Wednesday, May 6, 2009

April - Cotic Bontrager Race Team Adventures


I’m about to have a writer’s mental breakdown as I have given myself so many writing duties lately that you think I would be good at this task, but it doesn’t come naturally to me so it takes time. After each race I sit down to write a race report, but before I know it I’m prepping for the next race and all my thoughts are focused on the physical and mental preparation associated with a new course, a new country and new competition. So this report is dedicated to the month of April and the biking adventures that have ridden my way.

By now you should know about the fatigue fought race I experienced at the first round of the World Cup Series in South Africa so I shan’t go into great detail about that little adventure. That race was an important part of my training and taught me that not feeling 100% on race day is not the end of the world. It forced me to think about how I would race so that I finished on the lead lap and in the top 40, but more importantly it also trained my brain and body to toughen up and squash any wimpish thoughts that crept inside my head...’when the going gets tough, the tough get going’. That is the song I always gasp to myself whilst racing when I’m wanting to put the brakes on and collapse in a heap.

So after 32hrs of travelling back from South Africa I arrived home to Luchon and had one day to repack for three weeks of racing across Europe, plus squeeze a four hour ride in and ensure the new 2009 Soda was ready to roll. The next morning before sunrise I joined 6 Aussie juniors, their coach Chris Clarke and Mr Potter for a 14hr trip to Lugano, Switzerland.

Ian was as always being his efficient self and making sure all bikes and bags were in their correct space, so we could leave at 6am and no latter...’that be 6am Kate!’ Ian has a habit of repeating departure times to me, even though it be me who is regularly up working or training at the earliest of hours. The mini bus was full to the brim, and so was the trailer. Ian hates faff, and made it clear that he would not put up with any Mrs Potter faff on this faff? Never! So we’re ready to roll, well I’m ready to roll, but Ian is being unusually quiet and is looking a tad concerned....well stressed is probably the right word. Then he asks me where the keys if I would be trusted with keys. The silly sod thought he had locked them in the trailer. We could go nowhere until those keys were found. I was tempted to point out to Ian that he had left them in the security box behind the driver’s seat, but I thought it best to make him sweat it out and show Ian off as the faffer he really is. For me that was the high point of our 14hr trip, as I was my super organised self and I’m pleased to announce to all who know me that my faffy ways are a thing of the past.

When we finally arrived in Lugano 14hrs later we were treated to an amazing display of hail, lightening and plenty of thunder. The Gods had struck and welcomed us to a new mountainous biking terrain that we couldn’t wait to check out the following day.

The Swiss Power Cup is now called the Racer’s Cup, but the atmosphere as always was very friendly and welcoming. The course was technically challenging, but without any scary sections so I was in my element. I’m sure there were more climbs than descents on this course, with plenty of short sharp power climbs that needed every muscle at full strength in order to climb them.

 I was gridded on the second row, with about 30 women in total lining up, including national champs and some top world cup racers who were looking strong. The start of all European races is always fast, but this start was even faster than I anticipated. The acceleration from the top girls was awesome and I dug deep to try and stay on some back wheels. There was plenty of hustle and bustle as everybody fought for their position on the single track. I wasn’t fast enough at the start and was back in 12th position early on and unable to go any quicker as the few girls in front slowed down on the technical rooty sections. I managed to make some passes, but had lost sight of the leading ladies. I had four laps to ride, and every lap I kept making up some places, but I had no idea where I was placed overall. There was always a girl in front to chase down, and always girls close by so there was no time to catch one’s breath or try and recover at any point on the course.

On the last lap I was passed by Esther Suss, a Swiss Power Cup winner and top world cup racer who looked fierce. I found some extra speed from my tired legs and managed to stay on her back wheel. I had no idea how long I could sustain the pace for, but I was determined not to let her go. Before I knew it I was out cornering Suss and another rider we had caught and I had taken back the lead of our little race within a race. I was quite proud of that little manoeuvre and it gave me an extra dose of confidence to attack the next technical climb that was a right toughy, as there were step ups and plenty of roots to try and ride without losing balance.

I realised early on in the race that I had made my forks too hard for the technical sections on this course, I kept bouncing off line and I had to concentrate more than normal on my body position and line choice. Every lapse of concentration and I was off the bike, and on this final lap I gave myself a nice little dead leg as my bars went into my was a proper OUCH moment! But there were no time for tears. I was trying to jump back on the bike, but through sheer panic I kept falling off my bike and making a right fool of myself. I had to run a short section as Suss caught me up screaming at me to move. Somehow I managed to stay in front, but I don’t think she was too pleased. She was right on my back wheel, and for some reason I chose to drink at a really stupid spot on the race course where there was plenty of overtaking places. Suss sprinted past me into the longest section of single track descent on the course. What I didn’t know is that she had stacked it hard early on in the race, as she was riding the descent much slower than I would have expected someone of her level of racing. There were steps to ride and drop offs and plenty of roots, but it was the type of course where you didn’t want to hit the ground, as there were no soft landings anywhere. Had I known this earlier it would have been the perfect place to attack, as I was loving this descent and had more trouble riding it slowly then at race pace.

There was about 3km to go and I was still on Suss’ back wheel and still trying to make passes when and where I could. I finally out sprinted Suss into a short section of single track with 1km to go and all I had to do was get to the top of the last short climb that I was forced to run each lap. Elbows were out and I already had gears in big ring ready to sprint into the next section of single track. I was properly growling and trying to look aggressive. However, what I didn’t realise is that you could cut the trail tight....noooooo I saw the line too late. There was a tighter line where Suss out ran me into the next section...DOH! Now I was really having words...think Kate!

