and then discover that Ian has also taken first place in the 60km cheers all round for the Cotic Soda duo Mr and Mrs Potter :). I then let Ian know that as I raced for over 2hrs longer than he has I win the Potter challenge, so he has to learn how to use the vacuum cleaner at long last. He looks slightly confused, but he will learn :)

AFTERMATH - Post race have heard from me but Ian deserves some space too, so I will be returning shortly with a few words from Mr Potter.

As always Special thanks to –
Cotic –
Bontrager –
A Quick Release Holidays –
Torq & Torq Australia –
Magura Forks –
Hope –
Skins –

And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, SRAM, Catlike Helmets, Lumicycle, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Sundog eyewear, Ergon bags and Purple Extreme Lubricants.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2008 Bontrager 24/12 :: Podcast

If you have iTunes you can now listen to a new podcast of Kate talking about her racing with Keith Bontrager.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

L'Hexagonal VTT Tour de France :: August 7-12

Less than a month ago I received an email from Australia’s national mountain bike coach Neil Ross asking if I would be interested in racing as part of a team in the Tour de France mountain bike stage race, also known as 'L’Hexagonal'. At the time I didn’t know anything about the event, all I could make out from the website is that it consisted of 5 races, three of cross country distance and two time trials. I didn’t know whether it was an individual race or a team event, but Neil just said to make my way to Vittel in the northern part of France as I would enjoy the event, plus it would be a good block of training for me.

Before I knew it Ian was dropping me and my many bags in Toulouse....I never travel light. My adventure was about to begin, but I tried not to show my excitement because I knew Ian would miss me. I told him it would only be for a week, and I would be back before he knew it. But then I noticed a very cheeky expression on Ian’s face and I just had this feeling he was in a rush to return to Luchon. Then I guessed it, he had a downhill date with Russ. So it was a quick good bye as the two Potter’s went their separate ways....I for the cross country trails of northern France and Ian back to his beloved Pyrenees for some downhill action.

I now faced 12hrs of travelling that included three trains, plus a taxi ride through the streets of Paris. At 8pm I would arrive in Vittel train station where my Tour de France mountain bike experience would begin two days later.....well so I thought.

DAY 1 – ‘The Team Pursuit – one for the Poms’

The opening ceremony of the Tour de France VTT started with an exhibition race between each team who wanted to test themselves on a 400m course that included dirt jumps, logs and sand pits. Each team were presented to the crowd, before young children surrounded the riders for autographs. I felt like a film star, until I realised it was time to strut my stuff on this very interesting race course. I was part of Team Australia Composee that included two Aussie fellas (Josh Keep and Nick Both), a part time aussie-brit-frenchie (that be moi), and a lovely Austrian (Alban Lakata). The four of us decided to take it easy and save the legs, and possibly our heads too, as there was no room for error if we hit the jumps or logs too fast.
I knew I was the weak link, but there was no pressure for me to keep up with the lads as it was the top three riders who crossed the line that counted. Although my competitive brain didn’t want to be left behind either, so I was determined to try and at least keep the boys in sight. On the first lap I lost time on the logs as the boys jumped them very gracefully, where I looked every bit the spanner. However I had the sand pits nailed, almost riding over Alban across the first pit...who was sinking rather than moving forward I might add. I was trying to control my fits of giggling as I passed Alban, whilst struggling to breathe as I was well and truly in the red zone. The legs plodded on and by the time I reached the start of the second lap Alban had passed me and this time crossed the sand pits effortlessly.
It was the shortest race in the history of Kate Potter. I was just starting to feel better too as I crossed the finish line....oh for 100 more laps or better still some fast twitch muscle fibres :)
The British Cycling Team that included Ian Bibby, David Fletcher and Billy-Joe Whenman looked very strong and had made the semi finals along with the Australian Cycling Team (Dellys Starr, Daniel McConnel, Adrian Jackson and Andrew Blair). It would have been great to have a mountain bike version of the ‘Ashes’, but the Poms proved too strong overall and won both their semi and then their final, while the Aussie national team finished cheers all round for the British National Mountain bike Team!

Day 2 – ‘Vittel TT – KP beats world champ and ducks for cover’
A fast course that had more sand pits, tunnels, mud, rain, and even some hail for those lucky enough to start their TT later in the day. I was the first lady to sprint off, with some tough competition hot on my heels. I kept expecting to be passed, but managed a pretty faultless run and finished without any girls or guys passing me. Then the rain started and didn’t stop, thunder and lightning struck close by, and the hail turned everything white. The course had some difficult sections at speed even in the dry, but there were plenty of sections that were lethal in the wet. Aussie Olympian Dan McConnel felt the full force of the storm as he revealed huge red marks across his back where he was struck by the hail. He certainly deserved a medal for simply finishing. Christoph Sauser finished 2 minutes behind my I can actually say I beat a world champ :). In the end I finished third, 23 seconds behind the winner French national champ and Olympian Laurence Leboucher. I was pretty chuffed with my result, but I still can’t believe how painful racing for 15 minutes can be.

Day 3 – ‘Vittel XC – mud, sweat and no gears’
I have always believed in what comes around goes around. I shouldn’t have laughed when I found out I beat world champ Christoph Sauser’s time the day before. Now it was my turn to suffer, and suffer I did. The course was a total mudfest. Dellys Starr and I managed to check half the course out in the morning before we decided it was time to return and change to mud tyres. By the time bikes were cleaned, tyres changed and a new set of racing kit found it was time to line up. I was gridded on the third row, which was a terrifying position when I looked behind and saw mostly guys hungry to get passed me.
The start was on a tarmac descent, down to a roundabout, before heading into the park. I managed to be just behind Dellys going into the first piece of single track. From this point onwards my race was a tough one. Everybody was running the single track as the mud was deep and sticky. I struggled to keep my position as loads of men bounded passed me. As soon as I jumped back on the bike I discovered my gears weren’t working properly, and I only had first gear. The rest of the race was one of the hardest, most mentally challenging races I have experienced. I ended up running close to half of the course, and stopped several times to try and unclog the bike as the mud and wet grass refused to shift from the block.
On my final lap the storm intensified. I have always been terrified of being caught out in the middle of a storm...yes I am a wimp! Rain I can handle, but thunder and lightning do not agree with KP. The lightening felt too close for comfort. This race was not just a physical test, but it tested every bit of mental strength I had left in me. I had one lap to go and my gears would not settle down, one minute they were jumping all over the place, then the next I only had first gear. I stopped briefly in the pit to check my rear mech and ask Neil’s advice. Neil just smiled, and said it would be good training. So off I went with a new goal, to ride that mud and enjoy every sticky moment as it could only toughen me up.
When I finally crossed the line in fourth place I was a muddy mess, and I had blisters on my feet from all the running. However on the plus side I finished with a result, plus I didn’t hide from the storm. Facing a phobia that has been with me since childhood felt pretty good...but between you and me I was shaking in my shoes the whole way round. I lost over 18 minutes which meant I had alot of catching up to do over the next few days...sorry team.

