Tuesday, June 9, 2009

British Mountain Bike Series Round 3 - Margham Park, Wales. 30th May, 2009.

 If only the jet set racing lifestyle was as glamorous as it sounds. Booking flights, car hire, living out of a suit case and all the planning involved should be part of the fun and adventure of racing around the world. But when you are trying to do too many things in one day, then suddenly you realise that you have double booked yourself and also need to be in two different countries in one day. Before you know it racing is a daily occurrence....racing here and there to make important dead lines or just racing your husband down the ASDA aisle way to prove that you are the fastest out of the Potter duo to find the cereal section. I catch myself constantly wanting to beat Ian at everything from washing up duties to who can be first to finish brushing their teeth at night...poor Ian he has created a monster. But racing needs balance and I have been trying really hard not to make my husband lose anymore hair lately. Unfortunately I double booked Ian and I on the weekend of the third round of the British Mountain Bike Series...sorry J. While I was racing and Ian working in the feed/tech zone, we also had to be preparing for our next group of guests who were arriving at Toulouse Airport for their AQR Holiday experience the next morning....so we had two races to focus on this weekend: (1) BMBS XC R1 & (2) A Potter marathon journey back to the Pyrenees to guide on Sunday morning.


Ian and I arrived at Margham Park late Friday afternoon. It was great to return to a British national round at one of my favourite venues. I have always enjoyed Margham Park races because they have always been warm and sunny. I don’t think I have ever experienced a wet race here, but instead dry and dusty trails that remind me of my home in Luchon. The climbs are tough and the single track fun and flowy. I couldn’t wait to check the course out and told Ian we would pitch the tent later once my legs had had a much needed work out. Ian was planning to run around the course as he didn’t want the hassle of packing and repacking his bike for this very short racing adventure. However TREK very kindly gave Ian a bike to use during practice which we were very grateful and Swinnerton Cycles had a lovely Fox helmet for Ian to use, so the Potters were ready to hit the course and shake off those cobwebs (Thankyou Trek and Swinnerton Cycles, we really appreciated your help)


I had two practice laps, with what the Aussies call a ‘hot lap’ to finish off with. The course started on a fast road that soon turned to fire road. There were some short sharp climbs and flowy narrow single track that I really enjoyed. There was a long climb, that wasn’t too steep, before a lovely piece of single track with a few roots that sent you into a new section I haven’t ridden before that required a smooth delivery of power over the wet rocks so that your back tyre didn’t lose any grip. There was a small drop between a wall and a couple of river crossings to cool your toes down, before another big climb that started on tarmac, before turning to single track again. The climbing continued, with small sections of flowing single track that were fast, but rough in places to break the steeper sections of the climb up. Once you hit the last main climb of the loop then it was a roller coaster ride all the way down. No need for pedalling, just keep off the brakes and let the bike go...it was a bit hairy in places especially if you mistimed your braking as the terrain was loose in places and a bit off camber. But this descent always brought a smile to my face as you picked up an enormous amount of speed onto the last 1km flat, and there were a few little sections where you could get a little bit of air or ‘ouch’, as Ian experienced when he mistimed a manual manoeuvre and landed on his top tube. Then it was all about power, power, power to keep the bike surging forward over some of the boggy muddy sections, before a couple of bends that slowed you down before you started the loop all over again.


It was a great course and I finished my training buzzing all over as the intensity had woken my heart, legs and lungs up and I was really looking forward to racing the next morning. Now it was time to pitch tent and enjoy a relaxing night beneath the stars....ahhh this is what Ian and I call biking bliss....well so we thought!


Ian always takes it upon himself to do the more physically demanding jobs before a race....I get yelled at if he catches me standing up for no reason and he really is a star when it comes to supporting me at races. But sometimes I wish he would just let me help him a little bit more as he can be very forgetful....(don’t you dare deny it Mr Potter) I spend alot of my time searching for Ian’s phone, keys, passport!!!!! So on this blissful Friday night before the race why wasn’t the tent up yet? I offered to help, but was told to "SIT!" I daren’t move a muscle. A few minutes later Ian was looking rather sheepish....Ian where is the tent?


