Friday, August 29, 2008

2008 Bontrager 24/12 :: Podcast

If you have iTunes you can now listen to a new podcast of Kate talking about her racing with Keith Bontrager.

Get the podcast...

Visit the twentyfour12 website...

Visit the Bontrager UPGRADE website...

Monday, August 25, 2008

L'Hexagonal VTT Tour de France :: August 7-12

Less than a month ago I received an email from Australia’s national mountain bike coach Neil Ross asking if I would be interested in racing as part of a team in the Tour de France mountain bike stage race, also known as 'L’Hexagonal'. At the time I didn’t know anything about the event, all I could make out from the website is that it consisted of 5 races, three of cross country distance and two time trials. I didn’t know whether it was an individual race or a team event, but Neil just said to make my way to Vittel in the northern part of France as I would enjoy the event, plus it would be a good block of training for me.

Before I knew it Ian was dropping me and my many bags in Toulouse....I never travel light. My adventure was about to begin, but I tried not to show my excitement because I knew Ian would miss me. I told him it would only be for a week, and I would be back before he knew it. But then I noticed a very cheeky expression on Ian’s face and I just had this feeling he was in a rush to return to Luchon. Then I guessed it, he had a downhill date with Russ. So it was a quick good bye as the two Potter’s went their separate ways....I for the cross country trails of northern France and Ian back to his beloved Pyrenees for some downhill action.

I now faced 12hrs of travelling that included three trains, plus a taxi ride through the streets of Paris. At 8pm I would arrive in Vittel train station where my Tour de France mountain bike experience would begin two days later.....well so I thought.

DAY 1 – ‘The Team Pursuit – one for the Poms’

The opening ceremony of the Tour de France VTT started with an exhibition race between each team who wanted to test themselves on a 400m course that included dirt jumps, logs and sand pits. Each team were presented to the crowd, before young children surrounded the riders for autographs. I felt like a film star, until I realised it was time to strut my stuff on this very interesting race course. I was part of Team Australia Composee that included two Aussie fellas (Josh Keep and Nick Both), a part time aussie-brit-frenchie (that be moi), and a lovely Austrian (Alban Lakata). The four of us decided to take it easy and save the legs, and possibly our heads too, as there was no room for error if we hit the jumps or logs too fast.
I knew I was the weak link, but there was no pressure for me to keep up with the lads as it was the top three riders who crossed the line that counted. Although my competitive brain didn’t want to be left behind either, so I was determined to try and at least keep the boys in sight. On the first lap I lost time on the logs as the boys jumped them very gracefully, where I looked every bit the spanner. However I had the sand pits nailed, almost riding over Alban across the first pit...who was sinking rather than moving forward I might add. I was trying to control my fits of giggling as I passed Alban, whilst struggling to breathe as I was well and truly in the red zone. The legs plodded on and by the time I reached the start of the second lap Alban had passed me and this time crossed the sand pits effortlessly.
It was the shortest race in the history of Kate Potter. I was just starting to feel better too as I crossed the finish line....oh for 100 more laps or better still some fast twitch muscle fibres :)
The British Cycling Team that included Ian Bibby, David Fletcher and Billy-Joe Whenman looked very strong and had made the semi finals along with the Australian Cycling Team (Dellys Starr, Daniel McConnel, Adrian Jackson and Andrew Blair). It would have been great to have a mountain bike version of the ‘Ashes’, but the Poms proved too strong overall and won both their semi and then their final, while the Aussie national team finished cheers all round for the British National Mountain bike Team!

Day 2 – ‘Vittel TT – KP beats world champ and ducks for cover’
A fast course that had more sand pits, tunnels, mud, rain, and even some hail for those lucky enough to start their TT later in the day. I was the first lady to sprint off, with some tough competition hot on my heels. I kept expecting to be passed, but managed a pretty faultless run and finished without any girls or guys passing me. Then the rain started and didn’t stop, thunder and lightning struck close by, and the hail turned everything white. The course had some difficult sections at speed even in the dry, but there were plenty of sections that were lethal in the wet. Aussie Olympian Dan McConnel felt the full force of the storm as he revealed huge red marks across his back where he was struck by the hail. He certainly deserved a medal for simply finishing. Christoph Sauser finished 2 minutes behind my I can actually say I beat a world champ :). In the end I finished third, 23 seconds behind the winner French national champ and Olympian Laurence Leboucher. I was pretty chuffed with my result, but I still can’t believe how painful racing for 15 minutes can be.

