The biggest experience of my mountain biking life happened 48hrs ago. I was part of the 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships on home turf. Although I have started to feel like my home is wherever my mountain bike takes me, Australia is where I was born and bred, and so to line up wearing the Aussie colours and race in front of a massive Australian crowd was an unforgettable experience. It only feels like yesterday that I took myself off to Portugal and discovered mountain biking for the first time.....oh and also my future husband....yeah I took a fancy to the guide and a year later became Mrs Potter....and the rest is Potter biking history.
When I was growing up I was always very sporty, and like most Aussie children I dreamt that one day I could represent my country....but that never happened. In most sports when you reach your mid 20’s you can start thinking about retiring even if you do make it to elite level. When you finish school there is often this expectation that it’s time to get serious, settle down and stop chasing your dreams. When I finished school it was time to decide what I was going to do for the rest of my life and there was no other choice for me but to head to University....because I had no idea what I wanted to do or be when I hit my 20’s and beyond.
At 17 this is quite a daunting thought and I certainly wasn’t ready to make such a huge decision, one that could affect the rest of my life. I thought by the age of 22 years after spending 5 intense years at University that I would be somewhat closer to making that decision. Unfortunately I was a bit of a dreamer and didn’t feel like I was on the right path....so as many Aussies do it was time to escape, head to Europe for some much needed head space and to have some adventure. I was certain that after two years travelling I would be ready to ‘settle down’, that I would know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life when I was in my mid 20’s.
During my travels I fell in love with so many countries, but the trips I went on at first were too well organised. I was seeking more exciting spontaneous adventures. I was on the final stretch of a bus trip through Switzerland when I saw all these people riding bikes. They looked like they were travellers too, but they were doing something I suddenly craved to experience. I suddenly felt like I wasn’t a proper explorer after all, because I relied on tour guides and bus drivers to give me an adventure...and to tell you the truth I suffer motion sickness, so for 8hrs each day I was either feeling sick as a dog or sleeping, so the Captain Cook spirit inside me was feeling suppressed and at times rather nautious.
It’s funny how one small decision that you don’t recognise as being that significant at the time is actually what changes your whole future. I decided at that moment at the age of 24 that I wanted to ride a bike on my next adventure. That little decision, which was no more than a fleeting thought at the time, has ended up taking me to Portugal, Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, up, down and across Great Britain on two knobbly tyres....and now I have come home full circle to represent the country that I left behind when I had no idea what or who I really wanted to be when I reached my 30’s....and now I finally know. I really want to be the best mountain biker I can be and here I am lining up against the world’s best at the 2009 Mountain Bike Cross Country World Championships....Holly Cow!
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September....THE WARM UP.
This morning I was ready to race. The usual pre race nerves were there, but much more controlled. I have always had a problem controlling my nerves, but I now believe that nerves can give you positive energy. During the 30 minute roll out to course I was quiet as I usually am, but I was taking in every moment rather than hiding inside my little concentration bubble which does more harm for me than good sometimes. Car after car kept driving past beeping their horns and wishing the 7 elite ladies dressed head to toe in the green and gold colours of Aussie elite cyclists all the very best. Although we normally race for different teams, today we were one team representing our country and hoping that each other would have the best ride today and do Oz proud.
Once we were at the course there was time to relax in the team tent and chill before we completed our turbo warm up. The Aussie Team had amazing coaching and support crew who looked after us all and helped keep our nerves at bay. There were photographers, television cameras, radio, spectators, family and friends surrounding us all as we warmed up on each turbo, focused on spinning legs and waking heart and lungs up ready to race. The crowd lining up on both sides of the starting area were building up and the atmosphere was sending tingles down my spine.
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September....THE START.
I was number 40 and lining up towards the end of the grid. It wasn’t an ideal position on the start line because I was on the inside of the first tight bend where I was certain there could be a crash or where I might get squeezed into the gates. I expected a mad start, but to tell you the truth the pace was much slower than I anticipated. I felt like lady luck was watching out for me today as I just seemed to find gaps in the pack and slowly but in a very relaxed manner crept closer to the front. I knew as everybody else did that the last 50-100m before the first long section of single track was going to be mad as we all fought for a good position on the narrow and energy zapping ‘Cardiac Climb’. But just as I was preparing for the attacks to start the very front group crashed and suddenly everybody was off their bikes and scrambling on the fire road trying to remount and pedal back up to speed. I’m sure there were a few angry words and plenty of elbows, but for me it was like everything was in slow motion and I was on automatic drive without a care in the world.