Day 4 – ‘Recovery Day – training, intervals and racing BMX’
After only three races it was time to head to Paris. Once settled in at our hotel we took off for a recovery ride. Along the way we discovered a BMX track where we took on each other in the national Aussie rolling BMX champs. No pedalling allowed, and we had to see how many jumps we could roll over. KP makes it over one (doh!). While team mate Nick Both almost clears the entire track....very impressed. This is followed by more riding back to base where the Aussie coach spends time working on my technique. Then I’m fortunate enough to have one on one interval training with Neil....ouch! The exercises he gives me seem to wake up certain muscles in my legs that I don’t think have been used before. I return to my room with a strange new walk, hopefully some fast twitch muscle fibres have been found :)

Day 5 – ‘Montmartre TT – loving those steps’
Dan said that this will be one of the hardest races I ever come across. Now I’m scared. I don’t expect to hear comments like that from such a good rider. The race is a time trial and starts in the middle of ‘Montmartre’, a very popular tourist area in the heart of Paris. There is no mud, no dirt, not even a little bit of gravel....instead I have cobble stones, hundreds of steps and even pedestrians to dodge. It’s time for KP to pray, so I head to the famous church for a quiet word.....’help!’.
The rain has started again and the cobble stones are lethal to walk on in places. As Dellys and I line up we don’t know how hard we will be able to push it as I have seen plenty of riders slip off their bikes already. From a standing start we go straight into a steep section of steps. I lose balance and end up zig zagging down the steps, to my surprise I’m still attached to my bike. A short section of slippery cobbles follow before more steps, longer steps, where I just let go of the brakes and hold on. More cobbled roads, more steps, and let’s not forget those tourists who step out in front of you because they’re not aware there is a mountain bike race going on in the middle of the city.
I’m slow around the corners because I don’t trust my tyres on the wet cobbles, but I try to go as quickly as I can on the straights. The most painful section of the race course approaches as I have to run up over a hundred steps. The crowds are cheering, but I can only hear my heart beating and lungs gasping for air. When I reach the top it’s time to jump back on the bike and ride back down another much longer section of steps. However there is a cheeky smooth section of concrete to the side of the steps which I ride, but I’m bobbing it as my back tyre slides from side to side on the way down. This is not a good place to fall as there are people everywhere cheering riders on.
Then I discover I have caught the girl in front of me. This fires me up and I ride the next section of steps more confidently. There is a couple of metres of grass, yes off road terrain has appeared on course that I can ride....hallelujah! Then guess what? I have more steps to climb, and these steps never seem to end. By this point I’m gasping for air, legs are killing me, and I’m in a world of hurt. A hundred more steps to ride down before I head along more cobbled road that leads to some more steps to climb. Sorry that I keep mentioning steps, it’s becoming a bit repetitive I know, but there were seriously alot of steps.
The crowd seems to go wild and there are the Aussie lads cheering and encouraging me to ride the steep concrete slabs beside the next set of steps. I don’t know what to do....granny ring? Middle ring? Why didn’t I practice this section before...just go for can’t run anyway. So I stuff my gear selection up just to make my ride a bit harder. I manage to jump onto the concrete slabs and I’m riding it....YES! No! I slip. I’m gasping for air and trying to pick myself up. The boys are still cheering, as I jump back on the bike. There is about a kilometre to go, and this is where I have to make sure I don’t run over any tourists as the course weaves through the narrow alleys that are lined with restaurants and bars. I’m buzzing from head to toe, but my legs are killing me. Finally I cross the finish line and I’m not caught. To my surprise I finish in second place and Dellys takes the win. There are Aussie smiles all round.

Day 6 – ‘XC – strong legs, but pathetic arms’
Yesterday my legs were killing me, seriously hurting, but today was a different story altogether. I have a two lap race on a 20km course to look forward to. During practice I ride the course with team mate Josh and notice my legs feel kind of buzzy. It’s like they want to take off, and no matter how much pain you throw at them they feel like they will cope with it. I take my position on the grid, close to the front of the pack again...nerves start big time. My goal is to try and find a group to work with as the course is fairly flat, except for one section that I will describe shortly. I’m over 18 minutes behind Laurence Laboucher who wears the ladies pink jersey, but our team star Alban from Austria has had three fantastic results and holds the yellow jersey. Our team is not too far behind in the team mixed category. So long as I don’t lose too much time to the girls in front then there is still a chance our team may finish on the podium. The race starts and I manage, to my surprise, to be riding with Dellys. The two of us work together and I realise that perhaps I could help Dellys chase down the pink jersey. I feel like I can go faster, and really dig deep to try and help Dellys as much as I can.
Then we reach the most frustrating section of the course because we have to ride a steep descent into a dried up river bed, which is impossible to ride out of. It’s times like this I wish I had ‘Go Go Gadget legs’, I mention Gadget because every time I threw my bike over the bank I would whisper ‘Go Go Gadget ARMS’...because you had to try and lift your full body weight to the top, as it was a muddy sheer bank that was above my head. There were quite a few sections like this, and then a really steep climb that most people ran. As painful as it was, I loved this section because it really tested your whole body. I discovered my biceps were still working, although they definitely need some strengthening.
On the second lap the Aussie chicks (that be Dellys and I) had caught Josh my team mate. Poor Josh still had two more laps because the men had to do three laps of the course. Josh was a star and worked really hard with Dellys and I, wheel to wheel, to chase down the pink jersey. In the end Dellys and I came through together. Dellys in second and I in third. Neil said we had made up time and were within 15 seconds of catching Laurence Leboucher. I was on a total race high, and buzzing from the experience.