Day 3 – ‘Vittel XC – mud, sweat and no gears’
I have always believed in what comes around goes around. I shouldn’t have laughed when I found out I beat world champ Christoph Sauser’s time the day before. Now it was my turn to suffer, and suffer I did. The course was a total mudfest. Dellys Starr and I managed to check half the course out in the morning before we decided it was time to return and change to mud tyres. By the time bikes were cleaned, tyres changed and a new set of racing kit found it was time to line up. I was gridded on the third row, which was a terrifying position when I looked behind and saw mostly guys hungry to get passed me.
The start was on a tarmac descent, down to a roundabout, before heading into the park. I managed to be just behind Dellys going into the first piece of single track. From this point onwards my race was a tough one. Everybody was running the single track as the mud was deep and sticky. I struggled to keep my position as loads of men bounded passed me. As soon as I jumped back on the bike I discovered my gears weren’t working properly, and I only had first gear. The rest of the race was one of the hardest, most mentally challenging races I have experienced. I ended up running close to half of the course, and stopped several times to try and unclog the bike as the mud and wet grass refused to shift from the block.
On my final lap the storm intensified. I have always been terrified of being caught out in the middle of a storm...yes I am a wimp! Rain I can handle, but thunder and lightning do not agree with KP. The lightening felt too close for comfort. This race was not just a physical test, but it tested every bit of mental strength I had left in me. I had one lap to go and my gears would not settle down, one minute they were jumping all over the place, then the next I only had first gear. I stopped briefly in the pit to check my rear mech and ask Neil’s advice. Neil just smiled, and said it would be good training. So off I went with a new goal, to ride that mud and enjoy every sticky moment as it could only toughen me up.
When I finally crossed the line in fourth place I was a muddy mess, and I had blisters on my feet from all the running. However on the plus side I finished with a result, plus I didn’t hide from the storm. Facing a phobia that has been with me since childhood felt pretty good...but between you and me I was shaking in my shoes the whole way round. I lost over 18 minutes which meant I had alot of catching up to do over the next few days...sorry team.

Day 4 – ‘Recovery Day – training, intervals and racing BMX’
After only three races it was time to head to Paris. Once settled in at our hotel we took off for a recovery ride. Along the way we discovered a BMX track where we took on each other in the national Aussie rolling BMX champs. No pedalling allowed, and we had to see how many jumps we could roll over. KP makes it over one (doh!). While team mate Nick Both almost clears the entire track....very impressed. This is followed by more riding back to base where the Aussie coach spends time working on my technique. Then I’m fortunate enough to have one on one interval training with Neil....ouch! The exercises he gives me seem to wake up certain muscles in my legs that I don’t think have been used before. I return to my room with a strange new walk, hopefully some fast twitch muscle fibres have been found :)

Day 5 – ‘Montmartre TT – loving those steps’
Dan said that this will be one of the hardest races I ever come across. Now I’m scared. I don’t expect to hear comments like that from such a good rider. The race is a time trial and starts in the middle of ‘Montmartre’, a very popular tourist area in the heart of Paris. There is no mud, no dirt, not even a little bit of gravel....instead I have cobble stones, hundreds of steps and even pedestrians to dodge. It’s time for KP to pray, so I head to the famous church for a quiet word.....’help!’.
The rain has started again and the cobble stones are lethal to walk on in places. As Dellys and I line up we don’t know how hard we will be able to push it as I have seen plenty of riders slip off their bikes already. From a standing start we go straight into a steep section of steps. I lose balance and end up zig zagging down the steps, to my surprise I’m still attached to my bike. A short section of slippery cobbles follow before more steps, longer steps, where I just let go of the brakes and hold on. More cobbled roads, more steps, and let’s not forget those tourists who step out in front of you because they’re not aware there is a mountain bike race going on in the middle of the city.
I’m slow around the corners because I don’t trust my tyres on the wet cobbles, but I try to go as quickly as I can on the straights. The most painful section of the race course approaches as I have to run up over a hundred steps. The crowds are cheering, but I can only hear my heart beating and lungs gasping for air. When I reach the top it’s time to jump back on the bike and ride back down another much longer section of steps. However there is a cheeky smooth section of concrete to the side of the steps which I ride, but I’m bobbing it as my back tyre slides from side to side on the way down. This is not a good place to fall as there are people everywhere cheering riders on.
Then I discover I have caught the girl in front of me. This fires me up and I ride the next section of steps more confidently. There is a couple of metres of grass, yes off road terrain has appeared on course that I can ride....hallelujah! Then guess what? I have more steps to climb, and these steps never seem to end. By this point I’m gasping for air, legs are killing me, and I’m in a world of hurt. A hundred more steps to ride down before I head along more cobbled road that leads to some more steps to climb. Sorry that I keep mentioning steps, it’s becoming a bit repetitive I know, but there were seriously alot of steps.
The crowd seems to go wild and there are the Aussie lads cheering and encouraging me to ride the steep concrete slabs beside the next set of steps. I don’t know what to do....granny ring? Middle ring? Why didn’t I practice this section before...just go for can’t run anyway. So I stuff my gear selection up just to make my ride a bit harder. I manage to jump onto the concrete slabs and I’m riding it....YES! No! I slip. I’m gasping for air and trying to pick myself up. The boys are still cheering, as I jump back on the bike. There is about a kilometre to go, and this is where I have to make sure I don’t run over any tourists as the course weaves through the narrow alleys that are lined with restaurants and bars. I’m buzzing from head to toe, but my legs are killing me. Finally I cross the finish line and I’m not caught. To my surprise I finish in second place and Dellys takes the win. There are Aussie smiles all round.

