Friday, June 27, 2008

British NPS round 3 :: XC :: June 14, 2008 :: Report

It only feels like yesterday that I was preparing for another four week block of racing. Yet here I am back in my Potter Pyrenean Paradise (as I like to call my home in Luchon), writing about my last two events that consisted of the third round of the British national cross country race series and the ever popular 24hr Mountain Mayhem.

As you may already know I took my first UK national win which was quite unexpected as I was certain I was coming down with a head cold or suffering from hay fever. Then again it may just have been the 10hr night time road trip the Sunday before that wore me down, and yes it was quite self inflicted as I should have been sleeping rather than talking...but as my mates know once I start chatting I usually can’t stop....much like my writing I guess :) .

After all the excitement of the world cup down-hill cheering Miss Moseley on to victory I left Fort William at 7pm on Sunday night with Joolze and Dave (photographers extraordinaires), who were providing a much needed taxi service for me back to Nottingham. The first part of the journey to Bradford we thought might take 5 maybe 6 hours. Time went by pretty quickly though as Joolze and I talked and talked and talked...Dave listened, and another companion Tony screamed into his mobile phone because the voice recognition answering service for a certain hotel chain thought he wanted accommodation in the Cotswolds rather than Manchester. However it was after 5am before we stumbled from the van and collapsed into bed for a mere few hours sleep, before Joolze kindly dropped me back to Nottingham where I would be house sitting. The next few days I started suffering from throbbing headaches and sore eyes, and I couldn’t get rid of this horrible lethargy. I just wanted to sleep all the time, but then at night I was too tired to even sleep properly. I woke up feeling dreadful most mornings with red eyes that made me look really evil.

Ian had already booked his flight to the UK from France on the Friday morning before the national race in Grizedale. I mentioned how I felt on the phone, but Ian said we had plenty of AQR work to sort out, so even if we didn’t head to the Lake District it wasn’t a wasted flight because I could spend my weekend locked in the AQR office catching up on the accounts....and he could go mountain biking with the lads. So I thought about it long and hard and knew that I would rather feel ‘blah’ in the Lake District than sitting in front of a computer feeling sorry for myself. So at 3pm we decided to head north for a little camping experience and some fun riding in the Lake District.

When we reached Grizedale at 8pm we set up camp. Ian had a bike bag full of bits and a Soda frame that needed to be assembled. Ian suggested I take myself off for a ride because I think I was being painful, plus he had hardly slept the night before so he didn’t find any of my jokes funny....especially the one when I accidentally lost his multi tool and forgot where I put it....ok I was tired too. Then we ate cold soup and cereal amongst the midges, before falling asleep in our grand little tent.

The morning of the race Ian was still assembling his bike, as we had finally found the multi tool. We raced to registration and managed to sign on just before the course closed for practice. I half thought about racing without checking the course beforehand as my head was still hurting and I thought a few more hours sleep might just do the Potter brain some good, but Ian wanted me to test the bike out to ensure I had prepped it properly. I’m glad we did, as the course had some interesting technical sections, including rocky switchbacks, north shore and steep loose descents. Sue and Barry Clarke had designed a brilliant course that had plenty of technical challenges, but one I truly thought suited a light weight full suss as it was very bumpy in places. Together Ian and I looked for different lines, where we could pick up easy speed and also adjusted tyre pressure and forks so that our little hard tails would feel plusher over the jagged rocks. We then took ourselves back to the campsite and I fell asleep in the back of the car.

I awoke thinking it must be time to warm up, so I took myself off for a ride up the road. I checked my watch and noticed the screen had gone completely blank, so I didn’t actually know what the time was. When I reached the race venue I noticed there were plenty of men waiting to be called to the start line, but as I couldn’t see any girls I thought I still had time to spare. Then I noticed people waving at me, so I thought people were just being real friendly, which is what I love about racing back in the UK, so I waved back. However I soon realised I had all these new found friends waving at me to hurry up because the elite women had already been called up to the start line...woops. Fortunately I had 2 minutes to spare and didn’t miss the gun or should I say the cow bell.