Day 7 – ‘XC – Aussie smiles all round’
Unfortunately I started this race feeling very tired....only four hours decent sleep. I couldn’t sleep properly the night before because I was still buzzing from the race yesterday and overheating big time. Every time I closed my eyes I was still racing, and no matter how much water I splashed on my face I couldn’t cool down. I even caught myself turning in my sleep as though I was riding a corner in the race.
The race started early today as there would be presentations following the race and a huge feast to celebrate the end of the competition. I felt like I was in a daze as the race started. There were two starting loops and then four laps of the course. I thought I had a fairly good start, but I still felt like my head wasn’t really attached to my body and my legs didn’t have the same buzz as they did yesterday.
The course was another great loop where skill and speedy legs were required. First there was a long straight dusty trail along the River Seine, before plenty of single track action that ranged from bumpy grass to some interesting steep muddy sections beneath the trees. The theme of the week was ‘let’s throw obstacles at the riders to make them run, climb and really suffer’...I was loving it! There were more sections that were impossible to ride, including a long wooden construction that I even had trouble walking up. Luckily I always had a rider behind me who kindly held me up and stopped me from falling as I slipped backwards into their arms....just don’t mention that to Mr Potter.
There was always somebody to try and chase down out in front, and I felt myself becoming stronger on each lap. I had passed the pink jersey at one point, and dug deep to try and stay out in front. Dellys had taken the lead early and looked strong. If she could make up some time on the pink jersey, not only would she win the stage, but end up winning the overall ladies competition too as there was less than 5 minutes between them both. My goal was to try and make up time for our team. If Alban had a good race, and I could stay in front of Leboucher then there was a possibility we might end up on the podium. I managed to finish in second place, but waited to see how much time I made up on the pink jersey.
When I was told I had to clean up to be ready for the podium, I forgot all about it. Until a little later on when Neil revealed that Team Composee Australia had won the mixed competition. It was smiles all round as Dellys had won the pink jersey and our lovely Austrian Alban Lakata, who could be called an Aussie as well....but just with a different accent, won the yellow jersey. I was pleased to finish in third place overall in the ladies pink jersey competition...we were all smiling high!

It was a fantastic opportunity to join two Australian teams for the L’Hexagonal Tour de France VTT. Thanks to Neil Ross for all your support and coaching during the week, and special thanks to Rosie Barnes for being our team manager. It was an absolute pleasure riding and racing with Josh, Nick, Albert, Dellys, Dan, Adrian and Andrew. Also a huge thankyou to Jake for your massage and gofer duties, you were such a star! I really hope to race this event next year as it was a brilliant race, and as painful as racing can be, the Tour de France VTT was definitely worth every sore muscle and bruising that came my way.

As always Special thanks to –
Cotic –
Bontrager –
A Quick Release Holidays –
Torq & Torq Australia –
Magura Forks –
Hope –
Skins –

And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, SRAM, Catlike Helmets, Lumicycle, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Sundog eyewear, Ergon bags and Purple Extreme Lubricants.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

L'Hexagonal VTT Tour de France :: Day 1

Less than a month ago I received an email from Australia’s national mountain bike coach Neil Ross asking if I would be interested in racing as part of a team in the Tour de France mountain bike stage race, also known as L’Hexagonal. I didn’t know anything about the event, all I could make out from the website is that it consisted of 5 races, three of cross country distance and two time trials. I didn’t know whether it was an individual race or a team event, but Neil just said to make my way to Vittel in the northern part of France as I would enjoy the event, plus it would be a good block of training.

Before I knew it Ian was dropping me and my many bags in Toulouse. My adventure was about to begin, but I tried not to show my excitement in case Mr Potter started crying. I told him it would only be for a week, I would be back before he knew it. I pretended to have tears in my eyes too as I was certain I would be missed! But then I noticed a very cheeky expression on Ian’s face and knew he had a downhill date with Russ, so it was a quick good bye as the two Potter’s went their separate ways....I for the cross country trails of northern France and Ian back to his beloved Pyrenees for some downhill action.

I would face 12hrs of travelling that included three trains, plus a taxi ride through the streets of Paris. I arrived in Vittel train station where my Tour de France mountain bike experience would begin two days later.....well so I thought.

DAY 1 – ‘The Team Pursuit’

There were two Australian teams, and I was part of ‘Team Australia Composee’, that consisted of fellow Aussies Josh Keep and Nick Both, plus an Austrian by the name of Alban Lakata who raced on the Dolphin Trek other words he was a proper pro. Our Team manager was Aussie elite racer Rosie Barnes who would be in charge of our team logistics and feeding. The other Australian Team included Daniel McConnell and Dellys Starr who are representing Australia at the Beijing Olympics, plus Adrian Jackson and Andrew Blair.

While Rosie and Neil attended the manager’s meeting I relaxed on the grass with both teams and suddenly became rather nervous. It suddenly dawned on me that the world champion Christoph Sauser sat close by, plus there were several teams arriving in their team cars looking every bit the pro part. The British Cycling Team had also turned up and just about every person I came across had a campervan or large vehicle with not just their name printed on it, but their faces too. I felt like a fish out of water, or rather a koala out of a gum tree. I wondered if the national coach knew what he had got me into, as there were some very classy riders turning up, and suddenly I doubted if I were even good enough to be here amongst all these international bikers. At least I had 48hrs before the first race to relax and find my confident brain which I started to think I had left behind in Luchon.

