Monday, June 1, 2009

WORLD CUP SERIES round 4. Madrid, Spain, 24th May, 2009.

The last two weeks have been just what the doctor ordered. I have rested well and overdosed on so much garlic lately that every little bug that has tried to raise its ugly head has been killed off....even Ian has been avoiding me. Ian has banned me from working on the computer outside work hours, and I have made myself take regular walks down to the lac to feed the ducks which I find very therapeutic. I love nothing more than just sitting down next to the lac and watching the commotion that takes place as the birds fight for every little crumb that is thrown at them. If they don’t fight for their space then they miss out and go hungry...a bit like world cup racing really.


This is my second year racing the world cup circuit and even with one year of international racing behind me I still feel like a complete novice. Racing at national level is and always will be tough, but it doesn’t prepare you for world cups, it doesn’t come close. To improve at this level you have to race at this level, as it is a completely different style of racing. When you race world cups you soon realise your weaknesses, even weaknesses you didn’t think you possessed. The pace is not consistent. You must attack all the time. You have to fight for every inch and set yourself goals to keep you fighting even though you know a top five podium is out of can’t think like that. There are other goals to fight for which are all part of the process to becoming a stronger and more competitive racer at international level. Last year I was fighting to finish without being lapped. This year I’m confident I will finish on the lead lap, but now I’m fighting for a top 40 ranking in the world cup series, UCI points, and a 10% finish of the winner’s time.


To help those of you who are not familiar with why these are such important goals I will explain what I have learnt so far about the Olympic Games race. It has already started believe it or not. At this stage I’m racing to help Australia earn a position or two at the London 2012 Olympics Games. At the end of each year every country will be ranked against other countries according to their top three rider’s UCI position. UCI points can be earnt at any UCI sanctioned race, and you earn points based on your finish position. Some races offer more points than other races. For example a rider can earn more points from a top 40 position at a world cup then winning a national race that is only a UCI 2 sanctioned race. So it’s important to race alot, but you have to think carefully about which races you attend, as there are other factors to consider such as your fitness, health and financial situation, as racing doesn’t pay the bills.


Earning UCI points this year has been important for me as I didn’t race the National Championships or Oceania Championship back in Oz, and I’m not allowed to race the British national championships even though I am a resident of the UK...I still have green and gold blood J so I’m lacking alot of good points and at one stage was ranked in the 300’s. I have slowly, but surely crept up to a top 100 UCI ranking, 98th to be precise, but still need to keep earning more points if I want to finish the year in the top three of Aussie racers. Plus the more points you earn the better grid position you will have at UCI races, which can also be an advantage, especially when racing world cups where you are lining up against the top 100 girls in the world.


So why am I focusing on a top 40 World Cup series position? At the world cups the gridding starts with the top 40 girls in the world cup series, after that it is based on your UCI points. Unfortunately I was ranked 41st in the series after the third round, missing out on a good spot on the grid by one position. Now because my UCI points weren’t as high as other racers attending the event, it moved me back to a grid position of 62 and I ended up on the last row of the grid. It doesn’t sound like a huge step back, but when you are racing for the first narrow piece of single track against girls who still have fresh legs then you have to fight forward or else you will be stuck on the single track where you can lose valuable seconds, even minutes while those ahead surge forward.


So why do I also aim for a 10% finish of the winner’s time? This is a very important part of Australia’s criteria for the world championships. It doesn’t gain an immediate entry into the team, but I believe it shows the selector’s that you can be competitive at the top level. It should always be seen as an honour to represent one’s country, but I want to be good enough to wear my nation’s colours, and for me finishing consistently in the 10% is very important to me and what I’m working towards this year and the years ahead.


So back to what was going to be a race report before my brain got side tracked....


I wanted to be strong for the fourth round of the world cup series which was being held in Madrid. I was concerned that coming down with a cold after the last round in Houffalize would affect my preparation for this race. I was gutted to miss the second round of the British Mountain Bike Series, but know now it was the right decision as I made a speedy recovery and felt stronger for it. In 2008 I found this course in Madrid physically very demanding as there are no places to rest. The climbs are steep, but not very long, and you are constantly on the gas trying to power up, along and down everything. I have never experienced a pleasant temperature in Madrid either, so I was fortunate that my 2009 race kit had arrived the day before the race....a new skin suit which has been designed to help cool me no more cleavage shots I’m afraid J


The course doesn’t appear very technical when you are rolling around it at a steady pace, there are no rocks or roots or any scary sections to think twice about....but carrying fast speed is crucial which can be difficult on a course where there are sandy sections that can slow you down. Don’t ever presume a course is easy until you try to ride a course fast without over braking into and out of corners. I had three days to practice the course, and spent two days focusing on race pace and thinking about my lines. The first day the course was similar to last year and I was confident with my Bontrager tyre selection. But the Weather Gods had other ideas and Madrid was treated to rain. The course changed completely and suddenly there were sections that I and many others were struggling to ride.


On race morning the clouds were still low, but the rain had finally stopped. I took myself off on Ian’s new Cotic prototype...a little experiment Ian will be happy to tell you all about at Mountain Mayhem if you fancy a chat with Mr Potter there and then. There were still plenty of puddles and muddy sections, but it was clear that if it stayed dry the course would dry out quickly. I finished my warm up on the turbo and listened to some dodgy dance tunes, yes a bit of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and even some Eminem to get me in the race mood....


