Thursday, June 25, 2009

MOUNTAIN MAYHEM 2009, Malvern Hills 20-21 June.

Photos by Joolze Dymond
See and download the full gallery on posterous

What a weekend! In some ways I’m relieved to be sitting here writing this report post race, but at the same time disappointed that my weekend of mountain biking adventure ended so quickly. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make Mountain Mayhem this year due to my focus on XC and earning UCI points. However when the lovely Nick Craig asked me to join the Scott UK Team for a second time how could I refuse. When Coach gave me the go ahead, I was very excited to be heading to a 24hr mountain biking festival. I have never missed a 24hr event since I started riding a bike. This would be my 6th Mountain Mayhem and I couldn’t wait to taste mud and be surrounded by a team of riders and support crew who I learnt a lot from last year and who kept me laughing all weekend. I loved racing for Scott UK in 2008, and couldn’t wait to be part of their team again in 2009. But it would be a shaky start, a good omen methinks as when do we Potters ever have a smooth racing adventure.


Saturday June 20 started at 3am, then again if I was going to be precise it started around 2am for me as I tossed and turned in my bed hoping that I wouldn’t sleep through the 3am alarm bell. We had last minute packing to sort out before collecting guests at the hotel just before 4am who were on an early flight out of Toulouse. I had planned to sleep in the AQR bus, but our French driver Jo was in a very talkative mood, and I forgot my urge to sleep and used this time to practice speaking french….lots of ‘oui’, ‘non’, ‘oui’ et ‘je ne sais pas’ with shoulder shrugs and plenty of hand gestures later, and we were being dropped off out the front of Toulouse Airport as the sun was rising.


After lots of cheek kisses and hugs it was time to say farewell to our AQR guests and find a place to relax since our check in wasn’t until 7:30am. Our friend Ben(edict) (also known as the Pope  ), was joining us on the same flight as he was heading to Mountain Mayhem as well. The three of us spent the next hour trying to sleep, but as the excitement of our next racing adventure took hold we were soon in pre race discussion mode…’how muddy will Mountain Mayhem be this year? What will the course be like? Who would be the main competition? Which tyres? How much food, drink, caffeine would we need to keep us all going?’ But all I could really think about was ‘Will we get there in time?’


I knew I could ring the Scott UK Team if we were held up, but then Ian left the AQR mobile phone in the mini bus (naturally I blame Ian), which at that point was back in Luchon. So we had no way of contacting anybody if we got ourselves lost, late or stuck at any point en route. I really hate being late for anything, especially a race. I didn’t want the team to think I had forgotten and I wanted to be there to cheer Stu Bowers on who was lining up for the opening run at 2pm. If all went smoothly Ian and I would arrive at 1pm and we would hopefully squeeze a practice lap in before the 2pm race start.


But as I have said often enough in the past, when do the Potter’s racing adventures ever go smoothly. The flight was delayed due to a dramatic arrest on board the flight from London; Passport control was a farce and I was initially told by airport staff to line up with those travellers holding non-EU passports even though I was certain that I was usually allowed to walk through with Ian…over 45 minutes later I’m told that I was right in fact and that I could have gone through with Ian (grrrr). Luckily our luggage arrived in one piece. But with two bags, a bike box, bike bag, hand luggage, extra bulky jumpers wrapped around waist and neck because they wouldn’t fit in my bag and my usual shopping bags full of food…we discovered we had no pounds to get a trolley. The thought of dragging our luggage around Gatwick Airport to where the car hire place was situated did not appeal. Some time later Ian worked out that euro coins were accepted, but with only 1euro coin we only had a single trolley between us.


The two of us were charging here, there and everywhere trying to find Europcar hire. The race was on as we were forced to dodge other bodies and bags that tried to slow the Potters down. Ian guided the trolley with the bikes and I carried (and dragged) the rest of the luggage, stopping every now and then to pick up one of the endless items that I kept dropping. The path was long and windy and after a few missed turns, a few collisions with unsuspecting holiday makers, and an embarrassing moment where we got stuck in a door way, we finally found the car hire building….phew!


There were 6 other car hire companies, including Euopcar, which happened to be the most popular. Ian had to join a line of over 30 people while there was nobody waiting at any other car hire desk. The line took up the whole building and it was pretty clear we weren’t collecting our pre booked hire car anytime soon. Two hours later and we were given the only car they had available….an automatic silver thing (I never remember car names). I was actually very nervous of Ian driving an automatic as he only ever drives a manual. I offered to drive, but Ian admitted he was too scared of me driving on the motorway and that he wanted to arrive at Malvern Hills in one piece….so there may have been a little Potter domestic at this point, but only a little one  To make matters worse the braking was so sharp that for the next hour the back of my head was pounding from the number of times it rebounded off my seat as Ian tried to familiarise himself with how the car worked.