When Neil and Rosie returned we were informed there would be a racing exhibition on at 8pm that night following the team presentation. At first I was really excited to check the event out as I was thinking it was going to be like a downhill street race. Then I was informed that we were going to be the entertainers....I had in fact less than 4 hours to find my confident brain and remember how to ride my bike. This was news to everybody as there was no mention of racing this evening on the event website. However before we could practice the course and discuss the format of the race, we had to find our accommodation that the organisers arranged for every team as part of the entry fee. It was a lovely 40km trip along rolling hills and countryside to an industrial area in what felt like the middle of nowhere. A quick change into race kit and then we headed back to Vittel again where we discovered that the first race was in fact a team pursuit.

The main street outside the train station was closed and there were large mounds of dirt piled high, and logs of different widths along the street. At first I thought there must be a dirt jumping and trials exhibition on also to entertain the crowd, but then I noticed lycra clad cyclists riding up and down the street and realised that this was part of the course.....gulp!

The loop started down the tarmac road and as the bike picked up speed I quickly had to touch the brakes in order to ride the huge dirt jump smoothly, without nose diving. The jump wasn’t shaped that well, and there were quite a few guys landing on their top tubes with rather painful expressions on their faces.....ouch!

The next series of obstacles were logs that were quite close together, and even though I have been practising bunny hopping with Ian, the kind where you manual first before lifting the back end of the bike, I was looking rather pathetic as I tried to find my timing and knew I was losing speed on this section of the course. The road continued downhill and on to a roundabout where you had to ride across the roundabout, jump onto a footpath curb and then hop onto a bridge, before a small drop off where you landed on the other side of the roundabout. Then the course turned to a gravel path where the next obstacle was like a huge long sand pit. It must have been close to 10m long and you just had to pedal as hard as you could and prey that momentum would carry you through it. It was very easy to sink or find yourself sliding sideways.

Then it was back on to the gravel path before hitting a series of dirt mounds that were fairly easy to pump through, before another long sand pit to ride across without sinking. The course then turned up hill and back on to the tarmac road where more logs were in place to slow you down if you couldn’t bunny hop properly, before a short obstacle free sprint across the finish line. I was laughing so much as I rode the course and realised I no longer wore my nervous head on. I was really enjoying the course and felt like I was attacking the obstacles confidently.....until I decided to wipe out on the gravel path. I managed to stick my leg out just in time and somehow saved my skin from a nasty gravel rash.

Before each team lined up to race against the clock we had to walk on stage and be presented to the crowd. The cheers and excitement from the onlookers was amazing. Young children were approaching us for autographs and we were treated as though we were film stars. It was just so surreal. Then it was our turn to race. Each team had to race two laps of the 400m course and then the fastest four teams overall would go into a semi final. It was only the third placed rider’s time that counted, so it didn’t matter how far back the fourth rider finished or how far in front the leading riders were. Our Austrian team mate Alban Lakata was focusing on trying to win the yellow jersey and didn’t want to risk injury, so we all agreed to cruise the course comfortably to avoid any risk of injury that would stop us from racing the next day.

As we lined up the Alban asked me if I wanted to ride in front of him because he said he was just taking it steady. I was quite happy to cruise so insisted he remained in front of me as I didn’t want to hold him up. As we took off I soon realised that my steady is quite different to the steadiness of my elite male team mates out in front. All of them could bunny hop beautifully, where Mrs Potter was not the most graceful when it came to jumping over logs. A gap had appeared and I tried really hard to catch my team mates up. Luckily I had an advantage of being a lighter rider in the sand pit and I sprinted to the other side of the pit almost running over Alban in the process, who had sunk fairly deeply into the sand. I was all giggles as I tried to avoid a collision with my team mate, and of course puffing for breath at the same time as I was still trying very hard. By the time I reached the second section of logs on the uphill straight once again a gap had appeared. I was also completely in the red zone, as I’m not used to racing for such a short distance. I had one more lap to go and even though it was only a 400m loop it was so painful.....and I thought we were taking it steady :)

When we finished I was in really good spirits and I couldn’t wait to cheer both the Aussie National Team and the British Cycling boys on. It was awesome to watch both team’s race and it looked like it might even be a mountain bike version of the Ashes, as both teams were looking very strong. In the end the British Cycling Team proved the strongest and came home the winners, with the Aussie National Team finishing in third.

As it turned out Dellys Starr (National Australian Team) and I were the only females to take part, as there were a few missing faces who were saving themselves for the next day. However it was definitely a race not to miss as I have never raced a course like it, and even now I burst into giggles when I think of those darn sand pits that we had to cross without sinking.

The Tour de France VTT would begin the next day with an opening time trial through the park and streets of Vittel. I will bring you that report shortly, as it truly deserves a report of its very own.....especially since I can actually say I beat a world champion :)

So stay tuned......

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

L'Hexagonal VTT Tour de France


I have only just stepped off the train and rushed to my lap top to let you know that I'm all well and rosey. I have had the most amazing week of racing and training with the Australian Cycling Team. I was invited to be part of the Australian Composee team for what is regarded as the mountain bike version of the Tour de France. Oh my golly gosh was this an event that every mountain biker should enter or at least watch at some point in their life. It was run over 7 days with 6 races that were not as long as a typical cycling stage race in the Tour de France, but had their own very interesting challenges along the way. I will be sending a full detailed report soon on each stage, and all the adventures along the way.....and I promise to be including photos. I just wanted to let you know that our team won the mixed categorary, which desreves full YAYAYAYAYS, as I thought I had lost it for us after the first cross country race (stage 2) when I had a mechanical and simply struggled all the way round, leaving me 18 minutes behind the leading female Laurance Leboucher. However we all dug deep and to our surprise took the lead after the team performed brilliantly in the last two stages. National Aussie champ Dellys Starr had an awesome race yesterday to win the final stage and gain over 5 minutes on Leboucher to take the maiollet rose. To my surprise I finished second yesterday and managed to take third overall, which I was really pleased about.

The event attracted some of the best riders in the world including the world champion Christoph Sausser. Each stage was filled with interesting obstacles unlike any race I have ever entered in my life. Time trials were conducted in the middle of cities where steps, slippery cobble stones, hail, thunder and lightening and would you believe even pedestrians were the main obstacles for one to avoid. Every cross country race involved plenty of running, scrambling, and would you believe climbing with your bike up sheer muddy banks. I can't express to you how different this event is to anything I have ever done before and will definitely be back next year to race it again as it was the best week of training and racing I have ever experienced.