Day 6 – ‘XC – strong legs, but pathetic arms’
Yesterday my legs were killing me, seriously hurting, but today was a different story altogether. I have a two lap race on a 20km course to look forward to. During practice I ride the course with team mate Josh and notice my legs feel kind of buzzy. It’s like they want to take off, and no matter how much pain you throw at them they feel like they will cope with it. I take my position on the grid, close to the front of the pack again...nerves start big time. My goal is to try and find a group to work with as the course is fairly flat, except for one section that I will describe shortly. I’m over 18 minutes behind Laurence Laboucher who wears the ladies pink jersey, but our team star Alban from Austria has had three fantastic results and holds the yellow jersey. Our team is not too far behind in the team mixed category. So long as I don’t lose too much time to the girls in front then there is still a chance our team may finish on the podium. The race starts and I manage, to my surprise, to be riding with Dellys. The two of us work together and I realise that perhaps I could help Dellys chase down the pink jersey. I feel like I can go faster, and really dig deep to try and help Dellys as much as I can.
Then we reach the most frustrating section of the course because we have to ride a steep descent into a dried up river bed, which is impossible to ride out of. It’s times like this I wish I had ‘Go Go Gadget legs’, I mention Gadget because every time I threw my bike over the bank I would whisper ‘Go Go Gadget ARMS’...because you had to try and lift your full body weight to the top, as it was a muddy sheer bank that was above my head. There were quite a few sections like this, and then a really steep climb that most people ran. As painful as it was, I loved this section because it really tested your whole body. I discovered my biceps were still working, although they definitely need some strengthening.
On the second lap the Aussie chicks (that be Dellys and I) had caught Josh my team mate. Poor Josh still had two more laps because the men had to do three laps of the course. Josh was a star and worked really hard with Dellys and I, wheel to wheel, to chase down the pink jersey. In the end Dellys and I came through together. Dellys in second and I in third. Neil said we had made up time and were within 15 seconds of catching Laurence Leboucher. I was on a total race high, and buzzing from the experience.

