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.

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