I will be back again soon with a report on each stage, but as I have only had two hours sleep I plan to type up my report tomorrow, so you will have to wait until then I'm afraid as my eyes are caving in.

Cheerios for now


Saturday, August 2, 2008

2008 Bontrager 24/12 :: Kate's Report

12hr mixed pairs
Originally uploaded by James Dymond
Ian and I have just returned from Bontrager 24/12 which was held at Newnham Park just outside Plymouth. I really have to control my finger tips as I type what should be a very serious ‘race report’, as Mr and Mrs Potter were teaming up to take on each other to work out who is the fastest Potter on the planet. However I think many of you know my writing style by now and realise that if I have had an awesome experience then expect to join me in that experience.....only a few days later when I finally finish writing about it. This event is going to be difficult to narrow down to the bare minimum of action packed mini adventures that took place within the overall weekend. Once again Martyn Salt and his merry men organised an event for the people, with a relaxed atmosphere that even the most serious of racers enjoyed, as well as Friday night rock band, midnight jazz singer, on course clubbing action, plus superb catering and showering facilities....and as we all noted glorious sun and moonshine with only a hint of mud that somehow ended up more on me than any other rider on course so I was told.

Now as I was saying I do have to control my typing for this ‘little’ report otherwise I will end up writing a novel with endless chapters on just how much fun I, and the rest of the Cotic Bontrager, AQR and the Yeti crew had across the Bontrager 24/12 weekend.

THE PROLOGUE.....KP wins Queen Faff title!

Thursday morning at 6am and I’m ready to roll....well almost. I decide I’m in need of a run before the 6hr drive down south. Ian reminds me that Cy will be arriving at 10am, plenty of time to faff. Before I know it the clock strikes 9:45am and I decide to finish packing. Luckily Cy is running late so I have more time to faff. Cy arrives an hour later and guess what I’m still packing. Naturally I’m the last to be ready, but the boys are talking bikes so I have time up my sleeve and quickly race back inside to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything. I just had this horrible feeling that I had forgotten something really important.....30 minutes later and I remember that I’m on a special course of these horrible looking iron tablets which must be taken for 30 days straight.....oops. However it takes me another 20 minutes to find the courage to ask Cy if we could possibly go back to Nottingham to collect them.....guess who is not in good books? Finally the Cotic Bontrager Racing Team that includes Cy, Paul and the Potters hit the road in the right direction. The time is 1:30pm and KP is not very popular....sorry.
Thursday evening after 6pm and the Cotic Bontrager Team pitch their tents, well Mr Potter rips our tent just in time for the rain. Cy has chosen a brilliant spot right in the centre of the camping area. At this point in time we feel like the entire grassy area belongs to the Cotic Bontrager Team as only a few other people have arrived early to set up camp. I’m desperate to move so head off for a walk leaving the boys to overdose on carbs and hydrate ready for the racing on Saturday....that be with a few bottles of beer and a healthy dose of pasta.
Friday morning, the sun is out in full force. I haven’t ridden my bike for two days and I’m desperate to check the course out. I round the boys up and we make our way around the 12km loop. The start involves a rough grassy straight that is a perfect section to warm up on, before heading to the first climb that leads to a flowing piece of single track beneath the trees....soooo nice. Then follows a short tarmac climb, before a bumpy wide trail that leads to another glorious piece of single track....may the fun begin! Already I’m battling my brain. Do I chase Ian down or do I conserve energy for the next day? There are some super fast corners and a couple of tighter bends around some trees, then a short section of wider trail before a super fast piece of single track, over a few roots, with a cool little switchback that drops on to another passing point....this is a yummy trail as I like to say! Then there is more fire road before my favourite section of woops....reminding me of a roller coaster ride.....yippees can be heard all round. Then a longer section of single track that drops on to a super fast fire road that leads to the river crossing; a successful attempt through the stream by all, but feet are feeling rather wet and the water is colder than I expected it to be. There is some more climbing to enjoy, where we check out some lines and make a few adjustments to the bikes to suit the course. A short fast rocky descent later concerns me as I hate sharp rocks and the last thing I want is to rip my tyres as I’m always the one who finds the sharpest rocks. However it’s soon forgotten when we hit the dual single track, racing each other to work out which trail is best. Then the course widens out and a fast grassy bumpy descent back down to the arena leaves the four of us smiling high. There is still about 500m before you head back through the timing point, and along the way there are a few bends where I attempt to block Ian by forcing him into the side, keeping elbows out in order to intimidate the ol’ guide...he is not intimidated in the slightest and pulls a wheelie just because he can...grrrr.
Friday afternoon and I settle back down at Cotic Bontrager camping headquarters (which has now expanded to include the AQR racing team and our friends from the Yeti crew) where I have the pleasure to chat to Keith Bontrager. The two of us talk racing, riding and living the life of mountain bikers who just love experiencing adventures by bike. Time flies when you’re having fun and soon it is time for more pasta, more water, a little head banging action as the rock band begin and then more sleep....I’m such a party animal. I leave the boys to party with the Trek crew as I can’t wait for the racing to begin tomorrow.

I nominate Ian to start because he looks like he has too much energy for his own good and needs to take a chill pill. Mr Potter is looking fired up, and is making the most of his new status as a racing diva rather than KP’s pit man....sorry Paul (our team mechanic who Ian is driving crazy). Ian is no stranger to the racing scene, but stopped racing seriously 15 years ago due to a chronic fatigue type illness that kept him off the bike for over three years. During that time Ian was a top expert racer, always just missing out on a podium place in a field of over 100 racers, except one day when he finished second.....but the weather was so bad that they cancelled the podium ceremony (doh!). Ian often reminisces about those racing days, even pulling out his bright purple and yellow lycra from the 80’s that he promises me was really cool back in the day....maybe. Since then he has raced 7 times over the past 15 years for a bit of fun, or rather because I have bullied him into it. Due to the nature of mountain bike guiding Ian doesn’t train properly, but every now and then he decides to accompany me up a long col out here in France and takes great pleasure in waiting for me at the top :) . Anyway to cut a long melodramatic story short I really hoped when Ian turned 40 he would catch the racing bug back again. For selfish reasons really as it's much better to say I can’t keep up with my hubby who is a top level Vet racer, rather than an ‘ol’ fat guide who wears faded fluorescent racing lycra from back in the day’, these are Ian’s words not mine, as he takes great satisfaction in beating me. To my delight Ian agreed to race me at Bontrager 24/12, yes race me, as I challenged him to a racing dual, even though we were on the same team. Fastest Potter average lap time over the 12hrs doesn’t have to do any housework for a month.

