Saturday, April 26, 2008
Just a quiick blog to let you know that my report from the first round of the World Cup series will be up on Tuesday when we return to Luchon. We have had major problems with uploading my reports to this site, but all will be well when we touch home briefly on Tuesday.
I'm currently sitting here in the race village of the Offenburg World Cup watching the junior men race by and not enjoying the strong smell of meat and greasy chips that keeps wafting by...but Ian is complaining that he is hungry so I have to type very quickly so he can be fed as he has to look after me tomorrow.
My second world cup starts tomorrow and it will be a toughy. Unfortunately I'm gridded even further back than the first world cup due to a mistake with my UCI points, that can't be ammended for this race. Plus you have to finish in the top 40 to be guaranteed a decent grid position at the next world cup race, and then it is based on UCI points. So my challenge tomorrow is to try and finish without being lapped as I expect the first lap to be total carnage.
The course has a short start loop and then plenty of fun twisting single track that is very similar to Sherwood Pines or a Gorrick race course. There are four quite big drops that require your confident head on. They're not actually hard, just look scary and if you panic or look at the drop for too long then you're in trouble. They're also very rough and already brusies are appearing on my legs from riding them. There is one nasty drop that looks terrifying and is pretty tough to ride if you're not relaxed. Ian hates it and has refused to ride it with his saddle up....I had no choice and it took a few attempts before I nailed it and I was shaking in my shoes when I reached the bottom. However I have ridden it everytime since during practice and hopefully will fly down it tomorrow. The rest of the course is pretty easy, but I'm certain will be harder as race speed. I think the toughest part of the race will be just trying to get past people as there aren't many wide sections.
Anyway the sun is shining and if it stays this way then it will make the course alot quicker than it has been in practice as we had rain earlier on in the week.
I will let you know how it all goes as soon as I know.
Cheerios for now
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 looked.....you 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 – www.cotic.co.uk
Bontrager – www.bontrager.com
A Quick Release Holidays – www.aquickrelease.com
Torq & Torq Australia – www.torqfitness.co.uk
Magura Forks – www.magura.com
Hope – www.hopegb.com
Skins – www.skins.net
And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, SRAM, Catlike Helmets, Lumicycle, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Sundog eyewear and Purple Extreme Lubricants.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Right now I'm in Houffalize, Belgium for the first world cup of the 2008 season. The course is great because my Soda rides everything....I simply hang on and giggle. The course has some steep climbing and super steep descents, and even though there has been snow and rain, the course is pretty grippy, just have to watch those darn tree roots. There are some super good riders here, such as world champ Julian Absalon who I tried to chase down, but didn't want to get in his way.
I also raced last weekend in Mutrenz, Switzerland for my first Swiss Power Cup. Fantastic experience and I managed a top ten finish to claim 9th overall. I'm half way through that report so will post it soon....in fact better get on with it as I'm racing every weekend now over the next month so don't want to fall behind in my writing duties.
Cheerios for now
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The past month Ian and I have been racing around like mad mozzies: working long hours to pay the bills, training early or very late to get my legs ready for the 2008race season, and sorting through all the year's worth of memorable mess that has accumulated in my inlaws home. Ian and I had planned to drive down to Luchon following the fourth round of the Gorrick race series last Sunday, but then I convinced Ian he should race too. Ian wisely decided that he would need a good few days to recover from his first cross country race in too many years to mention. In fact it was to be the first time Ian has ridden a bike properly in over a month, so naturally I was full of enthusiasm for our racing adventure ahead, and Ian, well I knew he would enjoy racing again once he got going.
The Gorrick race was going to be my first UK cross country race for 2008. I have raced a couple in the past and always really enjoyed the courses and their atmosphere. I convinced Ian he would love the experience too. I even promised I would be his bottle feeder, mechanic and that he could be the race diva for a change....Unfortunately I am easily distracted at races, especially when there are so many lovely people to chat to. Before I knew it Ian had prepped his race bike and was on the start line....and already I had lost his darn water bottles!