Now I just want to explain how the Cotic Bontrager Team works. Ian and I have our jobs, we have been working as a team for such a long time now that we know what we are responsible for and this has always worked well for us in the past. If Ian starts trying to interfere with my jobs he gets a slap across the head, and if I interfere with Ian’s job then I get growled at. So we know that it is best to keep out of each other’s way and focus on our set tasks before any mountain bike event. So who forgot the tent Ian? I was calm, very calm I thought. But it was going on 8pm and the Potters were bedless and hungry. I could have been mad, but to tell you the truth there will be a time when I forget something too...and when that day comes Ian will be reminded of this little situation we had got ourselves into!


Luckily with the help of my mate Joolze (photographer extraordinaire), Dave (who is very handy with the camera too) and my wonderful friend and sponsor Griff from Bontrager I had a tent to sleep in....THANKYOU!!!!!! But what was Ian going to do? No I’m not that cruel J


I had a superb night sleep with Griff snoring on one side, Ian on  the other side talking in his sleep and the wind howling J But I wouldn’t have changed a thing as I was super comfy and woke up to glorious sunshine. I have noticed lately that my nerves seem to be more controlled. I have a little bit of a race ritual now before the start of a race and that has helped stop my brain from over thinking and making me feel tired before the race has even started.


I also tried not to be in such a bubble of focus, as sometimes I just hide in my head and am oblivious to the sights and sounds around me. My coach has been helping me break free of this little pre race bubble I hide in, and I have learnt alot lately about the psychological side of competition which is an important area I have so often overlooked. Ian tried his best to be chatty and even do a bit of dancing for me as we waited to be gridded on the start line.


I was gridded number two as the gridding is based on UCI points. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but decided to just ride and look forward to a hard workout. I didn’t mean to lead from the start, but sometimes the legs have a mind of their own. They felt strong and I just settled into a comfortable pace and waited for the attacks. I could hear other riders right on my tail, and I was ready to pounce as soon as somebody sprinted by. I was surprised to reach the single track first, but used this advantage to try and make a gap. I knew there was a small distance between myself and the riders behind me, but reminded myself that there was still over an hour and a half of racing to go and so kept some energy in reserve. I have had a few races early in the season where I started strong, but felt shaky and weak towards the end and as a result lost places, so I kept drinking and tried to be as efficient as possible on the bike. I also knew that the racers behind me are not just physically tough, but mentally too, and might be working together to try and catch me.


I managed a good time of about 24 minutes on the first lap, but there were still three laps to go. I settled into a comfortable pace and was riding smoothly. I was calm and feeling strong today. I was on a familiar piece of single track that has been in every Margham Park race I have ever entered, but for some reason I took a left hand switchback over some roots too tight and before I knew it my forehead came crashing down on the ground and I could feel my head and neck squash together. It happened so quickly I didn’t even have time to put my hands out in self defence. I must have flipped over somehow as I ended up on my back with the bike on top of me and I just lay there for a few seconds feeling rather dazed. I have never landed on my head so heavily before. There was nobody around so I thought it best to get back on the bike and keep riding so at least if I passed out suddenly there would be people around to cart me off to hospital. For a moment I felt quite disorientated and started to feel wobbly. I had to walk a few sections that followed as I was struggling to focus and I wondered if I had smashed my helmet as the visor was swinging in front of my face and blocking my vision. Once I regained my composure and realised there was no serious damage I got back up to race speed expecting to be passed at any moment.


I didn’t feel any worse once I started the third lap, so just kept it steady. I still had a lead, but was concerned that I had lost alot of time. There were still two laps to go. My legs felt strong, so I focused on riding the climbs hard, and just remained relaxed on the descents to avoid any further head banging and bruising moments. I was still in the lead at the start of the fourth lap, and knew I must dig deep now to take my first win of the 2009 race season. I never took it for granted that I had a comfortable lead as both body and bike still had to get around one more lap in one piece.