I was feeling remarkably relaxed about this race, and looking forward to the challenge of chasing down riders out in front. I was one of the last girls to be gridded on the start line. But I had my race plan and I was ready to charge....well so I thought. As the elite women took off around the first bend there was a crash right in front of me. I was lucky to stay on the bike. Without thinking I applied the brakes, and tried to escape the bottleneck by taking it wide, but found myself sucked down in a muddy section and going nowhere. I ended up in last position 100m from the start line and had already lost sight of the main group in front. There was a fast straight where I managed to overtake riders, and just as I found my rhythm I was stopped again by another crash. I was well chuffed with my speedy reaction time though as I managed to ride around the bodies and bikes that were across the trail without dismounting.


I was now by myself with only a few riders out in front who I could just make out in the distance. I was chasing all the time and appeared to be catching riders up. My legs felt awesome and my breathing was very controlled, which gave me confidence that today was going to be a good day on the bike. I was pleased I let air out of my tyres and was running them at much lower pressures than I normally do as I was finding grip on the off camber sections that were like grease rather than boggy mud, and here I made up even more spaces as I was able to get the tyres to bite and stay upright while passing a few girls who were sliding all over the place.


By the time I finished lap 1 I had passed almost half the field and was in 35th position. I had caught a group of riders up who I know if I’m close to then I’m doing well, in fact there were a couple of girls who I don’t usually see. But it was still early days and I reminded myself that I still had four laps to go; I had to pace myself and get those carbs down me in order to finish without blowing. Then disaster struck as my gears started to play up. Every time I hit a steep climb I was forced to run. Luckily I have been running alot this year, so it felt quite natural to be jumping on and off the bike....I reminded myself that it was good practice for cyclocross this winter. I wasn’t stressed or flapping you will be pleased to know coach, but just thought about what gears were working and tried to use them only.


The second lap I found my place in the field of 70 racers and I focused on riding steady, but fast. I was behind a Russian rider, and the two of us kept passing each other at different points on the course. It seemed I would pass her on the flat, but I didn’t have the gears to stay in front of her up the short steep climbs. Every time I passed her my chain would fall off or it would jam, I think my rear hanger was bent. By the third lap she actually gave me a pat on the back, and encouraged me to keep going...which I thought was very nice considering we both wanted to beat each other. Last year at this race I had girls punching me in the backside to get past me, so it was a nice change to receive this encouragement.


As I finished the third lap, I was preparing myself for two fast laps to take me across the finish line. At this point I was in 34th position, but I felt strong enough to go harder. Then the bell rang and completely through me off guard. I only had one lap to go apparently, but tried to confirm this with Ian who was in the pit area, as I wanted my gel on the last lap. No gel from Ian, only a few mumbled words which I didn’t make out. So I was still wondering whether it was in fact my final lap. No matter, it was time to charge and see if I could make up some more time. I started catching up girls who looked like I did at the last world cup. But as soon as I passed them I could feel them fight back. I felt good, but the girls I was racing have far more experience and know how to hurt. I had to really focus on staying in front, and I gave it my best shot. I lost my chain a couple of times, but was used to it happening now and I was able to ride up the steep pitches using the only gear that worked on the steep gradient.


I looked behind a couple of times, and I was being chased. This fired me up and I was really enjoying the pressure to get to the finish line before those racing me. I had no idea where I was placed and with only 1km to go I was not giving up my position. I couldn’t see any girls in front, but you never know and didn’t give up trying until I knew my position was secure. I crossed the finish line in 30th position, my best result to date. I was very happy with this result, only a little disappointed that I didn’t know the race had been changed to four laps instead of five. Ian now calls me ol’ cloth ears. Oh well I guess I shouldn’t complain that I finished feeling too fresh for my own good. Unfortunately I just was about 30 seconds too slow for a 10% result, but my last lap was 25th fastest in the entire field, and that is definitely a huge improvement from last year, so there are plenty of plusses.....but as always in my Potter brain plenty of ‘what if’s’. It only motivates me to keep on trying to become a stronger rider.....and one who listens.
Next goal to work on extracting the cloth between my ears and escaping my little focus bubble...can you believe I'm actually too focused for my own good sometimes.

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 bags, 661 gloves, Nokon cables, Sundog eyewear and Purple Extreme Lubricants.


Plus lots of thanks to Neil Ross (Cycling Oz) for coaching me, and Mr P. For all your endless support.             

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Ryan Sherlock said...

Great report Kate, and the weekend just passed too. Makes me really really miss racing.

Kate Potter said...

You will come back stronger than ever Ryan, try and stay positive mate and just get that collar bone back together in one piece. When the rest of us have tired legs you will be fresh and making the boys suffer towards the end of the season.

anthonyy said...

I always enjoy your blog, really well written as well as fascinating content. I thought I’d comment on your red mist incident in Offenburg. You say sheer trail rage at the un-named lady’s rough tactics powered you up to chase her into the top 20, but you got so excited that you clean forgot to refuel and that landed you up 47th. Two observations:

1. I’m surprised you don’t pre-set a convenient point in the course to refuel each and every lap, so you take it at an even rate and you’re less likely to forget to do it.

2. is a red mist-fuelled spurt the most efficient use of your available strength over the race? I don’t know, but I wonder whether it could make you use up too much too fast and more than the pay-back would justify.

So what was the Potter family verdict after the post-race inquest? Is red mist an effective way to go racing?