I decided I would test myself on the first lap and see what state the legs were in. If the legs felt strong then I would ignore my throbbing head. I also thought I better have a good blast on the first lap, and use that as part of my warm up. I didn’t actually have time to be nervous which is a first, and before I knew it I was leading up the first climb. I was soon overtaken by a few of the girls going into the first piece of single track and was off my bike at one point as wheels collided out in front. Once back on the bike I found myself riding the long single track rocky traverse very comfortably, and really enjoyed the switchback sections and rocky step ups. The group I was riding with passed Sue Clarke who appeared to have punctured. Memories came flooding back of my double puncture at the national race in the UK last September when in the lead. I knew this course could spell more trouble for me if I didn’t choose my lines carefully as I didn’t want a repeat of that race.

I made a break at some point on the first lap. I didn’t realise I had a gap as I had so many guys on my tail. It was only when I heard them huffing and puffing that I thought it couldn’t possibly be a girl grunting, but I couldn’t be sure because I have come across girls on the world cup circuit this year who well and truly grunt, in fact I was probably one of them :). I didn’t dare look behind me though as one mistake on the second part of the course could lose time and also skin as there were some pretty rough sections.

I had three laps to go and the legs felt awesome, but the head was tired. By the third lap I dug deep and pretended it was my final lap. This worked well at the time, but then I had to accept that there was still one more lap with plenty of climbing still to come. When I passed Ian in the feed station I was told to make it a world cup lap. Do you know how frustrating it can be for a split second in time when you’re trying as hard as you can, and then you’re told to go even faster? I didn’t think I had much more in me. However much as I wanted to wring my husband’s neck (in a very loving way of course), I did manage to find that extra zip, and was surprised at how I suddenly found speed from nowhere. On the descents I was growling at every little rock that threatened to tear my tyres. Once I hit the final long section of single track I knew I was almost home and took the time to enjoy the drop offs and I would like to say nail the corners like a true mountain biker...but since my friend Joolze showed Ian photos of me in action....there is still plenty of work to be done on improving my skills, as Ian pointed out ‘my darn elbows weren’t out, heels weren’t down and I was looking at my front tyre!’ But it was still a Cotic Bontrager victory and one that brought a smile to my face.

Jenn O’Connor (Patterson Training) and Jenny Copnall (Gary Fisher) made up the podium, but it was also nice to see some new faces racing elite this year, which can only bring out the best in all of us as we work hard at being stronger competitors and better bikers all round.

My report doesn’t end there though as next it was Ian’s turn to race and I for the second time in Potter race history had to be in charge of passing water bottles. I had alot of making up to do as I was pathetic when it came to feeding Ian at the last event he raced....too much talking and not enough concentrating :).

Ian finished 13th overall Vet, which in many ways is a brilliant result since it has been 14 years since Ian raced at top Expert level. However he was in 5th and feeling strong when he punctured on the second lap. He lost places, but after fixing it he continued on and worked his way back up again to 5th position. Unfortunately he flattened once more and was forced to ride the second half of the course on the rim. I was very proud of my husband for giving it his best shot, but reminded him that perhaps he needed some lessons off his Mrs on how not to puncture whilst racing :) He then reminded me that his first two laps were still quicker....doh!

As always I have gone above my intended word count, so stay tuned for my next report from Mountain Mayhem where I had the pleasure of racing as part of the Scott mixed elite team that included the lovely lads - Nick Craig, Stu Bowers and Paul Oldham.

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, June 22, 2008

Mountain Mayhem :: Kate and the Scott boys win

Kate Potter outside the Scott team tent at Eastnor

Kelvin here. I've just got back from Eastnor, where I had a quick catch up with Kate soon after the race was decided. It was a close run 'proper' race, and she was very pleased with her ride and the team's performance. By all accounts she really enjoyed the weekend, and she seemed very relaxed and refreshed, in a way that's hard to fathom for anyone who knows what 24 hour racing in 'interesting' weather conditions can be like. Anyway, Kate and Ian are flying back out to France straightaway, and Kate at least will be taking back memories of some great UK racing. Expect her full report to take some time to appear on this blog, as I suspect there's lots to do back at AQR hq back in Luchon, not least a bit of resting!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mountain Mayhem :: Not solo this year

Kate and Ian will be heading to Mountain Mayhem this weekend for the 24hr mountain bike festival. Kate has been invited to ride on the Scott Team alongside Nick Craig, Stu Bowers and Paul Oldham.

British NPS round 3 :: XC :: June 14, 2008 :: Photos

Joolze's photos:


Kate wins the round for Team Cotic Bontrager (report from Kate later) and, yes that's hubbie racing hard in the Vets class for Team AQR!