Day 7 – ‘XC – Aussie smiles all round’
Unfortunately I started this race feeling very tired....only four hours decent sleep. I couldn’t sleep properly the night before because I was still buzzing from the race yesterday and overheating big time. Every time I closed my eyes I was still racing, and no matter how much water I splashed on my face I couldn’t cool down. I even caught myself turning in my sleep as though I was riding a corner in the race.
The race started early today as there would be presentations following the race and a huge feast to celebrate the end of the competition. I felt like I was in a daze as the race started. There were two starting loops and then four laps of the course. I thought I had a fairly good start, but I still felt like my head wasn’t really attached to my body and my legs didn’t have the same buzz as they did yesterday.
The course was another great loop where skill and speedy legs were required. First there was a long straight dusty trail along the River Seine, before plenty of single track action that ranged from bumpy grass to some interesting steep muddy sections beneath the trees. The theme of the week was ‘let’s throw obstacles at the riders to make them run, climb and really suffer’...I was loving it! There were more sections that were impossible to ride, including a long wooden construction that I even had trouble walking up. Luckily I always had a rider behind me who kindly held me up and stopped me from falling as I slipped backwards into their arms....just don’t mention that to Mr Potter.
There was always somebody to try and chase down out in front, and I felt myself becoming stronger on each lap. I had passed the pink jersey at one point, and dug deep to try and stay out in front. Dellys had taken the lead early and looked strong. If she could make up some time on the pink jersey, not only would she win the stage, but end up winning the overall ladies competition too as there was less than 5 minutes between them both. My goal was to try and make up time for our team. If Alban had a good race, and I could stay in front of Leboucher then there was a possibility we might end up on the podium. I managed to finish in second place, but waited to see how much time I made up on the pink jersey.
When I was told I had to clean up to be ready for the podium, I forgot all about it. Until a little later on when Neil revealed that Team Composee Australia had won the mixed competition. It was smiles all round as Dellys had won the pink jersey and our lovely Austrian Alban Lakata, who could be called an Aussie as well....but just with a different accent, won the yellow jersey. I was pleased to finish in third place overall in the ladies pink jersey competition...we were all smiling high!

It was a fantastic opportunity to join two Australian teams for the L’Hexagonal Tour de France VTT. Thanks to Neil Ross for all your support and coaching during the week, and special thanks to Rosie Barnes for being our team manager. It was an absolute pleasure riding and racing with Josh, Nick, Albert, Dellys, Dan, Adrian and Andrew. Also a huge thankyou to Jake for your massage and gofer duties, you were such a star! I really hope to race this event next year as it was a brilliant race, and as painful as racing can be, the Tour de France VTT was definitely worth every sore muscle and bruising that came my way.

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.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

L'Hexagonal VTT Tour de France :: Day 1

Less than a month ago I received an email from Australia’s national mountain bike coach Neil Ross asking if I would be interested in racing as part of a team in the Tour de France mountain bike stage race, also known as L’Hexagonal. I didn’t know anything about the event, all I could make out from the website is that it consisted of 5 races, three of cross country distance and two time trials. I didn’t know whether it was an individual race or a team event, but Neil just said to make my way to Vittel in the northern part of France as I would enjoy the event, plus it would be a good block of training.

Before I knew it Ian was dropping me and my many bags in Toulouse. My adventure was about to begin, but I tried not to show my excitement in case Mr Potter started crying. I told him it would only be for a week, I would be back before he knew it. I pretended to have tears in my eyes too as I was certain I would be missed! But then I noticed a very cheeky expression on Ian’s face and knew he had a downhill date with Russ, so it was a quick good bye as the two Potter’s went their separate ways....I for the cross country trails of northern France and Ian back to his beloved Pyrenees for some downhill action.

I would face 12hrs of travelling that included three trains, plus a taxi ride through the streets of Paris. I arrived in Vittel train station where my Tour de France mountain bike experience would begin two days later.....well so I thought.

DAY 1 – ‘The Team Pursuit’

There were two Australian teams, and I was part of ‘Team Australia Composee’, that consisted of fellow Aussies Josh Keep and Nick Both, plus an Austrian by the name of Alban Lakata who raced on the Dolphin Trek other words he was a proper pro. Our Team manager was Aussie elite racer Rosie Barnes who would be in charge of our team logistics and feeding. The other Australian Team included Daniel McConnell and Dellys Starr who are representing Australia at the Beijing Olympics, plus Adrian Jackson and Andrew Blair.

While Rosie and Neil attended the manager’s meeting I relaxed on the grass with both teams and suddenly became rather nervous. It suddenly dawned on me that the world champion Christoph Sauser sat close by, plus there were several teams arriving in their team cars looking every bit the pro part. The British Cycling Team had also turned up and just about every person I came across had a campervan or large vehicle with not just their name printed on it, but their faces too. I felt like a fish out of water, or rather a koala out of a gum tree. I wondered if the national coach knew what he had got me into, as there were some very classy riders turning up, and suddenly I doubted if I were even good enough to be here amongst all these international bikers. At least I had 48hrs before the first race to relax and find my confident brain which I started to think I had left behind in Luchon.

