Wednesday, October 29, 2008

KP's End of Season Thoughts and Thankyous.

2008 has flown by, or should I say ridden by in a series of never ending switchbacks. When out mountain biking with Mr Potter I’m always reminded that ‘where you look is where you go....if you want to ride the switch backs well then look ahead and believe you can ride each one’.

Sometimes switchbacks can be fast, flowy and really easy....but then suddenly you come across a really tight steep switchback which forces you to slow down. You have to remind yourself to look ahead at the exit and stop yourself from looking over the edge at the huge drop below. Out of pure fear you stop still in the middle of the apex. Then you have a decision to make, do you take the easy option and refuse to ride the switchback or do you try again and keep on trying until you succeed. If you fall from your bike does that mean you will always fall every time you ride a switchback? Can falling from your bike actually help you ride the switchback the next time around? This year I have learnt that a fall can only bring on improvement, but only if you keep on trying.

2008 RACE, RIDING & GUIDING SEASON – A trying season with plenty of smiles along the way....

In 2008 my race season started out in Australia...and it didn’t go according to plan. I learnt that jetlag, crashing on rocks, flat tyres and heat stroke are not pleasant and won’t help you out on course when the going gets tough, no matter how hard you try. The one race where I really wanted to feel good was a complete disaster and I felt like I let alot of people down. A week later I was determined to try again and leave Oz in high spirits. I produced a good result at the final round of the Australian National Series, but more importantly had the time of my life as the single track was soooooooo much fun to ride.

Following Oz it was time to retire my trusty 2007 Soda race machine who had been a rolling good companion last year and return to Europe for another summer of mountain biking action. To begin with it was a quick trip back to the UK for some KP24 Cotic full suss guiding action on the hills of Shropshire and a couple of days at Sherwood Pines where I met loads of lovely likeminded ladies who by the end of the weekend were showing their partners a thing or two about riding a bike. Then it was a day testing Cotic bikes at the annual Cotic Big Day Out, where I turned to the Simple single speed dark side and laid my gears to rest. Single speeding around the pines in Sherwood was a laugh, but the next weekend I begged for gears as I took on Ian at a Gorrick race down up for KP, as Mr Potter crumbles under Potter pressure.

Then with my 2008 Soda machine I began a new adventure across the channel, to take on the world’s best (gulp), where I would experience new courses that test me both physically and mentally....Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Andorra, then back to the UK for the Fort William World Cup where I finished 33rd, and only 54 seconds off making the Olympic shadow squad and world champs team. I’m only disappointed at the time that I must say goodbye to a lovely group of Aussie racers and a national coach who have all taught me so much in a short period of time. However I’m thrilled to bits that I have achieved more than I ever expected to in my first year of world cup racing.

My next focus turns to the British race scene where I take home an unexpected win at the third round of the national series. I then head to another muddy Mayhem 24hr race where I have the pleasure of racing on the Scott mixed elite team.....and after a very close battle with SIS/TREK Team we secure the win....cheers Nick, Stu, Paul and the rest of the mixed crew for all your hard work.

Then it’s back to AQR Holidays base in Luchon for three busy weeks guiding, before the real battle begins. The Potters join forces at Bontrager 24/12 and take on the elite mixed pair competition. However the Potters are also racing each other to see whether husband Potter or wife Potter (that be moi) has the most stamina, speed and power over 12hrs....loser cleans house for a month....I lose! On the plus the Potters on their Soda race machines take home second place and Ian stands on the podium for the first time next to his favourite lady (you know who that is :) )....he is also the only rider on the podium who doesn’t hold an elite license, not bad for an ol’ Vet.

The Potters return again to France for more guiding in the Pyrenees, before I head to northern France to join the Aussie squad for the Tour de France Mountain bike race; A week of racing on every terrain possible, including the holy steps of Montmarte in the middle of Paris. I’m part of the Aussie Composite Team, who to our surprise win the overall mixed competition. High fives all round as we celebrate on the River Seine. Then it’s back to the southern part of France and the Pyrenean foothills to be part of the La Transpyrenees marathon. Both Potters celebrate the win in their respective categories (Kate–leading female 90km and Ian-leading male 60km), although Ian cleans the house for a month this time round because I change the rules and announce that the winner is the Potter who rides the most miles on the day.

Ian and I then return to our AQR guiding duties in Luchon....that have only just finished for the summer season....phew. Now we have a month of rest that involves some time at home, along with DIY building action and fun on the bikes every day. It has been one busy year, but filled with adventures all the way.

As I said before I see mountain bike racing as a bit like riding a series of switchbacks. Approaching the switchback is like approaching the race course. That’s the easy bit. Now you have to look around the apex as the bike starts to nose dive, and focus on the exit out of the bend. Suddenly you start feeling a bit nervous, just like when you line up against the best girls in the world and you don’t think you can even ride your bike...palms are sweating, stomach turning and you feel like you are going to pass out. Instead of just looking around the switchback at the exit, you freeze and you can feel your whole body tensing and moving towards the back of the bike. You have one choice in two different scenarios.....either move forward and look ahead or remain at the back and never realise your potential. Either way you only fail if you don’t try.