I was a nervous wreck as I waited for the men to start (I'm under strict orders not to mention what categorary Ian entered). In fact I was more nervous than when I actually line up on the starting grid myself at races. I was worried that my beloved Mr Potter might fall off or truly suffer and never speak to me again. I was worried that I might drop Ian's water bottle or forget to pass him a gel on that final lap. I didn't realise until that moment in time how much responsibility Ian takes on whenever I drag him to a race. Not only was I responsible for passing Ian water bottles and that one gel, but I had to be cheer leader and chief motivational screamer as well.
The racers took off. Ian wearing AQR red and blue was mid field. I couldn't tell whether he was smiling or grimacing as his face always looks like that. I set my watch so I knew approximately what time he would be racing by. I wasn't sure what the course was like, but expected each lap to be no longer than 30 minutes.
As riders from different categories went by their faces told a story of survival. Bikes were muddy, brakes were dragging and bodies were almost unrecognisable. I decided to move to a wide area that was slightly up hill so Ian could grab a bottle from me on the right. As Mr Potter rode by I yelled at him to 'PEDAL!!!!!' Ian and I have this saying that he thinks really motivates me. He always screams out at me to:'PEDAL! YOU CALL THAT PEDALLING!'. So naturally I used the same technique as he didn't look like he was suffering badly enough. He grabbed the bottle from my hand and told me to 'be quiet you stupid woman!'. It might sound harsh, but Ian thinks that's how Aussie blokes speak to their women kindly. I must say when he speaks to me like that I can't help but laugh.
My first bottle feed was a huge success I'm pleased to announce, but then it all went wrong. On the second lap I was distracted and forgot to stand where Ian expected me to be. I guess I was hoping he would appreciate some variety from where I passed him a bottle on the previous lap (who likes routine anyway). As Ian was trying to unwrap his gel with his left hand I was holding out a bottle on the left hand side instead of the right. I didn't realise my mistake until Ian almost dropped the bottle and gave me one of those 'what are you doing!' type looks.
I felt terrible and realised I didn't give him the Forest Fruits guarana filled gel he wanted to get him through the final lap. So I decided to walk the course backwards and if I found him passed out in a ditch, I could be the heroine in shining lycra who saves him by squeezing that much needed energy gel into his mouth.
Instead of finding a broken man I could hear My Potter's voice in the distance.....selling AQR Holidays! I couldn't believe it. I gave Ian a right telling off for not trying hard enough. You can't possibly be a salesman and race at the same time. I then realised he needed that gel, so waved it in his face down a steep off camber rooty section, that didn't look like it had much grip. Then I was the one being told of as he almost crashed half way down trying to ride one handed whilst grabbing the gel from me.
Well I'm pleased to say Ian finished in one piece, 11th overall in the Veteran's categorary (woops I let it slip). Ian's first proper ride on a bike for over a month was quite a painful one, but I'm pleased to say he started smiling again within the next hour and will be back for more.
The day hadn't finished though and now our roles had reversed. It was my turn to face the race course and Ian's turn to strutt his stuff as chief Potter bottle feeder. I'm not going to go into great detail about the race as it was a perfect race for me. Would you believe it is so much harder to write a race report when everything goes well. I had four laps to get through and my goal was to beat Ian's lap times. I had some good opposition, including elite racer Maddie Horton, but I wanted to make mince meat out of Ian. I was hoping if I had faster lap times it would motivate Ian to come out training with me more often. Fortunately the weather was on the ladies side and we had lovely sunshine and a much dryer course to compete on. The course didn't disapoint and the singletrack was testing, but great fun. Plenty of short steep climbs and flowing single track, plus a little bit of sticky mud along the way. I finished with a win, but more importantly destroyed Ian's lap times, which has now fired Ian up to get some speed back into his legs.