Full results on the Timelaps website.

World Cup Racing - Photos from Fort William

Joolze's Photos:


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

World Cup Racing - Andorra to Fort William

Well my little lonesome altitude training camp on top of the Superbagneres in Luchon seems so long ago. Suddenly I find myself towards the end of my third block of racing. I’m afraid I’m a little bit behind in the blog and KP race report department. My typing has slowed down, in fact my fingers are turning flabby and starting to lose their muscle tone. I’ve been neglecting my typing duties of late due to the constant travelling, racing, living out of a suit case syndrome and trying to catch up with AQR secretarial duties. I try and make a little time each day to add something to my blog, but half the time end up staring at the laptop screen not knowing where to start. I’m not suffering from writers block, no not me…I don’t think that will ever be the case, but rather a condition I’ve called ‘blogged out’. This is a condition when you suffer from ‘experience overload’, where you can’t work out which part of the experience to write about first. As a result you have a million memories that are all fighting for space. If I allow every single wonderful, horrible, tiring and exciting mountain biking experience space on the page I think my ‘little’ reports would turn into a novel…then even I would drive myself crazy with all my mountain bike race ramblings.

I have been trying to start my report from the fourth round of the world cup series held in Andorra, which was three weeks ago. As you probably know by now I was very disappointed that cramp forced me to back off the pace and almost quit. I’m not one to pull out of a race when a little bit of pain gets me down, but when I couldn’t actually move my legs because the pain was so intense then I really thought it was race over. So why was I so upset about one race when there are plenty more ahead? Because it was such a fun course to ride!!!! There were switch backs beneath the trees, steep shoots that brought tingles to the back of your neck and some challenging rocky and rooty sections that made you think very carefully about your line choice. Then there were those punishing climbs that even had many of the lads forced to use their granny ring. To ride this course well you couldn’t just be fit, but you had to have a certain amount of technical climbing and descending skill as well, which is what mountain bike racing at this level should be all about.
I was riding well during practice and feeling strong, but on race day my goals changed from trying to beat my grid position of 55 to trying to beat my darn cramp and to finish with a result. I achieved a result of 46, but unfortunately ended up finishing one lap down. The legs finished fresh as a daisy, but my stomach felt like it had done 1000 crunches.

I tried to forget about my disappointing race in Andorra, and turned my attention to the next round of the World Cup series in Fort William. First it was a quick stop over in Luchon to unpack, wash and repack the race kit before a 3am transfer to Toulouse Airport on the Wednesday morning before the race. Ian was staying in Luchon for AQR guiding duties, but I had the pleasure of accompanying top Aussie racer Sid Taberlay to Glasgow, who invited me to sit in the British Airways members lounge when we stopped off at Gatwick Airport…I had to try and act all smart and business like as it was a rather swanky lounge.

The journey from Glasgow to Fort William was a long one, but it gave me time to think about my first Fort Bill adventure way back in 2006. The first World Cup I experienced was a shocker. It was the first time I hadn’t finished a race. I remember lying in a muddy bog with a sore knee and wondering why I didn’t choose an indoor sport such as gymnastics or badminton? I had caught a bus and train from Luchon to Toulouse Airport, flown to Manchester and then suffered motion sickness along the winding road to Fort William. So it wasn’t the best of starts really. Then to race only one lap in the pouring rain, before tripping over my own two feet down a steep muddy bank that was impossible to ride down, had to be the icing on the cake really…those midges must have pitied me as they left me well alone. I was determined to return to Fort William and race again one day in the future, but this time to make it to the finish line.

Two years later and this time I was prepared…sun cream and t-shirts stayed in the Pyrenees and made room for all the thermals and waterproof clothing I could squeeze into my backpack. I wasn’t going to let no rain clouds or muddy banks stop me from finishing this race either. However to my surprise the course was dry, in fact it was very similar to courses I raced back in Oz. I don’t think I have ever experienced a dusty course in the UK before, but on my first practice lap I was already choking on the dust and even wiping out on a loose sandy bend. It was one of those stacks where you still think you’re riding your bike, when in fact your kissing the ground, as it was so unexpected and quite an easy switchback. I had a few grazes, but nothing compared to all the midge bites that soon appeared. The course was great fun to ride and although I was still a bit shaky from my stack, I was enjoying the rocky sections and fast switch back berms, as well as the technical climb at the start of the course that was really fun to play on….yes climbs can be fun too :)