Anyway back to the racing. Ian had a great start and must have been in the top ten at the end of the starting loop. He was looking a bit too quick for his own good, but as he passed me he stuck his tongue out which meant he was cruising comfortably. The Potters were up against strong competition including the elite pairing of TORQ’s Ryan Sherlock and Mel Spath, national champion Jenny Copnall and partner Richard who called themselves ‘JC and Me’, plus local favourites Phil Morris and Madie Horton. I have to admit I didn’t think we would be strong enough as a pair to be close to these three teams, or to make it on the podium, especially as we decided to race equal laps. However we looked forward to the challenge and I was determined to see Ian become house keeper for a month.

The Potters weren’t doing too badly, in fact we were in second and doing much better than expected. For the first 6hrs we were within a minute to the leading TORQ duo, and at one point had gained a 20 second lead over them. Ian and I were feeling good and our lap times were consistent. As I expected Ian was 1-2 minutes quicker than me, but there was still 6hrs to go and I was saving myself for the second half of the race....I was determined to get out of the house work. On one lap I managed to keep Ryan in sight and knew Ian would be out against Mel so thought he might make up some more time. However Mel wasn’t too far behind when Ian came through at the end of his lap. I found out later that Mr Potter had ripped his tyre, and left his forks locked on by accident. As expected Ryan stormed passed me on the next lap, but then I experienced wobble on down an early descent and I heard somebody call out that my tyre was going down.....nooooooo! The strange thing was I kept thinking it was my rear tyre that was going down, but perhaps after 6hrs of racing my brain was feeling a bit muddled because when I stopped the rear one was rock hard, but the front tyre had only about 10 psi in it. Back at the camp Cy made the call, took my favourite tyre off and discovered all the latex had dried up and wasn’t sealing properly. I’m quite sentimental when it comes to my tyres and I really wanted to use the tyre I had started with. I think Cy sensed I was feeling a bit sad, but fortunately he sorted it in the nick of time and I started my next lap feeling like I had air in both my tyres :)

The second half of the race the Potters started to lose touch with the Torq duo. Ryan was riding two laps to Mel’s one, and though he was riding alot more laps than anyone else in the mixed category he seemed to look much stronger all of a sudden.....all that Torq fuel methinks. Then again I was using it too, so I guess it just comes down to Ryan being a very fast and efficient rider. It was pretty impressive. Ian and I made a few mistakes as we started to tire. Ian decided to ride the course again without any suspension and then twisted his rear hanger so that his gears were jumping all over the place. There was still less than 10 minutes in it, but then I decided to stop eating because nausea had set in. I couldn’t keep any food down. The frustrating thing is that the legs felt strong, and I loved riding the course, but the last three hours I wasn’t sure if I could keep going. Ian was finishing each lap and then riding over to the first bridge to cheer me on, but I felt terrible because Ian was still riding fairly consistently, still looking perky, but his darn wife was looking green and letting him looked like I would be house maid after all. I couldn’t face trying to ride a really fast lap as part of the ‘Queen of the Night’ competition, but then Ian encouraged me to push on so I tried to keep it smooth and went as hard as I could. On my 10th lap I was told we still held a comfortable lead over third place, but there was no way we were going to catch the Torq team who were too strong. I finished a cruisy 20th lap just after midnight in second place.....cheers all round!

Mr and Mrs Potter survived the 12hr mixed pair at the Bontrager 24/12. As a result the Cotic Bontrager Racing duo will not need marriage counselling after all, as it brought us closer together. Ian finally stood up on the podium after all those years of 80's race reminiscing, but this time it was alongside a wife, in much trendier AQR race strip than his battered purple and yellow lycra. I have accepted my role as house keeper for the next month, on the condition that Ian remembers that he is not a racing diva anymore and to revert back to his AQR guiding ways....until the next mixed event that comes our way of course.

Congratulations to all 24/12 competitors across the whole weekend, and a special mention to our friends A Quick Release.Com and Yeti for winning their categories. There must have been some magic surrounding our campsite, or just plenty of team spirit....even AQR rider Iain made it ‘til the end after illness and wife slamming his fingers in car door made the whole experience a memorable one for all of us.....perhaps you two should team up next year :)

Thankyou Martyn Salt, Keith Bontrager and the Inevent Team for another superb event, already looking forward to next year.

Plus special thankyou to Cy and Paul from Cotic who made up the racing team and who took great care of the Potters across the entire weekend.

Thanks to AQR's James Dymond for the mixed pairs podium shot....Ian is going to frame it.