When Neil and Rosie returned we were informed there would be a racing exhibition on at 8pm that night following the team presentation. At first I was really excited to check the event out as I was thinking it was going to be like a downhill street race. Then I was informed that we were going to be the entertainers....I had in fact less than 4 hours to find my confident brain and remember how to ride my bike. This was news to everybody as there was no mention of racing this evening on the event website. However before we could practice the course and discuss the format of the race, we had to find our accommodation that the organisers arranged for every team as part of the entry fee. It was a lovely 40km trip along rolling hills and countryside to an industrial area in what felt like the middle of nowhere. A quick change into race kit and then we headed back to Vittel again where we discovered that the first race was in fact a team pursuit.

The main street outside the train station was closed and there were large mounds of dirt piled high, and logs of different widths along the street. At first I thought there must be a dirt jumping and trials exhibition on also to entertain the crowd, but then I noticed lycra clad cyclists riding up and down the street and realised that this was part of the course.....gulp!

The loop started down the tarmac road and as the bike picked up speed I quickly had to touch the brakes in order to ride the huge dirt jump smoothly, without nose diving. The jump wasn’t shaped that well, and there were quite a few guys landing on their top tubes with rather painful expressions on their faces.....ouch!

The next series of obstacles were logs that were quite close together, and even though I have been practising bunny hopping with Ian, the kind where you manual first before lifting the back end of the bike, I was looking rather pathetic as I tried to find my timing and knew I was losing speed on this section of the course. The road continued downhill and on to a roundabout where you had to ride across the roundabout, jump onto a footpath curb and then hop onto a bridge, before a small drop off where you landed on the other side of the roundabout. Then the course turned to a gravel path where the next obstacle was like a huge long sand pit. It must have been close to 10m long and you just had to pedal as hard as you could and prey that momentum would carry you through it. It was very easy to sink or find yourself sliding sideways.

Then it was back on to the gravel path before hitting a series of dirt mounds that were fairly easy to pump through, before another long sand pit to ride across without sinking. The course then turned up hill and back on to the tarmac road where more logs were in place to slow you down if you couldn’t bunny hop properly, before a short obstacle free sprint across the finish line. I was laughing so much as I rode the course and realised I no longer wore my nervous head on. I was really enjoying the course and felt like I was attacking the obstacles confidently.....until I decided to wipe out on the gravel path. I managed to stick my leg out just in time and somehow saved my skin from a nasty gravel rash.

Before each team lined up to race against the clock we had to walk on stage and be presented to the crowd. The cheers and excitement from the onlookers was amazing. Young children were approaching us for autographs and we were treated as though we were film stars. It was just so surreal. Then it was our turn to race. Each team had to race two laps of the 400m course and then the fastest four teams overall would go into a semi final. It was only the third placed rider’s time that counted, so it didn’t matter how far back the fourth rider finished or how far in front the leading riders were. Our Austrian team mate Alban Lakata was focusing on trying to win the yellow jersey and didn’t want to risk injury, so we all agreed to cruise the course comfortably to avoid any risk of injury that would stop us from racing the next day.

As we lined up the Alban asked me if I wanted to ride in front of him because he said he was just taking it steady. I was quite happy to cruise so insisted he remained in front of me as I didn’t want to hold him up. As we took off I soon realised that my steady is quite different to the steadiness of my elite male team mates out in front. All of them could bunny hop beautifully, where Mrs Potter was not the most graceful when it came to jumping over logs. A gap had appeared and I tried really hard to catch my team mates up. Luckily I had an advantage of being a lighter rider in the sand pit and I sprinted to the other side of the pit almost running over Alban in the process, who had sunk fairly deeply into the sand. I was all giggles as I tried to avoid a collision with my team mate, and of course puffing for breath at the same time as I was still trying very hard. By the time I reached the second section of logs on the uphill straight once again a gap had appeared. I was also completely in the red zone, as I’m not used to racing for such a short distance. I had one more lap to go and even though it was only a 400m loop it was so painful.....and I thought we were taking it steady :)

When we finished I was in really good spirits and I couldn’t wait to cheer both the Aussie National Team and the British Cycling boys on. It was awesome to watch both team’s race and it looked like it might even be a mountain bike version of the Ashes, as both teams were looking very strong. In the end the British Cycling Team proved the strongest and came home the winners, with the Aussie National Team finishing in third.

As it turned out Dellys Starr (National Australian Team) and I were the only females to take part, as there were a few missing faces who were saving themselves for the next day. However it was definitely a race not to miss as I have never raced a course like it, and even now I burst into giggles when I think of those darn sand pits that we had to cross without sinking.