I knew to save energy on the steep sections of the ‘Cardiac Climb’ and rode conservatively. I managed some sneaky passes and stayed on my bike more than I expected to with so many riders already running out in front. There were several rocky obstacles to ride and hop over, as well as a short steep descent with a section of slippery muddy rocks on the exit. When you reached the top there was no time to relax as you headed straight into the ‘Hammer Head’ section of rolling steep boulders and rocks. I expected to run and was already off my bike and trying to get past riders who had crashed or lost balance in front of me. Once again I found myself running past riders in a very relaxed and controlled manner without too much hard effort at this stage in the race. The trail remained mostly tight and undulating single track, with a few short sections that split into A and B lines which would suit those riders who had the power to sprint hard....not my strength, but boy did I try as there was always somebody out in front to try and pass.
At the highest point of the course it turned to even more single track and here I enjoyed the swooping switchbacks that just went on and on.....I love riding switchbacks and even though I had ridden this section plenty of times over the last two weeks I never got bored of it. I managed to out sprint a girl into this descent and then caught up another, but I wasn’t able to pass her without risking a collision as the trail was too narrow. Then I was spat out at the end of the descent and up through the feed zone onto a grassy draggy climb. Now it was time to dig deep and start making some moves because this was the first opportunity to make some passes that didn’t involve sprinting. I tried to catch riders out in front, not to pass at first, but to hitch a ride up to the next fire road climb where a head wind greeted you. You could see the top of the climb, and although it didn’t look far it seemed to take forever to reach the next long section of single track. I managed to pass three riders and my legs even managed to outsprint one rider into the next rocky section that then turned into a swooping fast undulating single track, with jumps and corners that were really fun to ride, but virtually impossible to overtake on. Luckily on the first lap I got in front of a slower rider and had a clear run on most of this section before catching up to a rider who was riding at much the same pace. I was having so much fun, and had to keep reminding myself that I was not riding with my mates, but racing the best mountain bikers in the world so stop smiling and get angry!!!
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September....LAP 2.
I felt good and started increasing the pace as I was gaining on the group in front who were working together on the fire road whilst I was using every ounce of energy to play catch up. I also reminded myself that I had to get through to the end without blowing or making any mistakes when fatigue started to settle in so I tried not to hit the red zone too often and reminded myself to drink. Looking back this could have been a mistake, and perhaps I eased off ever so slightly to allow a rider from Denmark to fly past me at such an awesome speed that neither my legs nor my reaction time could bridge the gap she made on me. However as I chased her into the single track I suddenly found myself on the brakes and slowing right down as she was running every obstacle. This then made it difficult for me to keep my speed up over the rocks and so I was then forced to run sections as well. I was angry now because the effort I had put in to catch the leading riders in front vanished simply because my legs lacked the acceleration and power to outsprint this girl in front of me, who was now going much slower than I felt comfortable with....oh for some fast twitch muscle fibres grrrrrrr!!!! I lost sight of the group I tried to chase down and now I could hear riders right on my back wheel. I encouraged her to carry more speed or to let me pass....but this wasn’t going to happen, it is a race after all, but one can only try. Luckily I took the B line instead of the rocky steps as I was able to carry more speed out of the exit and managed to sneak out in front and kept my position on the descent, but I couldn’t see anybody in front now....doh!
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September...LAP 3.
On Laps 3 my position kept changing as I passed some riders, but also found myself being out sprinted by other riders too, including America’s Mary Mcconneloug who actually caught me off guard as I have never been in front of her before. I was also taken out by a Russian rider who had bigger elbows than me and sent me flying into the spiky Australian flora. The crowds were loving the action which fired me up to chase her down and pass her over some rocky steps ....I love that feeling when you discover a little bit of aggression you never knew was inside you. The only thing that never changed was my failure to outsprint the same girl from Denmark who I then kept catching up on the single track. This is where I started to lose time. Riders caught us up from behind who were right on my back wheel and finding themselves on the brakes too. It made me realise that sometimes one weakness can take away from all your strengths and to be the very best you must excel at everything. There were 5 of us together now on the single track before we hit the fourth lap....and I was starting to feel dizzy and knew I hadn’t drunk enough. I need more carbs!!!!