As always Special thanks to –
Cotic –
Bontrager –
A Quick Release Holidays –
Torq & Torq Australia –
Magura Forks –
Hope –
Skins –

And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, SRAM, Catlike Helmets, Lumicycle, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Sundog eyewear, Ergon bags and Purple Extreme Lubricants.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

AQR Office in Luchon

AQR Office in Luchon
Originally uploaded by Kate Potter
It has been just over three weeks since my last race, and I just realised it has been a while since my last blog too....sorry. It has been a very busy few weeks in the AQR office as I return to full time guiding duties. On top of the guiding which is a typical 9am-6pm day, I have been training early every morning, in fact I have had the pleasure of watching the sun rise over the mountains on some mornings which has been amazing. I have always loved waking up early and feeling like I'm the only one on my bike in this beautiful valley. By the end of my training session more and more bikers are out enjoying the fresh mountain air and choosing from several long climbs, including four Tour de France climbs that start in Luchon or at least very close to Luchon. However there are harder climbs here too which are more challenging and wind there way up to small sleepy villages where there is no traffic....except for the odd herd of mountain goats and the occasional red squirrel that crosses my path.
Once I return from my training ride I eat breakfast on the bike and quickly make my way to AQR's base at Hotel Le Lutin with Ian to start work at 9am. It can hardly be called work though as I love my life and don't look at it as being a chore or job for that matter. Ian and I have an hour to ensure the bikes are ready to roll, guiding packs are ready and all pre ride faff is finished by 10am when the guided ride begins. One of my favourite parts of guiding is meeting people from all walks of life and showing them our back yard maze of trails. By the end of a week I always feel like I have made more friends and biking buddies who I know I will cross paths with again in the future. It's amazing how many people we have met over the years who keep in touch. I have so many fond memories from the past 5 years of guiding that I will always treasure.
On a typical AQR day the ride finished around 4pm in the afternoon. For the next 2hrs Ian and I have our specific AQR duties....I take on my role as AQR secretary. Ian focuses on the bikes to ensure they are all ready for the next day. Then we return to our little mountain home where Ian relaxes for an hour and I work on the boring side of the business....the paper work and accounts for the tax man. I also spend 30 minutes on specific pilates based exercises my physio Jenny has given me...I had to throw that in because I know she reads my blog and I don't want her to think I'm slacking. Ian then returns to the hotel to entertain guests, wash pots and help Russ in the hotel kitchen.....and I sleep in preparation for my 6am alarm that signals another great day on the bike.
It can sometimes be very tiring physically trying to combine training and guiding, but when I look out the window and realise I'm not surrounded by a concrete jungle it makes the long days on the bike well worth every ache and pain that crops up now and then.
I will post more photos of our guiding adventures soon as we have had some great photographers out here lately who have kindly sent me some of their favourites. Thanks to AQR Team racer James Dymond for taking this photo, showing the Potter's best side.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mountain Mayhem :: 2008 report

I only found out I had a team to race for three weeks before Mountain Mayhem. It was a last minute desperate plea for some team, anyone, to want me to represent them.

In the past I always chose the solo 24hr option because I wanted to see if I could last the distance....and in many ways I thought it would be easier because I only had myself to let down. It was always a race against me...KP brain vrs KP body. For the first 6hrs my brain was always more willing to race than my legs, but then once I passed the midnight mark I found the legs would just keep on spinning like I was on auto pilot, and at times it was my brain that started to have second thoughts about the joy of riding without sleep or solid food for all those hours. I look back on those Mayhem nights with fond memories, especially the muddy ones when I caught myself having conversations with my brain to convince it to carry on. When finally 2pm on the Sunday came around I would be grinning from ear to ear because I knew I had actually achieved my goal. Full credit goes to all those soloists this year that achieved their goals and made it to the finish line.

I hope to return to 24hr solo racing in the future when the legs decide that going at a steady pace for a long period of time is far more enjoyable than pushing hard for a shorter period of time. It’s just at this stage of my life (early 30’s life crisis), I want to be fast, and the main problem I experience with racing solo for 24hrs is the slothful aftermath, when I become the ultimate whingeing Aussie (yes aussie’s whinge too:)). I hate feeling slothful and find that for 6 weeks post 24hr solo I’m constantly complaining to Ian that I can’t ride my bike....I’m so fatigued that KP’s clumsy ways are even clumsier.

Now back to my 2008 Mayhem story - I emailed friends and spread the word that the Potters would be returning to Mountain Mayhem this year and I was available if anyone wanted me....but no response, no takers, so it looked like it was going to be me, myself and I left on the side lines :( . Then my mobile rang. I brushed the cobwebs off because I hardly ever use my mobile, and would you believe Nick Craig was on the phone....I had a friend :) .

Suddenly the clouds lifted and I was asked to ride for the Scott UK Team. I was really excited about the experience, and so relieved that I would be part of a team. I was going to be riding alongside Nick Craig, Paul Oldham and Stu Bowers...then the nerves started. Since I have been attending Mountain Mayhem, as far back as I can remember, the Scott Team have always won the elite men’s category. As there was no category for the elite men this year, but only an elite mixed team category it was going to be a new experience for all of us. The boys had to deal with a woman, a faffy one at that, and I had to remember to race fast and not 24hr solo pace.

When I met the Scott boys on the Saturday morning, a few hours before the start of the race, I soon realised the team didn’t just consist of four riders. Scott UK had an amazing support crew that included men, women, children and let’s not forget baby Oldham who has a wicked smile. Everyone had an important role on the team, from fixing bikes to making pasta, to simply walking down with each rider and collecting warm layers from the pit area; there was also a little dribbler who instantly put a smile on Paul’s fact he put a smile on all our faces (and no I’m not getting clucky). The entire team discussed team tactics, well little Oldham babbled his way through it, and in the end it was decided that we would race our own race. There was strong competition, including the SIS Trek team and BMC Extra, but as we all agreed there was no point worrying about what other teams were doing as anything can happen in 24hr racing.

The rules stated that each lovely lady must do a minimum of four laps. This is quite a controversial rule for the elite mixed category. It doesn’t mean that women can’t do more laps, as there were women who did do more. I for one am always willing to ride my bike and love a challenge, especially when muddy night time riding is involved....something I can’t say I’m particularly skilled at since we rarely night ride in Luchon because Ian is scared of all the animals that come out to play. However to be competitive I fully understood that we had to play to our strengths and I accepted that I may only ride four laps. So my goal was to make them four really good laps. I had to race hard, give it my best shot for the team, but I still had to avoid punctures, mechanicals or any problems that could lose the race for the guys. It was my job to be consistent and to try not to lose too much time against the likes of Sue Clarke (SIS Trek) and Mel Spath (BMC Extra), and the other elite girls out on course. However it was always in the back of my mind that one mistake and the race could be no pressure.

