Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The first race of the Cotic Bontrager Race Team’s European challenge has well and truly started. Up until July Ian and I will be attending several races across Europe with the Australian mountain bike ladies crew before heading back to the UK to compete at the NPS series and various other mountain bike festivals when time allows. It will be a long season, but one I’m very excited about as I face tough international competiton and new courses that can only bring on better form and improved technique. If not I’m hoping it will simply toughen Miss Potter up and when I’m 80 I can look back on the experience with fond memories of pain, sweat and tears and hopefully not too many bruises.

Ian and I collected the Aussie mountain bike ladies squad and state coach Garron Buckland from Toulouse Airport and spent three days showing them the sights and sounds of Luchon. For a couple of the girls it was their first time in Europe and there were plenty of happy faces when I pointed out all the trails along the valley and off the Superbagneres, the 1800m mountain that overlooks Luchon. Then we all loaded the AQR bus at the delightful hour of 4:30am and headed off for the 12 hour drive to Muttenz in Switzerland. It was a fairly uneventful journey, except for numerous toilet stops and a newly crowned Miss Potter as Queen Faff, just because I locked myself in the toilet. We had our TomTom GPS system called Kevin who kept us on the right track until we hit the centre of Muttenz at 5pm. Coach Garron decided to head to the course rather than the accommodation, but Kevin kept announcing that we must ‘TURN AROUND!’, TURN AROUND!!’, TURN AROUND!!!’ Before we knew it we were turning around in too many circles to keep count because the course directions on the road weren’t too clear. In the end we followed Kevin’s advice and headed to the accommodation. A quick change and bike build session later and the Aussies and one whingeing Pom (my beloved Mr Potter), were off to check out the course for the race the following day.

I didn’t know what to expect from a Swiss Power Cup event. All I know is that plenty of the best international mountain bikers in the world usually make an appearance at this series. I was expecting a lot of pain, bruised lungs and lactic acid overload, but couldn’t wait for the experience. When we met up with Australia’s national coach, we were informed that the women would be racing 7 laps of the course, plus a starting loop.

The event was held in the centre of Muttenz city. It was quite strange attending a mountain bike race in the middle of a concrete jungle, with busy traffic all around the arena and large office buildings peering down on the marshalling area.The course started in the main arena, before heading on to a tarmac road that climbed gently to the start of the off road. First there were a couple of tricky kerbs to ride over, before heading up a fairly steep slog of a climb that was only about 50m long. The trail was under the trees, but there must have been plenty of rain in Muttenz recently as the ground sucked every ounce of energy from your legs. I was certain there would be plenty of silent swearing going on in a mixture of different languages as it was a tough one. Half way up the climb there was a log to jump over. When I rode it the first time my back tyre hit it and just kept spinning around in circles like I was on a turbo. It took a hop to break free from the log, before focusing on the next steep section ahead.

When the descent started I soon realised how it feels when you ride off road on super slippery mud with far too much psi in your tyres (I had forgotten to let air out of my tyres after pumping them up to seat them correctly). I guess you could say I was without grip and just hanging on for dear life. There were a couple of log jumps and a steep shoot, before the trail turned real steep with a couple of tight switchbacks along the way. I couldn’t turn and decided to slide out hoping for a soft muddy landing. I felt like I was a kid again and had to stop myself from rolling around in the mud as it was so slimy and quite hilarious just trying to get back on the bike again. The descent finished on tarmac and then headed back to the stadium along an undulating piece of single track that followed a river. Along the way there was one steep bank that was impossible to find any grip on, but it only took a couple of seconds to run. Then the trail headed back into the arena. The practice lap took about 15 minutes would you believe and even though we had 7 laps to ride, it still seemed awfully short. It was close to 8pm and time to eat, sleep and expect a restless night of pre-race nerves.

The next morning I found out that the race started at 11:30am and not in the afternoon as we expected. However I was not crowned Queen Faff today and actually felt far too organised for my own good. I also noticed that I wasn’t nervous, in fact I couldn’t wait to get out on course and truly suffer. My friend Zoe, Coach Garron and I decided to head out on course again to see if it was as muddy as yesterday. When we finished the lap we realised there was more to the course than we first thought. In the centre of the arena there was a single track loop with numerous obstacles that included logs to roll over, drop offs over wooden steps and even a gap jump that was easier than it just needed a bit of speed and faith that you would touch down on the other side. At the time I was thinking that the scariest part of the course would be the area within the arena, not because I couldn’t ride the course, but because that would be where most spectators would be watching your every move.

On the start line the pre race nerves still hadn’t taken off. Now I was worried. I actually like a few nerves to give me that extra buzz. Before I knew it the race had started and I was making my way to the front. The pace wasn’t too bad at this point, but I also knew that I didn’t want to waste any energy if people were just going to sit on my back wheel. I was at the back of the leading group as we headed up the first climb. I made a silly error early on trying to over take some girls in front and ended up running part of the first climb....which really isn’t a good thing as I look like a right numpty running in cycling shoes. Then it was time to hit the descent and I lost it big time as my shorts got stuck on the saddle and I couldn’t move from the back of my bike or set myself up for the bend. It was going to be one of those numpty days I was thinking at the time. I lost significant places trying to disengage my shorts from the saddle, but took off to try and chase those positions I had lost back down.

I spent the next few laps trying to make up positions and fight for the next place out in front, but had no idea where I was placed in the field of about 40-50 riders. I was loving the course and really enjoyed pushing hard, but had major trouble with my chain that kept dropping off, which I think was due to my crash early on in the race. I was constantly trying to keep it on the big chain ring, but it wasn’t liking it at all.

After seven laps I finished first Aussie home in 9th place. I would like to say I felt dizzy with glee, but I felt dizzy from completing so many laps. It was an amazing experience and the course....well I was ‘Loving it! Loving it! Loving it!’ from start to finish.

There are more courses to come and alot to improve on. I believe with every mountain bike experience, win or lose, you can’t help but improve one way or another. For me it’s very important to finish what I start. When I line up against the best bikers in the female world on Sunday at the first world cup I will be digging deep to finish that race....then perhaps I will try and get a few autographs as I have full respect for the girls lining up in front of me.

Many thanks to everyone in the UK and OZ who have been supporting me and wishing me well. I feel very much part of the British scene even though I was born with aussie blood. I look forward to returning to the UK to race in July and to catch up with you all in the near future.

As always I’m very grateful to the Cotic Bontrager Team and loyal sponsors who continue to support my racing adventures in OZ, UK and across Europe.

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 and Purple Extreme Lubricants.

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