I never thought I would be good enough to race at world cup level, in fact four years ago I never thought I would be racing mountain bikes full stop. But I knew I wouldn’t improve as a mountain bike rider if I didn’t challenge myself to tough courses and racing against stronger riders. A result is a number, but for me a result is to cross the finish line knowing that I finished something I started and gave it my best shot. Instead of worrying about the end result I looked on each race as an adventure, but also as my own personal battle. My nerves always try and beat me you see, but this year I destroyed them....well almost!

I have so much to learn, but that’s what makes the adventures ahead so exciting. Life would be as dull as dishwater if there was no challenge to it all. Sometimes I think the world is too preoccupied with the end result, rather than seeing the experiences along the way as something worth celebrating and a reward within itself. I never thought I would share my racing adventures with those of you who enjoy reading about them. I was once told a few years ago to write like a race reporter, and be really serious and straight to the point. The problem with that is I’m not a reporter, my conversations are rarely straight to the point, and I’m first to admit that I do talk....and at times alot. I’m simply someone who likes to ride my bike and keep a diary of my biking adventures. There is something quite amusing about racing mountain bikes, and the lycra clad cycling characters you meet along the way. There is also a serious side to the sport, but surely to be able to laugh at yourself and what you do doesn’t mean you are not a serious athlete.

2008 was the official start of KP’s XC Adventures. I’m at the bottom of my racing pyramid right now as I work towards my number one goal, with the top of the pyramid 4 years ahead. I have this romantic idea of representing Oz in the country that has made me feel right at home ever since I started mountain biking....that be in London 2012. The reality of this romantic vision is that I have a chance to work towards something huge, but so do others. There is no guarantee I will make it to the top of the pyramid, in fact there may be some falls along the way. However if I don’t try I will always remain at the bottom of the pyramid. If I can say I gave it my best shot, then the end result for me is hopefully a huge smile and plenty of laughs along the way, plus a head full of memories, experiences and no feelings of ‘what if...’. I’m after adventure, wrinkles and plenty of scars that can tell a story or two when I hit the ripe old age of 80...hopefully then I will still be wearing my Cotic Bontrager coloured lycra and taking on those of you who are still racing mountain bikes or zimmer frames as the case may be.

Back to reality, and the serious side to it all....I have alot of hard work ahead. It will mean living as cheaply as possible, sleeping on floors, spending every day working on certain aspects of my riding, eating as healthily as possible, early nights, early mornings, travelling from one airport to the next and spending time away from family and friends....even Mr Potter may not see me for a few months in 2009. Fortunately I have the support of the Cotic Bontrager Racing Team once again who include more than just a fantastic crew of sponsors, but who I can also say are many of my closest friends.

So this is my official goodbye to 2008. A huge thank you to everybody involved in the 2008 Cotic Bontrager Racing Team for believing in me and helping me start my climb up KP’s racing pyramid. I might be the only racer, but it has been a team effort all the way.

Special thankyou to –

Cotic – Thanking Cy for all your continual support, from managing the team and ensuring I have such awesome bikes to race, ride and guide on.

Bontrager – Thanking Griff and Andy for making my Cotic Bikes look the bling part and ensuring they are ready to roll each and every day.

Torq Fitness – Thanking Matt for coaching me, plus Torq for fuelling my training and racing needs.

Magura – Thankyou Tony and the rest of the crew for superb suspension that rocks the rocks...I really appreciate your mechanical help at the world cups too.

A Quick Release Holidays – Ian, Jon and Paul for all your skills coaching and support at the UK races.

Hope – Thank you for slowing me down when I really need to stop! I have really appreciated your constant support since I started racing.

Skins – Thankyou Ed and the crew from Skins for helping me to recover after every race and training session.

661 Gloves – Cheers Des for protecting my hands and making my finger tips look bling.

Catlike Helmets – A year of head banging, but thanks to the Whisper helmet my head remains in one piece....thankyou Tracy.

Cranks Brothers – I made it around every muddy course without any pedal problems....thanking you!

Sundog Eyewear – Thankyou Barnie for protecting my eyes and stopping my glasses from steaming up.

Bigfoot bags – Thankyou to Mark for a superb bike bag and travelling equipment that has made my life much easier to travel.

Ergon Bags – Thanks James for supporting AQR’s guiding needs.

Purple Extreme – Thanks for keeping my chain running smoothly.

Plus a special thankyou to –

• Neil Ross the Aussie National Coach for guidance and support this year....thankyou for all the time and help you continue to give me.

• Joolze Dymond Photography, taxi service and a top mate who makes me laugh even when I’m hurting out on course.

• AQR friends for all your support and friendly emails.

• Torq Australia for your race support in Oz.

• My family in Oz and the UK for all your love and support.

Last but not least thanking Ian (Mr Potter) for helping me in all aspects of my racing and training, plus allowing me to talk and talk and talk and talk when I’m having a bad day on the bike; But most importantly thankyou for encouraging me to ride those switchbacks, even the really steep terrifying ones. Cheers love :)

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