Fortunately the team never put me under any stress and the only expectation Nick Craig asked of me was that I enjoy myself. At 2pm Stu Bowers took off with the other riders/runners and I think there was a camel or a horse out there too. Stu had a brilliant start and before too long the boys had gone out twice, and my turn on course was fast approaching. By this point I was really excited to be out there on my bike, as I was feeling rather lazy just resting and making baby noises at little Oldham. I loved the course in practice and there were some lovely sections of single track which were new this year that I couldn’t wait to ride. I aimed for a 50 minute lap, but I didn’t know what to expect. There were alot of people on course, but everybody was always very kind if I passed them...thankyou. I returned to the timing tent buzzing from head to toe, before passing the batton over to Stu. I managed just under 45 minutes which I thought was a pretty good effort for my first lap. I was pretty stoked with that one and rushed back to find Mr Potter to see if I beat his time....doh! I was two minutes too slow.

I didn’t have long before my next lap so quickly changed and sorted my lights out. I couldn’t believe it was already going on 8pm. I was still buzzing from my effort and couldn’t wait to get going again. Nick passed over the batton and I was off, only this time I was a bit too over excited I think and dropped my chain on the first climb from messing about with my gears. I was all fingers and thumbs but soon managed to keep it on the chain ring. I had to work extra hard now I told myself to make up lost time. However by the half way point it was starting to get dark and I soon realised that it had been a year since I had gone night riding. It felt quite surreal riding at dusk and seeing long beams of light through the trees. Then the rain started, but fortunately I was almost at the end of my second lap when it really bucketed down. I felt guilty handing the batton over to Stu who had to face the sudden down pour of rain.

Once showered and fed it was time to try and sleep until 4am. This proved rather difficult because the rain belted our little tent and the wind was very strong. I had horrible thoughts of the tree beside the tent falling on top of me. Then I kept hearing voices outside describing the muddy conditions out on course and I wondered if I should be helping clean bikes or ready to ride in case there was a problem for one of the guys; But then another part of my brain reminded me that they are the Scott Team and know a thing or two about 24hr racing, especially in the mud. Just as I was drifting off Mr Potter, who was wet and muddy to the bone, stirred me as he needed some dry clothes. Ian told me to be very careful out on course, which meant it was truly tough as Ian loves riding in the mud and is never fazed in slippery conditions.

I couldn’t stay in my tent any longer and raced back to the Scott tent to find out how the boys were doing. I was due to go out around 5am, but their laps were much slower now due to the conditions, so it looked like it would be around 8am before I could head out, but I wasn’t going to go back to sleep. I sorted my bike out and changed tyres. The guys looked like they had seen a fair share of mud, but fortunately no broken bikes or bodies. Considering how exhausted they looked there was still plenty of team spirit and entertainment as the three of them couldn’t help but be funny even in the grimmest and muddiest of circumstances.

Once I was out on course I decided to run the muddiest sections. I saw too many people walking back with broken bikes, plus I overheard Paul saying that he ran certain sections to avoid a mechanical. I didn’t want to risk a mechanical either so picked the bike up and ran as fast as I could where the mud was at its most menacing. I knew I was losing time and cursing myself for not being a cyclo cross racer or having Paul’s long legs. I finished just over the hour, but was really annoyed with myself because I wanted to finish within the hour. I felt like I let the boys down because we knew the TREK SIS team were so close. There was about 15 minutes in it, so we had to keep pressing on. I had one more lap and I wanted it to be a good one, as fast as I could go, but with no problems along the way that would cause me to lose time for the team.

I was due out on course in the next few minutes and the nerves were really building up. Joolze Dymond was trying to make me laugh and I had some lovely people including Kate George giving me loads of encouragement (thanking you both it meant alot). I had the Scott ladies also wishing me a good ride before Nick passed over the batton. Perhaps he could see the KP nerves shaking all over, but he encouraged me to enjoy the climbs and to go and have some fun. After all that’s what an event like Mayhem should be all about. I suddenly felt alot more relaxed and couldn’t wait to attack the single track. The course was still muddy in sections, but I didn’t fear it this time as the Soda didn’t appear to be collecting any mud and the gears were singing sweetly. Suddenly two of my dearest friends appeared out of nowhere to cheer me on (that be you Abie and Jon). I then became more aware of other racers on course who also had positive words to say and I in turn (when I could actually breathe) wished other riders all the best. Friendly voices could be heard from start to finish as I did my best to get around the course as fast as I could. Hearing these encouraging words, at times from complete strangers, brought a smile to my face and made me realise what the spirit of Mayhem is all about. Though the conditions were tough I will be back next year just to be part of this atmosphere again and to feel like I’m part of one big happy family on two wheels....or even one wheel as the case maybe.

Finally my laps were done, but the tension was still high as the boys still had at least one more lap to go. Stu and Paul finished on a high, both storming up the climbs, though physically and mentally wrecked they were still going strong. Then it was Nick’s time to go out for what we thought would be the final lap if all went well, but there was still no guarantee. A race is a race and anything can happen. If it were me I would probably be a jabbering wreck, but for Nick he looked completely at ease with the situation. He was still joking around with the team minutes before he was due to race and you would be forgiven for thinking he was about to go out for his first lap.

I waited with Ian by the finish line as 2pm ticked by. There was still no sign of Nick. It was great to see all the soloists and team riders smiling and celebrating their finish. After such a difficult Mountain Mayhem everybody finished winners and were worthy of a podium....finally Nick Craig crossed the line and the Scott Team had made it to the finish line. It was a hard fought race for everybody out there that weekend, but hopefully everybody finished with a smile on their face and their own story to tell.

photo By Joolze Dymond, click to see bigger

I would like to say a very big thankyou to the Scott Team for giving me the opportunity to ride my bike at Mayhem this year. You all made me feel such an important part of the team and I had so much fun along the way; A very special Thankyou to all the support crew who were amazing and worked solidly over the 24hr period, and who should have been up on the podium as well.

As always Special thanks to –
Cotic –
Bontrager –
A Quick Release Holidays –
Torq & Torq Australia –
Magura Forks –
Hope –
Skins –

And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, SRAM, Catlike Helmets, Lumicycle, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Sundog eyewear, Ergon bags and Purple Extreme Lubricants.