Monday, February 4, 2008

Australian National Championships - Mt Stromlo, Canberra.

Ian and I have spent a fantastic first month of the New Year based in Sydney riding trails and preparing for the Australian National cross country championships. For the first time in a long time the Potters were on stand-still and making the most of it. Early mornings were spent training, while afternoons were spent down the beach. Then disaster struck! As more British bikers arrived in Oz, so did the rain clouds. In hindsight this isn’t a bad thing as Sydney has had very little rain over the past 5 years, so I shouldn't really complain. But when it rains in Sydney, it pours!
My family had the pleasure of playing host to Tracy Mosely and partner James for a week before heading to Canberra for the Aussie National Champs. I don’t think my parents could quite believe how many different types of bikes were stored (and obviously needed) in their gorgeous Cotic Soda race bike, Tracey’s Kona down-hill bike, trail bike full suss x 2 for Tracy and James to play on, trail bike without extra suss x 1 for my training regime on and off road, jump bike for Tracy to race 4 cross on....and then there was Ian’s bike....which remains category-less. I asked Ian how he would best describe it, and he said that if bikes were horses then his bike was a pig. Poor Ian left his beloved Cotic bikes in France and bought a cheap one to leave out here for my dad to use. Since then every training ride has involved endless backache from Ian, and as a result, headache for me as I haven’t heard the end of poor whingeing Pom :)
Now back to the weather....endless rain greeted Tracy and James for their first visit to Sydney. That didn’t stop everybody from exploring the local trails and playing tourist just made us a little wet and soggy at times. Tracy even joined me for some interval training on a foot ball field. Short race starts were ordered by Coach Matt Hart, so Tracy joined in on the action, down-hill bike and all. I would like to say the boys looked on in awe at our dedication to the sport, but all Mr Potter said was I had ‘woossy’ and ‘pathetic’ elbow action compared to Tracy. Oh my golly gosh did I hurt. Tracy ripped my legs off early on, but once my endurance kicked in then I got some of my own back. Mind you I wasn’t on a down-hill bike with extra wide bars and soft tyres. Next time I think I will make Tracy wear her down-hill’s only fair.
Finally it was time to head to Canberra, and leave the rainy Sydney days behind. Canberra is Australia’s national capital, and where the Prime Minister and all those important political figures base themselves....I also discovered that it is the only place in Australia where residents can legally grow marijuana, and it happens to be the porn capital of there’s a fact for your relevance book. Canberra is also a cycling haven. The roads are so wide that you never feel like you will become road kill, although one must beware of kangaroos and emus that often play ‘dodge the traffic’. Then there is the mountain biking scene. Fabulous trails surround Canberra, and in 2009 Mt Stromlo will play host to the mountain biking World Champs. The Canberra Off Road Cycling Club (CORC) have worked tirelessly to turn Mt Stromlo into a mountain bike trail centre that will also challenge the world’s best in August this year for a world cup. About 5 years ago fires destroyed what was once a pine forest park, so the area is barren and very hot in summer with virtually no tree cover. In fact one could be excused for thinking the area is a desert, especially in January. However once you get used to the sketchy sandy bends and rocky marbles that scatter parts of the trail, oh and let’s not forget the endless buzzing flies that made me want to attach corks around my helmet; it’s actually a fair dinkum trail centre that will make a great world cup venue in August. So here’s some inside knowledge of the XC course...
The starting loop is a long fire road climb with virtually no shade and sections of the trail where you must watch your line as there are large gullies that can zap your energy if you ride through them. At the top you descend down to an awesome switch back descent with fast berms where grip is not a problem. At the end of this descent there is a flat stretch of fire road that leads up to the first technical single track climb of the day. In practice I had no problem clearing the climb, but you still had to concentrate on your line as there were rocky sections and gullies filled with sand that could catch you out if you lost focus. This part of the trail joined what is called the ‘Sky Line’. In practice I made the most of the views as I knew I wouldn’t be thinking about them during the race. The trail traversed across the mountain side before joining another technical switch back climb, with short steep sections that were dusty and filled with rocks. At the top was a nasty steep 50m fire road trail that marked the top of the course. Even in practice it was hot and my lungs felt caked in dust. Then it was time for another brilliant descent, fast and flowy, with short sections of rock before joining the Sky Line trail once again. The undulating sections of this trail were fast, but there were hidden rocks on the down slope that you had to be careful didn’t puncture your tyres. The Sky Line then joined a steeper descent with some tighter switch backs and sandy bends that were hard to ride at speed. After dropping down to a short fire road climb, it was onto another piece of single track that was much harsher than the other sections of trail. The start of this trail was like riding on marbles and there was only enough room for one bike. Each switch back had sandy sections and gullies forming, which could catch you out by surprise. There were a few rocky roll overs and rocky drops, before long sections of sandy single track and my beloved rock.
KP Rock was rightly named as I managed to cuddle it on two occasions. Now when you’re trying hard this can be understood if the rock happens to be on the trail, but when the rock isn’t actually on the trail and you and your husband have absolutely no idea how you ended up hugging it and grazing all your legs on two separate occasions, then you can understand why I stopped and engraved my name on this fine piece of sand stone. The trail dropped down on to more fire road before joining a fast single track traverse with plenty of bends, that weren’t too hard to ride, but it was easy to lose grip on at speed, especially around some of the corners. The rest of the course was fairly similar before you made your way on fire road through the timing tent before an easy piece of single track that took riders past the feed station and on to the main course for another loop, but without the large climb at the start of the race.