Well that was then and this is now. Tomorrow I'm off to Switzerland with the Austraian ladies mountain bike crew to begin my European cross country adventure. There will be 7 Aussie shielas, Aussie Coach Garron Buckland and my Mr Potter who will be mechanic and bus driver for us divas. I will be competing in Europe for the first part of the season. I will try my darnest to beat the likes of Gunn Rita Dahl and Sabine Spitz, but my first realistic goal is to focus on not being lapped. I'm really excited about the challenges that lie ahead and racing on new courses against the world's best mountain bikers, which I hope will make an interesting story to share with you all. So stay tuned for reports from -
Swiss Power Cup - Muttenz (12th April)
World Cup 1 - Houffalize (20th April)
World Cup 2 - Offenburg (27th April)
World Cup 3 - Madrid (4th May)
World Cup 4 - Andorra (31st May)
World Cup 5 - Fort William (7th June)
*I will let you know by June where I will be headed next, but I can confirm that Mr Potter and I will be teaming up at Bontrager 24/12 on the 26th July. Hope to see you there.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
But here’s the thing…I felt like such a mountain biking diva last year. I had all these lovely lads running around after me: building my bikes, washing my bikes, fixing my bikes……even touching my feet when I struggled to take my muddy shoes and socks off after a race. Now between you and me my feet aren’t the prettiest of sights, in fact they smell better than they look, so I really am spoilt to have such an amazing race crew looking after me in more ways than one. But I also became quite embarrassed about being the only racer on a race team. I had all this attention just because I enjoy riding my bike. I tried to convince the team that they too would love riding around in circles for 24hrs, or busting a gut, and trying to breathe when racing cross-country. I promised them they would love every muddy moment, but they would rather touch my feet!
So my plan for 2008 was to expand the team so there would be more than one diva riding a Cotic bike in 2008. Plus as an added bonus I have nominated myself as Team AQR pit person (or the Pit Shiela as I say in Oz). I started working on my bottle-feeding technique at the fourth round of the Gorrick series last weekend, but more about that next week when I release my latest race report. All I can say is that I have some creeping to do…as I wasn’t a very good at it!
The AQR team were selected at the end of the 2007 race season. Ian and I wanted a race team who showed 'true blue' mountain biking spirit. We also wanted team members who could offer something different to the team, but above all were team players. I didn’t want riders to think podium results were the be all and end all of mountain bike racing, because personal satisfaction is a far more satisfying result in itself. I wanted the team to strive for personal challenges, as well as support each other along the way…but most importantly I wanted the team to have fun.
A Quick Release.com Race Team is a bit of a mouthful really, so we will stick to Team AQR for now or until I can think of something really snazzy. The AQR team will also be riding Cotic Soda race bikes and have chosen to use Magura Durin forks and Bontrager finishing kit. TORQ have kindly offered nutritional support to keep our riders spinning all day long and their heads will be protected by Catlike helmets.
The team met together for the first time on Saturday 29th March at Swinley Forest for a ride, skills session and social chit-chat over cake and coffee. AQR Team members include – Iain Collins , James Dymond , Tracy Miles, Warren Miles, Jon Roberts, Abie Smith, and MR IAN POTTER…who will be returning to mountain bike racing when he can be bothered…or when I drag him to the start line if he tries to chicken out.
Check out Team AQR above and below and look out for them at –
Gorrick Spring Series
10 at Kirroughtree
National Point Series
Sleepless in the Saddle
Dust ‘till Dawn
And a selection of mountain bike and adventure races in the UK and Europe that they have each chosen to focus on in 2008.
Be back soon with my next race report from the fourth round of the Gorrick Spring Series. A day where I discovered how much more fun racing is then passing those darn water bottles...especially when your hard work is not appreciated Mr Potter! Between you and me he is the real mountain biking diva.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Some feedback from Tim -
'Just a quickie to say thanks for organising and guiding (you two and Jon, Martin, etc) last weekend. Despite the weather was a good couple of days riding and great to check out somewhere new - will def be back (hopefully without snow and wind!). B&B and food were both excellent as well, so good choices :-) '
Some guest feedback from Sonya -
'I really can’t praise the organisation and leadership quality enough, there is absolutely nothing that faults. Although there was a very large group with varying abilities and rather inclement weather, you manage to split everyone up into suitable groups, motivate and above all make sure that everyone is having fun.'