I was a barrel of nerves on race day because I kept running in to so many people I knew. I really didn’t want to ride like a spanner or suffer cramp again in front of my adopted home crowd. I kept allowing all these little negative worries to enter my brain. Neil Ross, the national coach gave me a little pep talk…the shaky voice and stiff body probably made it quite obvious to him that I was just a tad nervous. I was told to focus on my breathing and to shut all those little thoughts swirling around my brain. There were only 49 riders who had registered, but who all happened to finish regularly in the top 50 at world cup level….so there were some pretty experienced racers on course. But I was not to think about how awesome the competition were going to be, and whilst lining up had a little argument with my brain to stop thinking like a wimp and to toughen up.

The start was a dusty one. I had moved from last off the grid to somewhere in the middle of the pack. Then a crash or dismount forced all the girls ahead of me to run with their bikes. I didn’t react quickly enough and ended up back of the pack again. I hate running with my bike and had trouble getting back on it again, so I had a fair bit of chasing to do by the time my feet finally clipped in the pedals. I managed to make up some places on the climb and found myself one of the many girls cruising down the singletrack descent, unable to go any faster as there were too many girls out in front. There was no way of passing safely until we reached the fire road. The first single track descent was a long one and I could hear someone grunting from behind me and then my rear tyre being hit every so often. Once the trail widened out one of the Chinese racers came flying past and told me to ‘Frog off!’ (swear word that starts with ‘F’) I was a bit shocked, and found myself telling her in my best teacher’s voice to watch her language. I don’t understand why being that verbally aggressive is necessary. All it did was make me more determined to pass her…which I did the following lap :)

The second half of the race I was feeling a lot more relaxed on the descents. I was following a Canadian rider who was taking such smooth lines, bouncing off the rocks and taking air whenever she could. I really enjoyed following her and felt like I was trail riding with the AQR lads. I knew I was going faster than the first couple of laps, even though I didn’t feel like I was trying as hard because I was just having so much fun. I felt like I was pacing myself well and towards the end of the race started to make up a lot more places to move into 33rd position. I was very happy with my result, but more importantly I really enjoyed hearing all the encouragement from the crowd, who made me feel like I was racing on home turf, which in many ways I was.

I’ve had such an amazing journey the last couple of months travelling from one race to the next across Europe. I have learnt more about myself as a mountain bike rider and racer. I know by racing at this level I have learnt things that nobody, not even my coach could teach me. I have always believed that once you stop learning and experiencing then you will never improve at whatever it is you want to be good at. These races have been very challenging, and more often than not I have felt like a fish out of water or rather a Koala out of a gum tree…whatever the saying is. However I know I have improved as a rider…I also know that I have a lot of work ahead in order to improve as a racer, which is my long term goal and one that I’m not going to stop experiencing for a long time yet….sorry Mr Potter :)

I have received fantastic support from the Aussie crew and coach Neil Ross, to my Coach Matt Hart here in the UK, plus my sponsors who have just been so encouraging and generous with their time and support. Experiencing the sights and sounds of world cup racing has been an amazing experience, and one I encourage all racers to strive for. If racing is not for you then even if you decide to become an ‘elite spectator’, then you won’t be disappointed as the atmosphere at these events is awesome….plus I know plenty of riders out on course who really appreciated the encouragement, and I for one are one of them. So as always a huge thankyou to those of you who made the journey to Fort William, and to those few who even came all the way to Andorra to cheer….it was very much appreciated.

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.

*Also special thanks to Joolze Dymond and lovely husband Dave for driving me back to Nottingham and Luke Webber for your quick thinking mechanical help on Friday.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Next Racing Quadrangle

Well my little lonesome altitude training camp on top of the Superbagneres in Luchon is over and suddenly I find myself in the middle of my next racing quadrangle. I’m afraid I’m a little bit behind in the blogging and KP race report department. My typing has slowed down, in fact my fingers are turning flabby and starting to loose their muscle tone. I’ve been neglecting my typing duties of late due to the constant travelling, racing and living out of a suit case syndrome. I try and make a little time each day to add something to my blog, but half the time end up staring at the laptop screen not knowing where to start. I’m not suffering from writers block, no not me…I don’t think that will ever be the case with Mrs Potter…actually make that Ms Potter otherwise you will start calling me Beatrix. No I’m suffering from a condition I’ve called ‘blogged out’. This is a condition when you suffer from ‘experience overload’, when you can’t work out which part of the experience to write about first. As a result you have a million memories that are all fighting for space on the page. If I allow every single wonderful, horrible, tiring and exciting mountain biking experience space on the page I think my ‘little’ reports would turn into a novel…and even I would drive myself crazy with my mountain biking ramblings.