I had perfect preparation going into this race and I must admit I felt alot more confident than last year when I felt a complete foreigner on this type of surface. My training was on schedule and I was feeling strong all week. In practice I was riding the climbs with ease and after Tracy took me round the course and pointed out areas on the descent where I could carry more speed, I felt for the first time in K.Potter history that I could ride sandy berms I had perfect sleep the night before the race and all week had been drinking H20 and according to my pee I wasn’t dehydrated in the slightest. So what happened on race day.....mmmmm?
Well I ate a small breakfast and during warm up I could still feel that small breakfast sitting on my stomach. A few nerves didn’t help my brekky to digest, and I had this horrible feeling of fullness that wouldn’t disappear. The race started at 10:30am with over 50 ladies in lycra all hoping for a good race. This race was very important for Olympic selection, as there is only one place for an Australian girl and the winner of this race would be put on the Olympic Squad shadow team. I was gridded number two and had an excellent position on the start line. I took an early lead before settling into a comfortable pace up the climb. I hit the top of the climb with Dellys Starr who looked very strong and Oenene Wood, who is Australia’s current national road champion and former world champion. Down the first descent I managed to stay on the back wheel of Dellys in second place, and together we made our way to the start of the first technical climb. Suddenly as I tried to attack I started to feel dizzy, and felt like I wasn’t getting enough air into my lungs. I dropped back to 4th place and tried to calm myself by slowing down and just focusing on breathing properly down the descent where there was a slight breeze. There were still three laps to go and I was baking hot already, and for some reason I was also experiencing these cold chilly shakes.
I tried to pick up the pace on the second lap, but as I cruised through the single track I misjudged some rocks and heard a noise from my rear tyre. I didn’t want to think about another flat, so ignored it and carried on. As I made my way up the climb I felt slothful and was really struggling on parts of the climb that I was cruising up during practice. When I hit the descent I found myself having a debate with my brain, should I stop or am I just imagining a soft tyre? The tyre hadn’t gone down completely, so I plodded on. I was overtaken on a short fire road rise and decided to carry on until the tech zone and change wheels there. I was going hard to reach the tech zone before the tyre went down any further. By the time I reached the last straight I could feel the rim digging into the ground. I carried on to the tech zone and as Ian changed my wheels over more girls passed by.
I tried to chase them down but my whole body felt weak and I was desperate for more fluid. My legs had turned to jelly and I started feeling quite wobbly on the climb. I then started feeling chilly again, yet the outside of my body was burning up like you would not believe. It was a huge relief to reach the descent, but I had nothing in me to sprint or chase down the girls in front. By the last lap I was in a world of hurt and just trying to hang on. When I started the climb on the final lap I had to pull over to the side of the track as I was seeing stars and I had no strength in my legs. I could hear my Dad encouraging me to keep going. Then a couple of girls passed by, and I simply watched them go. I tried to get going again, and decided not to race, but to finish as I thought I was going to pass out. I was quite scared at one point as I wasn’t sure if I would make it back to the finish line. I knew how devastated I would be if I didn’t finish so plodded on. I managed to cross the finish line in 9th place, but this race wasn’t about the result. I was shocked at how badly I coped with the conditions, and frustrated that I ripped my tyre. Dellys Starr had a storming race to finish first, as did second place Emma Coulson and local girl Nikki Fisher in third.
That night I couldn’t sleep as I kept thinking about whether I simply blew from lack of carbs or was it heat stroke? I have never experienced heat stroke before, but couldn’t believe that I would blow from lack of carbs. I finished a 500ml bottle of TORQ drink every lap, but perhaps I needed that gel I was supposed to have on my final lap. I still had to race again the next day, but I was so annoyed with myself that it remained a sleepless night of questions and thoughts and replay brain action of my race as a whole., blah, blah, blah....and then it was daylight.
I had entered the short track race the next day, a 15min plus 3 lap course around a 500m loop that only had one short technical section. I hadn’t really thought about this race as it was the first time I had raced a national short track event. On the start line I realised I better start forgetting about the previous day and simply enjoy my next race. I wasn’t sure how hard the pace would be from the start, and decided to just go with the flow for the first couple of laps. However it was max from start to finish. I found myself in 6th and hanging on to the back of the main group with Dellys Starr out in front. A couple of girls broke away early including eventual winner Rowena Fry. I simply tried to stay in contention until the last 3 laps. I managed to make my way into 4th just behind Oenone Wood and tried to crank it up another gear, but the legs were much happier where they were at that point in time and the girls in front were too strong. I was much happier with how I felt though, and really enjoyed my first national short track experience.
Later that day Ian and I were off to cheer Tracy Mosely on in the finals of the down-hill. Most of you will be pleased to hear that I was flying the British flag for Tracy, and hoped she had a good race (sorry to my Aussie pals). Tracy gave Ian strict instructions on where we had to scream ‘PEDAL!!!!!!’ Tracy took the win and looked mighty strong if I do say so myself....I think it was all those intervals against me that helped, nothing to do with skill at all :)
Ian and I are now off to Mt Beauty for the last round of the national series, a six hour drive to the Australian Alps in Victoria....hoping for a better race and will let you know as soon as I know.

Many Thanks to Cotic Bontrager and my co-sponsors for supporting me again in 2008. I would also like to say special thanks to Gen and Dean from TORQ OZ for all your help here in Canberra and providing much needed shade when I was sizzling like a fact you probably could have turned me into a BBQ...and thankyou Claire and Paul for your kind hospitality too....will be back soon with the next chapter and result from the final round of the Aussie National Race Series.

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