 I was back on her wheel and still trying to put the pressure on and make passes, but she just kept on blocking me. The final section of single track was very fast, and tight, and as we dropped into the finish line the tight bends were impossible to pass riders on. I finished one second behind Suss in our little battle, but placed 7th overall. I was extremely happy with my result and had plenty of painful fun out on course trying to outride, and outsmart a much more experienced racer. I was also pleased with how my form has been progressing, and found out later that my final lap time was the 4th fastest lap I was pretty chuffed with myself and know I have made significant improvements already. But as the saying goes ‘the more you learn, the more there is to learn’. Gaining more experience is a very important part of my training, which takes time....but in one year I’m already bike lengths ahead of where I used to be, although there are still plenty of bike lengths to work on and ride towards.

WORLD CUP SERIES 2 - OFFENBURG, GERMANY                         APRIL 26, 2009

I have returned a year later to face my race course nemesis and the brain demons that occasionally raise their devilish heads. Last year I raced the Offenburg world cup course and there were sections that frightened me silly. There are three rather dramatic drops, that for someone who has been afraid of heights most her life, suddenly found herself in a position where there was no chickening out, as I always say to myself when the nerves appear ‘Do or do not....there is no try!’.

So I take myself off for my first practice around the course. I have been invited to train with the Tasmanian UCI team. I have had no opportunity to look at the drops, and all I can think about is wearing the right head and not making a fool of myself. Potter nerves must stay under control today else I will only disrupt the training ride. I’m not used to training with people, so it’s great to be training alongside so many national champs that make up this 6 person team. I approach the first drop where there is a step down before a fast shoot into a small drop off. I lose a few nerves along the way and now we’re heading to the ‘World Class Drop’ heart skips a beat as my back end lifts up and for the briefest of seconds one is riding on their front wheel, before the berm catches riders at the bottom of the exit. High Fives and world class YAY’s all round gives me a warm buzzy feeling all over...but now it’s time for the Wolve’s Drop. There is no way out, even in practice there are spectators ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ at the exit of the shoot. Before you hit the drop you must ride over loads of roots, and you only see the trail as you ride over the edge. It’s not a smooth shoot....Oh and before you know it you are down and hopefully still on the bike and not crashing into the barriers.

I finish the training ride in the highest of spirits, as I have ridden the course confidently and now that I have ridden a few laps I don’t know why I found this course scary last year, as it’s so much fun to ride with the right head on. But our brains, well my brain especially, can play tricks and occasionally leave doubts in my head. So for me to be feeling this confident on course early in the week is a real bonus.

Before I knew it race day was upon us. Offenburg had attracted all the best racers in the world, and there were alot of girls on the start line. I had a good position on the grid (number 32), and strangely enough I wasn’t feeling too nervous. I could only give it my best shot, and was looking forward to the challenge. The start loop was on a long section of draggy grass that made you feel slow, even when you were going max out. Then you hit a long steep, but wide track where I knew I had to go for gold if I was going to hold my position. As I took off I found myself still in the front group of riders, when suddenly this rider came barging through the middle of the pack and we all just parted like a wave.  I was pushed in the wrong direction and had to apply brakes to avoid missing a tree. It was incredible how vicious this racer was as she had no concern for anyone falling as she elbowed her way through. Now this is world cup racing for you. I was mad...yes the red mist had appeared and I took off and focused on chasing her down. I kept on chasing, and chasing and chasing, and then realised I had made up loads of places. I was racing alongside girls who are usually in the top 20. I had no idea where I was placed but kept working on chasing riders down and was feeling in good form. As I past my coach I found out I was in 27th position. I overtook a few more girls, but then there were a few girls passing me, and then I noticed a few girls already experiencing mechanicals. But I was still racing with girls who were very strong, so I just knuckled down to try and maintain this position. I was focusing so hard on staying with the girls in front that I forgot to take my gels.  I was starting to get really thirsty and signs of blowing up were showing their ugly head. I had three laps to go and I was suffering big time. When I started shaking this was a wakeup call to get a gel down me, but methinks it was too late. Jelly head was upon me well and truly. As I headed into the Snake pit, a lovely rooty section with very few lines that I never had any problems riding, I went head over handle bar and landed straight on my head...I was seeing stars, tasting dirt and receiving plenty of cheers from the good publicity for sponsors J

As I picked myself up I lost sight of the girls I was chasing and more girls caught me up. I was back on the bike and trying to focus again on the one remaining lap. I thought I might get pulled as I thought I had lost loads of places, but as it turned out I was in the mid 40’s, with at least 10 girls within 1 minute out in front, as well as girls right on my tail. I managed to hold them off, but didn’t have the power to catch Ivonne Kraft who powered by me on the last climb, but I stuck to her wheel and finished one second behind in 47th position.

I felt like collapsing in a heap at the end, as the shakes came back again and I desperately needed some food. But I had another race ahead of me this time, and that was to chase Ian down who had to make his way back from the pit area where there were hundreds of spectators fighting for the best viewing point on the course. I must have been riding around in circles for half an hour and just missing Mr Potter, as everyone I asked had seen him, but me. Finally he emerged from all the bodies, bikers and press who were scattered everywhere in the arena area. He was proud as punch of his Mrs, but there was no time for affection I needed food and a push back to the mini bus as my legs had refused to pedal one more stroke.
Next racing destination is Houffalize, Belgium which was my favourite course in 2008. Will be back soon with an update on that one.

As always Special thanks to –

Cotic –

Bontrager –

Magura Forks & Brakes –

Torq & Torq Australia –

A Quick Release Holidays –


Skins –


And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, Exposure Lights, Bigfoot bike and travel bags, 661 gloves, Ergon Ergonomic bags, Nokon cables, Sundog eyewear and Purple Extreme Lubricants.

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