The Tour de France VTT would begin the next day with an opening time trial through the park and streets of Vittel. I will bring you that report shortly, as it truly deserves a report of its very own.....especially since I can actually say I beat a world champion :)

So stay tuned......

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

L'Hexagonal VTT Tour de France


I have only just stepped off the train and rushed to my lap top to let you know that I'm all well and rosey. I have had the most amazing week of racing and training with the Australian Cycling Team. I was invited to be part of the Australian Composee team for what is regarded as the mountain bike version of the Tour de France. Oh my golly gosh was this an event that every mountain biker should enter or at least watch at some point in their life. It was run over 7 days with 6 races that were not as long as a typical cycling stage race in the Tour de France, but had their own very interesting challenges along the way. I will be sending a full detailed report soon on each stage, and all the adventures along the way.....and I promise to be including photos. I just wanted to let you know that our team won the mixed categorary, which desreves full YAYAYAYAYS, as I thought I had lost it for us after the first cross country race (stage 2) when I had a mechanical and simply struggled all the way round, leaving me 18 minutes behind the leading female Laurance Leboucher. However we all dug deep and to our surprise took the lead after the team performed brilliantly in the last two stages. National Aussie champ Dellys Starr had an awesome race yesterday to win the final stage and gain over 5 minutes on Leboucher to take the maiollet rose. To my surprise I finished second yesterday and managed to take third overall, which I was really pleased about.

The event attracted some of the best riders in the world including the world champion Christoph Sausser. Each stage was filled with interesting obstacles unlike any race I have ever entered in my life. Time trials were conducted in the middle of cities where steps, slippery cobble stones, hail, thunder and lightening and would you believe even pedestrians were the main obstacles for one to avoid. Every cross country race involved plenty of running, scrambling, and would you believe climbing with your bike up sheer muddy banks. I can't express to you how different this event is to anything I have ever done before and will definitely be back next year to race it again as it was the best week of training and racing I have ever experienced.

I will be back again soon with a report on each stage, but as I have only had two hours sleep I plan to type up my report tomorrow, so you will have to wait until then I'm afraid as my eyes are caving in.

Cheerios for now


Saturday, August 2, 2008

2008 Bontrager 24/12 :: Kate's Report

12hr mixed pairs
Originally uploaded by James Dymond
Ian and I have just returned from Bontrager 24/12 which was held at Newnham Park just outside Plymouth. I really have to control my finger tips as I type what should be a very serious ‘race report’, as Mr and Mrs Potter were teaming up to take on each other to work out who is the fastest Potter on the planet. However I think many of you know my writing style by now and realise that if I have had an awesome experience then expect to join me in that experience.....only a few days later when I finally finish writing about it. This event is going to be difficult to narrow down to the bare minimum of action packed mini adventures that took place within the overall weekend. Once again Martyn Salt and his merry men organised an event for the people, with a relaxed atmosphere that even the most serious of racers enjoyed, as well as Friday night rock band, midnight jazz singer, on course clubbing action, plus superb catering and showering facilities....and as we all noted glorious sun and moonshine with only a hint of mud that somehow ended up more on me than any other rider on course so I was told.

Now as I was saying I do have to control my typing for this ‘little’ report otherwise I will end up writing a novel with endless chapters on just how much fun I, and the rest of the Cotic Bontrager, AQR and the Yeti crew had across the Bontrager 24/12 weekend.

THE PROLOGUE.....KP wins Queen Faff title!

