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.

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