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September...LAP 4.
I was still racing the girl from Denmark, but now there was also a Canadian and Japanese racer joining in the action. All I can remember from this lap was head down and attacking constantly at every possible opportunity....but still I couldn’t out sprint the Denmark racer. Legs weren’t feeling too bad, but I was starting to make a few clumsy mistakes so refocused and reminded myself that I still had to finish the race body and bike unscathed.
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September...LAP 5.
Now I was feeling very tired....it wasn’t ideal feeling shaky as I headed towards the ‘Cardiac Cllimb’, and instead of worrying about attacks from behind I was gulping Torq energy and consuming a Forest Fruits gel in a desperate attempt to finish this final lap without blowing. I lost a few places, but managed to make this time up on the single track. I allowed the Japanese rider to pass me and sat behind to save some energy before taking over the lead for the final charge up the technical climb. Once I reached the top of the course my energy levels sky rocketed and I was loving the switchbacks and giggling to myself. The roar of the crowds, who actually knew my name were chanting ‘Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!’. The cow bells were ever present and at times were ringing right in my ears...this definitely made me ride faster. I took it all in and will never forget that final lap when I allowed myself to soak in the atmosphere and break free of my little focus bubble. I found the energy to outsprint the Japanese rider and got closer to the Denmark racer and charged across the finish line feeling as though I had won the race.
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September...THE AFTERMATH.
Irina Kalentieva from the Russian Federation won the 2009 Mountain Bike World Championships and was a class above the rest of the field as a mechanical must have lost her a couple of minutes early on in the race. I finished 24th, a result and race that I cannot fault at this stage of my racing. But for me this experience represents quite a few firsts that I am very proud to have achieved in my second year at racing at international level. This was my first World Championships representing Australia. This was my first time finishing with a result in the 20 something’s....And finally this was the first time I had finished with a time in the 10% of the winner’s time which was my main goal this year. I thought this goal may have been a little ambitious, but what better way to achieve your best result than at the World Championships. My little Cotic Soda and my worn out legs did the Cotic Bontrager Team proud!
2009 World Championships, Saturday 5th September...THANKYOUS!
Where to begin and where to end, because I have so many people to thank for helping me reach this level....in alphabetical order, thankyou to -
AUSTRALIAN TEAM SUPPORT – Brett, Chris, Dave, Dean, Christine, Gary, Kenny, Meg, Neil, Tammy who helped the Aussie Team prepare for the biggest race of the year. Thankyou for the mechanical support, feeding, chauffeuring, coaching, organising, massaging.....to name but a few of the roles this support team played. The word ‘SUPPORT’ covers a wide range of areas, and this team covered them all and more.
AUSTRALIAN RACING TEAM – There were 66 athletes in total and it was an honour to be selected and race alongside such a great bunch of athletes across all categories.
FAMILY & FRIENDS – I have had amazing support from everyone and couldn’t continue racing without this support network.
MTB BUDDIES – I must say a special thankyou to Abbie Smith, Cy Turner, Jon Petyt, Matt Hart, Paul Dexter, Russ Blake, Stu King, Stewie Murray and of course Ed, Helen, Jane & Niel, Andy Patterson & Jenn O'Connor who have all helped me at some point learn the skills I needed when I started mountain biking and who continue to help me to this day.
As always Special thanks to the Cotic Bontrager Race Team who provide me with the equipment I need and the support to do the best job I can –
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
Skins – www.skins.net
And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, Exposure Lights, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Nokon cables, Sunwise eyewear and Purple Extreme Lubricants.
I also have a very special thank you to Australian National Coach Neil Ross for the endless support and coaching that I have received this year. I have learnt so much and am really grateful for the time you have invested into my racing and training.
Also thankyou to my supporters out there and those of you who read my blog who always take the time to send me emails and wish me good luck....it really means alot and helps me when the going gets tough.
Posted via email