Thursday morning at 6am and I’m ready to roll....well almost. I decide I’m in need of a run before the 6hr drive down south. Ian reminds me that Cy will be arriving at 10am, plenty of time to faff. Before I know it the clock strikes 9:45am and I decide to finish packing. Luckily Cy is running late so I have more time to faff. Cy arrives an hour later and guess what I’m still packing. Naturally I’m the last to be ready, but the boys are talking bikes so I have time up my sleeve and quickly race back inside to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything. I just had this horrible feeling that I had forgotten something really important.....30 minutes later and I remember that I’m on a special course of these horrible looking iron tablets which must be taken for 30 days straight.....oops. However it takes me another 20 minutes to find the courage to ask Cy if we could possibly go back to Nottingham to collect them.....guess who is not in good books? Finally the Cotic Bontrager Racing Team that includes Cy, Paul and the Potters hit the road in the right direction. The time is 1:30pm and KP is not very popular....sorry.
Thursday evening after 6pm and the Cotic Bontrager Team pitch their tents, well Mr Potter rips our tent just in time for the rain. Cy has chosen a brilliant spot right in the centre of the camping area. At this point in time we feel like the entire grassy area belongs to the Cotic Bontrager Team as only a few other people have arrived early to set up camp. I’m desperate to move so head off for a walk leaving the boys to overdose on carbs and hydrate ready for the racing on Saturday....that be with a few bottles of beer and a healthy dose of pasta.
Friday morning, the sun is out in full force. I haven’t ridden my bike for two days and I’m desperate to check the course out. I round the boys up and we make our way around the 12km loop. The start involves a rough grassy straight that is a perfect section to warm up on, before heading to the first climb that leads to a flowing piece of single track beneath the trees....soooo nice. Then follows a short tarmac climb, before a bumpy wide trail that leads to another glorious piece of single track....may the fun begin! Already I’m battling my brain. Do I chase Ian down or do I conserve energy for the next day? There are some super fast corners and a couple of tighter bends around some trees, then a short section of wider trail before a super fast piece of single track, over a few roots, with a cool little switchback that drops on to another passing point....this is a yummy trail as I like to say! Then there is more fire road before my favourite section of woops....reminding me of a roller coaster ride.....yippees can be heard all round. Then a longer section of single track that drops on to a super fast fire road that leads to the river crossing; a successful attempt through the stream by all, but feet are feeling rather wet and the water is colder than I expected it to be. There is some more climbing to enjoy, where we check out some lines and make a few adjustments to the bikes to suit the course. A short fast rocky descent later concerns me as I hate sharp rocks and the last thing I want is to rip my tyres as I’m always the one who finds the sharpest rocks. However it’s soon forgotten when we hit the dual single track, racing each other to work out which trail is best. Then the course widens out and a fast grassy bumpy descent back down to the arena leaves the four of us smiling high. There is still about 500m before you head back through the timing point, and along the way there are a few bends where I attempt to block Ian by forcing him into the side, keeping elbows out in order to intimidate the ol’ guide...he is not intimidated in the slightest and pulls a wheelie just because he can...grrrr.
Friday afternoon and I settle back down at Cotic Bontrager camping headquarters (which has now expanded to include the AQR racing team and our friends from the Yeti crew) where I have the pleasure to chat to Keith Bontrager. The two of us talk racing, riding and living the life of mountain bikers who just love experiencing adventures by bike. Time flies when you’re having fun and soon it is time for more pasta, more water, a little head banging action as the rock band begin and then more sleep....I’m such a party animal. I leave the boys to party with the Trek crew as I can’t wait for the racing to begin tomorrow.

I nominate Ian to start because he looks like he has too much energy for his own good and needs to take a chill pill. Mr Potter is looking fired up, and is making the most of his new status as a racing diva rather than KP’s pit man....sorry Paul (our team mechanic who Ian is driving crazy). Ian is no stranger to the racing scene, but stopped racing seriously 15 years ago due to a chronic fatigue type illness that kept him off the bike for over three years. During that time Ian was a top expert racer, always just missing out on a podium place in a field of over 100 racers, except one day when he finished second.....but the weather was so bad that they cancelled the podium ceremony (doh!). Ian often reminisces about those racing days, even pulling out his bright purple and yellow lycra from the 80’s that he promises me was really cool back in the day....maybe. Since then he has raced 7 times over the past 15 years for a bit of fun, or rather because I have bullied him into it. Due to the nature of mountain bike guiding Ian doesn’t train properly, but every now and then he decides to accompany me up a long col out here in France and takes great pleasure in waiting for me at the top :) . Anyway to cut a long melodramatic story short I really hoped when Ian turned 40 he would catch the racing bug back again. For selfish reasons really as it's much better to say I can’t keep up with my hubby who is a top level Vet racer, rather than an ‘ol’ fat guide who wears faded fluorescent racing lycra from back in the day’, these are Ian’s words not mine, as he takes great satisfaction in beating me. To my delight Ian agreed to race me at Bontrager 24/12, yes race me, as I challenged him to a racing dual, even though we were on the same team. Fastest Potter average lap time over the 12hrs doesn’t have to do any housework for a month.