When I crossed the line, it took me a few minutes to realise that I had actually won. I was feeling rather dopey, and the back of my head and neck were pounding. All I could think about at the end of the race was thank god I wear a helmet...I would hate to think what state my head would be in if I crashed like that without a helmet....so lesson to you all who don’t wear helmets!!!!! From my experience working as a guide it is always the easy trails or trails riders are familiar with where I have seen or experienced the worst crashes.


I shared the podium with two elite racers who I have always had the utmost respect for. Sue Clarke (Scott/SIS) who finished in second place and Jenny Copnall (Look Rt) who took third. As their form improves in the lead up to the national champs I know the next round on the British Mountain Bike Series at Crow Hill is going to be a very exciting race.


Once the podium presentation had finished Ian and I had our next racing adventure to focus on. We had an afternoon flight from Bristol Aiport to Pau in the French Pyrenees, which we couldn’t afford to miss if we were going to be ready to guide early the next morning. As always we didn’t have a map or any idea how to get to Bristol Airport, but thanks to Matt from Torq we had a little drawing which we hoped would lead us in the right direction. Fortunately we had a smooth journey, and made check in just in time. I was a pretty useless team mate as I was still feeling very dazed and couldn’t stand up for long periods of time without feeling dizzy. At one point Ian was even tying my shoe laces after we walked through the security check.


We finally found our gate and when we were only metres from boarding the plane I was stopped and told I needed my visa checked. I had 15min to go back through security and then find a desk near check in where my visa would be examined. They also said with the sweetest of smiles that if I didn’t return in 15 minutes the plane would depart without me....cheers Ryanair!


Ian and I looked at each other in despair, and then suddenly I was fighting my cause rather than attempting another timed race. I was telling all who listened that I am a British resident with green and gold blood and that I had perfect right to board that plane. Ian has never seen me act so confident before....I must have knocked a few brain cells into me rather than out of my head, but it worked and I was allowed to board the plane (phew!)....I felt like we had won a third battle today as we found our seats and got ready for take-off. All the excitement of the day was too much and I slept for the remaining race back to Luchon where we arrived after 11pm on Saturday night, ready for our guiding and work duties the following morning.


Next Cotic Bontrager Racing adventures are in just over a weeks time, with Mountain Mayhem and the fourth national round at Crow Hill where Ian will be flying the AQR flag on his new Cotic racing full suss prototype. I hope to be the perfect feeder and mechanic for Ian, but just remember who forgot the tent....in case I make any mistakes or forget anything  J


As always Special thanks to –

Cotic – www.cotic.co.uk

Bontrager – www.bontrager.com

Magura Forks & Brakes – www.magura.com

Torq & Torq Australia – www.torqfitness.co.uk

A Quick Release Holidays – www.aquickrelease.com

KCNC – www.kcnc.com, www.clee-b2b.co.uk

Skins – www.skins.net

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


I would also like to thank Joolze & Dave for helping Ian and I on the weekend, hope we weren’t too much hassle. Also Griff from Trek for the bike and tent accommodation, and Swinnerton Cycles for the helmet.


Plus lots of thanks to Neil Ross (Cycling Oz) for coaching me, and Mr P. For all your endless support.    
I would also like to thank Joolze Dymond for the ace photos. You can check out more of Joolze's artistic flair at www.joolzedymond.com .                  

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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1 comment:

graham bird said...

Snap, I had a bit of a painfull off on my last lap at a cross race last week, however when your racing hard and under pressure you just get back on as quick as possible and sod any damage as long as the bike is ok, it's only afterwards that you realise you did actually hurt yourself, I'm still very sore a week later as is my helmet! but I guess that's bike racing for you. But it's a good thing we're racing off road because somehow I think hitting the road hard we may not have got back on!