The journey from Gatwick Airport should have taken only a couple of hours to Malvern Hills, but there was plenty of traffic to slow us down and even when we stopped at a service station, we struggled to park up. Once again we were lining up, but this time for a much needed toilet stop and food. Ian and I are not used to crowds, so we were both feeling mighty tense once we had escaped what should have been a relaxing break from driving.


It was a huge relief to arrive in Malvern Hills and park up behind the Scott camping area only a few hours later than we had anticipated, but nevertheless we had arrived. We still had a lot to do, but I was really grateful for the Scott crew and of course Joolze & Dave who helped Ian and I set up camp and build bikes. I was feeling terrible for arriving so late and hope I didn’t put any extra stress on the team. I was told to sit and chill….I think the tension I felt from the inside was quite apparent on the outside as I was talking 100 miles an hour in a higher pitch than normal. Paul Oldham put me at ease right away with his northern sense of humour, as did his two year old son Decklan, sensing my mental frustration little Oldham threw his ball smack bang in the middle of my head….knocking some sense into me along the way and helping me calm down so I could focus on the race ahead.


I found out that it was looking very close between the Scott UK mixed Team and the USE Exposure Lights/Fat face A mixed Team. I expected to go out for some laps early evening, but at that point in time I could feel the fatigue from the day and all the mental stress that the trip took out of us was building up inside my sinuses. My head was pounding and I was not happy. I decided to start warming up and hopefully some physical exercise would make me feel better and release some happy endorphins.


I knew I would definitely be riding 4 laps, perhaps even more, but it all depended on when the team wanted to use me. Just like last year I didn’t want to let the team down. I had more chance of losing it for the guys if I had just one bad lap. If like last year it was close between the elite men then I had to make sure my laps were close, if not quicker than their female rider’s lap times. I also had to make sure I didn’t puncture, suffer a mechanical or in worse case scenario crash and not finish my lap…so no pressure.


I made sure I was warmed up properly, bike was checked over thoroughly and that my brain was in the right space to race hard. Ian made me have 30minutes without speaking and asked me not to think if not for my sake, but for his….I think too much at times you see which wears me down and then wears Ian down when I go into stress chat mode overload. I was quite nervous because I didn’t know how long the lap would take me or how technical the course would be. I also wasn’t feeling too confident about how strong the legs were feeling today.


I gave myself plenty of time to be ready for Nick Craig who would be handing over the baton to me. All I could think about was ‘please don’t be clumsy Kate, please don’t make any mistakes today for the team (gulp, gulp, gulp)’. I felt calmer talking to Kate George, my old team mate who I hadn’t seen for a while. Suddenly I heard ‘Kate! Kate!! KATE!!!!!’ I heard my name, and without thinking I had grabbed the yellow baton and was racing for my bike. It didn’t occur to me that Nick Craig was looking taller than when he left for this lap….’WRONG KATE!!!!’ Luckily I was stopped in time and to my expense the crowd had some entertainment as Kate George tackled my wrist and grabbed the baton that was rightfully hers…..oops, sorry. Well at least I was warmed up and ready to face Nick who came through a few minutes later.


It was such an awesome feeling racing hard. There was nothing to think about now but trying to get from A to B as quickly and safely as possible. It was strange not knowing how long the loop would take me, but my legs took over and I really enjoyed the feeling of riding fast. I was happy to finish with a 43:25 minute lap, a lap that felt much better than I expected. In fact the competitive side of my brain had woken up and I was off to find Mr Potter to see if his Mrs had secured a faster lap time than the ‘fat choozer’, which is the name Ian has called himself lately since putting on 5 kilos . Ian was riding a new Cotic full suspension prototype which he hadn’t tested, in fact it is a little bit of an experiment that even Cy hasn’t seen just yet. Ian hasn’t been training very much, only guiding which is not really training, plus he has been over dosing on peanut butter lately, so I was feeling confident today that I might just record some faster lap times than my husband this weekend. To my dismay Ian had recorded a 43:18 minute lap. I was 7 seconds too slow and didn’t Ian rub it in…DOH!


I was ready for another lap and had about an hour and a half to rest before it was time to hit the course again. Only my darn headache came back and the boys thought it best that I get myself to bed so that I could be fresh for the early morning laps when they felt they would most need me as they were still feeling strong. So it was bedtime for me at 10pm and I was out like a light. I didn’t expect to sleep very well with all the excitement of the race, but Ian said I was snoring good and proper. At 4am I was woken up and it was time to prepare to race. I was feeling so much better than the day before and I was looking forward to getting a night lap in, well what was left of the night as already the sun was rising.