Anyway back to the racing. Ian had a great start and must have been in the top ten at the end of the starting loop. He was looking a bit too quick for his own good, but as he passed me he stuck his tongue out which meant he was cruising comfortably. The Potters were up against strong competition including the elite pairing of TORQ’s Ryan Sherlock and Mel Spath, national champion Jenny Copnall and partner Richard who called themselves ‘JC and Me’, plus local favourites Phil Morris and Madie Horton. I have to admit I didn’t think we would be strong enough as a pair to be close to these three teams, or to make it on the podium, especially as we decided to race equal laps. However we looked forward to the challenge and I was determined to see Ian become house keeper for a month.

The Potters weren’t doing too badly, in fact we were in second and doing much better than expected. For the first 6hrs we were within a minute to the leading TORQ duo, and at one point had gained a 20 second lead over them. Ian and I were feeling good and our lap times were consistent. As I expected Ian was 1-2 minutes quicker than me, but there was still 6hrs to go and I was saving myself for the second half of the race....I was determined to get out of the house work. On one lap I managed to keep Ryan in sight and knew Ian would be out against Mel so thought he might make up some more time. However Mel wasn’t too far behind when Ian came through at the end of his lap. I found out later that Mr Potter had ripped his tyre, and left his forks locked on by accident. As expected Ryan stormed passed me on the next lap, but then I experienced wobble on down an early descent and I heard somebody call out that my tyre was going down.....nooooooo! The strange thing was I kept thinking it was my rear tyre that was going down, but perhaps after 6hrs of racing my brain was feeling a bit muddled because when I stopped the rear one was rock hard, but the front tyre had only about 10 psi in it. Back at the camp Cy made the call, took my favourite tyre off and discovered all the latex had dried up and wasn’t sealing properly. I’m quite sentimental when it comes to my tyres and I really wanted to use the tyre I had started with. I think Cy sensed I was feeling a bit sad, but fortunately he sorted it in the nick of time and I started my next lap feeling like I had air in both my tyres :)

The second half of the race the Potters started to lose touch with the Torq duo. Ryan was riding two laps to Mel’s one, and though he was riding alot more laps than anyone else in the mixed category he seemed to look much stronger all of a sudden.....all that Torq fuel methinks. Then again I was using it too, so I guess it just comes down to Ryan being a very fast and efficient rider. It was pretty impressive. Ian and I made a few mistakes as we started to tire. Ian decided to ride the course again without any suspension and then twisted his rear hanger so that his gears were jumping all over the place. There was still less than 10 minutes in it, but then I decided to stop eating because nausea had set in. I couldn’t keep any food down. The frustrating thing is that the legs felt strong, and I loved riding the course, but the last three hours I wasn’t sure if I could keep going. Ian was finishing each lap and then riding over to the first bridge to cheer me on, but I felt terrible because Ian was still riding fairly consistently, still looking perky, but his darn wife was looking green and letting him looked like I would be house maid after all. I couldn’t face trying to ride a really fast lap as part of the ‘Queen of the Night’ competition, but then Ian encouraged me to push on so I tried to keep it smooth and went as hard as I could. On my 10th lap I was told we still held a comfortable lead over third place, but there was no way we were going to catch the Torq team who were too strong. I finished a cruisy 20th lap just after midnight in second place.....cheers all round!

Mr and Mrs Potter survived the 12hr mixed pair at the Bontrager 24/12. As a result the Cotic Bontrager Racing duo will not need marriage counselling after all, as it brought us closer together. Ian finally stood up on the podium after all those years of 80's race reminiscing, but this time it was alongside a wife, in much trendier AQR race strip than his battered purple and yellow lycra. I have accepted my role as house keeper for the next month, on the condition that Ian remembers that he is not a racing diva anymore and to revert back to his AQR guiding ways....until the next mixed event that comes our way of course.

Congratulations to all 24/12 competitors across the whole weekend, and a special mention to our friends A Quick Release.Com and Yeti for winning their categories. There must have been some magic surrounding our campsite, or just plenty of team spirit....even AQR rider Iain made it ‘til the end after illness and wife slamming his fingers in car door made the whole experience a memorable one for all of us.....perhaps you two should team up next year :)

Thankyou Martyn Salt, Keith Bontrager and the Inevent Team for another superb event, already looking forward to next year.

Plus special thankyou to Cy and Paul from Cotic who made up the racing team and who took great care of the Potters across the entire weekend.

Thanks to AQR's James Dymond for the mixed pairs podium shot....Ian is going to frame it.

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.