I have been trying to start my race report from the fourth round of the world cup cross country series that was held in Andorra two weeks ago…but now I have the fifth round to write about since I have just returned from Fort William. But, tomorrow I head to the Lake District for the third round of the British National Series, which I will be writing about next week so long as I can finish the other two race reports. I’m also really excited because I’m going to be a guest rider on the Scott Team at Mountain Mayhem the following weekend, which will definitely require a huge report as I will be racing alongside the one and only Mr Nick Craig…lovely chap…not a bad rider either :) Then it’s back to Luchon for a really busy four weeks of AQR guiding and the Tour de France which will be passing through Luchon again…. Phew! So as I was saying it’s time to start writing these race reports…I promise to finish them soon and will include photos….I just need to get a grip and sort out all these experiences whirling through my mind, so I don't bore you to tears with my blogging. In the mean time don't forget to get out on your bike and make the most of the summer days, so you too can suffer from 'experience overload'

Monday, June 2, 2008

Andorra World Cup - post race feelings

I feel broken :)

I will post my report in the next day or two. I'm not quite in the happiest of spirits at the moment as what should have been a great race was not to be. I loved the course, and the legs felt strong, but cramp once again ruined my race.
The course was super! Although very tough in places the single track was so much fun. You couldn't help but giggle all the way round....except on those seriously steep climbs when you just needed to concentrate on breathing. There were rocks, roots, switchbacks, steep shoots and even a gondola ride to the start of the course.

Unfortunately the rain set in and grip was an issue on certain sections of the course, but considering how much rain swept across Andorra on Friday night I thought the course held up well. My stomach on the other hand didn't. I couldn't have asked my legs for a better start. The bike handled beautifully up the technical climbs and the descents were just like my favourite trails here in Luchon...I couldn't believe how many girls I passed early on considering I was once again gridded at the back of the pack. I was riding hard, but it was a comfortable hard, if that makes any sense. In other words I knew I could maintain that pace. Half way round Neil Ross the Aussie coach called out to me to keep it steady. There were still 4 laps to go and I knew to save myself a little for the laps ahead. I was riding with girls I normally don't see until the very end and was just having one of those days where I felt Super! But it wasn't to be becasue my darn stomach cramped up. I'm upset because those 'super days', when you feel invincible, don't always come along when you really want them to.

Towards the end of the first lap my race was over. My stomach cramped up so severely that I was forced to stop and just sit on the ground like a babbling baby. I watched all the girls pass me and tried to get going again, but I was in agony. I have never cried on course before, but the pain and the frustration took its yes I'm officially a wimp!!!!! (I'm really taking my frustration out on this key board right now).

I decided to get back on the bike and try and ride one loop. I thought I would have to pull out, but deep down I didn't want to. I couldn't ride hard, but the pain started to subside a little so I carried on and managed to overtake some girls. This kind of motivated me to keep going. I couldn't attack or ride hard, but I could spin I did. After three laps my stomach felt like I had done a thousand sit ups, but my legs felt fresh. I really wanted to try and push it as I was still overtaking a few riders every now and then.

I was on the fourth lap and expected to be pulled, and pulled I was. I found out later that I almost made it round to start the 5th lap, but it was race over for me from the moment I stopped. I finished in 46th position, which is best world cup result so far, but in actual fact that position means nothing. I always try to look for positives as well as all the areas that need to be improved upon, but at that moment in time I was gutted! In fact in this moment in time I am still gutted!! I just want my stomach to stop playing up or at least if it has to play us wait until I'm not racing. I loved that course and I just wasn't able to race it properly.

After speaking to Neil and Emma Coulson who is a physio, I'm starting to think it may be a muscular problem, rather than a dietary problem. I used to think it was from eating to close to the race or eating the wrong food, but it's almost like the pain of sciatica, but in my stomach. I'm returning to the UK this week for a couple of weeks of racing, but more importantly for me at the moment to get some treatment. Hopefully my mysterious belly ache will be solved sooner than's hoping :).