Paul had just come back in and was in a lot of pain due to a stack on already badly bruised ribs from a crash three weeks earlier. I was told that there had been rain during the night and to expect slippery conditions. Now the nervous butterflies were raising their ugly wings. I let some air out of my tyres and was ready for a mud-fest. When Nick passed the baton over there were the usual encouraging words with a warning about the slippery conditions on the second half of the course. I decided to go for gold on the climbs and where there was grip, but would give myself time on the slipperier sections on course to avoid any problems. I could not afford a mechanical or an injury if I crashed. Unfortunately I think I let out too much air and the tyres felt flat beneath me, but on the plus I had no problems riding any of the course. I had amazing grip where other riders were slipping all over the place. So even though I felt slow, I was relieved that I had the grip I needed to ride the course confidently and finished with a 46:16 minute lap time.


The boys were roughly doing between 40-43 minute laps at this point in time, so I had about 2hrs to eat, change and rest before my next lap. 2hrs sounds like a long time, but it flew by and before I knew it I was heading down for my third lap. I decided a Torq Forest Fruits guarana gel would be just what the brain and body needed. Now for someone who doesn’t drink any caffeine the slightest sniff of coffee isn’t always a good idea. I was buzzing! I had the most fun on this lap and had to try and calm myself down in places. It was big ring all the way round and I was having so much fun on the single track. Ian eat your heart out as I was certain I would beat him this time round….NOPE! Ian recorded a 43:08 minute lap, while I was just over a minute slower. I was gutted. Although happy that I had a good lap, I just wanted to beat my husband so badly.


So I ate more food, legs rested and I made sure I was well hydrated. I had two more laps to go and I was sure my endurance would be the better of the Potter duo. As I headed out for my fourth lap I could feel the legs hurting that little bit more than the previous lap, but I was determined to better Ian this time round. It was ‘red mist’ time! All I could think about was the look on Ian’s face if I did better his time and the house hold chores I would give him. I forgot to mention that whichever Potter has the fastest lap time at Mountain Mayhem has no house hold chores for a month.


There were plenty of climbing on this course, with so much fun, fast and flowing single track that always brought a smile to my face. There were some interesting sections that were muddy in places and also off camber where you had to choose your lines carefully to avoid the worst of the mud. When I finished that lap and exchanged the baton with Stu I came face to face with Mr Potter who was waiting for his next lap…there was no time for lovely dovey chit chat. I looked Ian in the eyes and announced a 44 minute lap…so beat that love!


I returned to the Scott camp to rest and prepare for my 5th lap. I was due out just after 1pm. The team were almost two laps ahead of second place. I was super keen for one more lap, but then I had a horrible thought…what if I had a major mechanical on the team’s second last lap and I lost if for the crew. I also didn’t want to cross the finish line at 2pm when I hadn’t done as many laps as the boys. It should be a Scott rider to shake Pat’s hand and revel in the crowd’s cheers. I mentioned my concern to the team. Paul had just gone out and I was due to go out after Paul. There was a chance I would come in at around 1:50pm or even a few minutes before 2pm, but if I had any problem out on course and had to run the loop then the USE Exposure Lights mixed team were still close enough to take first place. ‘What do we do team?’ On a selfish level I wanted to race one more lap, but I didn’t think that would be best for the team. If we sent Nick out now then he would have to take it steady because he would finish before 2pm. After much discussion the team decided it would be best to send Nick out and to slow him down we made him wear baggy shorts. To our surprise Nick also slowed himself down by puncturing on that final lap too, but it didn’t affect the final result and just over an hour later Nick Craig crossed the finish line and the Scott UK team won the mixed expert category.


It was great to be part of the winning team, but to tell you the truth it was even better just being part of such a lovely crew of riders and supporters who really looked after me. Nick, Paul and Stu are such top lads who kept me laughing all weekend and who rode amazingly well. Hannah and Sally were fantastic support crew who looked after the team in so many ways and who had little sleep themselves. Then there was Arnie and Phil who made sure the bikes were clean and working perfectly after every lap. It was a huge team effort this weekend and that is what I really loved about my Mountain Mayhem experience.


Now back to the Potter dual….Ian cracked!!!! He felt the pressure from his Mrs and finished his final lap in 44:25 minutes. He tried so hard to beat me that he stacked it big time. Mrs Potter is victorious with 25 seconds to spare. So I decided we should ignore the previous lap times and focus on our final lap….Ian has just won himself a month of house cleaning duties….about time really 


As always I have a lot of people to thank who are helping me work towards achieving my goals…..


As always Special thanks to –

Cotic –

Bontrager –

Magura Forks & Brakes –

Torq & Torq Australia –

A Quick Release Holidays –


Skins –

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


Plus special thankyou to Nick, Paul, Stu, Hannah, Sally, Decklan, Arnie, Phil…SCOTT UK! Joolze & Dave….your tent was super comfy. Coach Neil for making my legs hurt and of course my beloved Mr Potter…. .....25 seconds!!!!



A Quick Release Holidays
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1 comment:

Red Bike said...

Congratulations on an impressive victory.