Monday, March 30, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Don't complain about UK Mud..but remind me if I do so

Superprestigio Massi Series Round 1 - Avilles (Asturias) Spain Round 1

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Racing days have started again...YAYAYAYAY! Although I'm still training hard and haven't started backing off from the training at all, this year is about UCI points and international experience. So when I looked at the UCI race calendar I noticed a UCI 1 series race called the Superprestigio Massi that is held across Spain. I always like to get a few races under my belt as I'm a forgetful person by nature and this has been the longest off season I have had for a while. I also know that looking back at KP's history of racing, that my first race is always a complete disaster. But there is always time for change and improvement, so I looked forward to a race with hopefully not too many cobwebs to shake off. Ian also reminded me that I should practice not being faffy, as our trip started off with the 'Faff Queeen' back in full force....there are just some things I will never forget.

The Potters awoke early Saturday morning (5am) and I was still packing for a month, rather than an overnight stay. Our conversation went something along these lines, IP-You don't need that.... KP-Yes I do.....IP-What do you need that for????? KP-Shhhhhhhh!!!!! IP-Have you seen how many bags are in the van? KP-Some of them are yours... IP-What, that one that has half your kit in it too... KP-I can't hear you... and then we ignore each other for the first 30 minutes of the trip until Ian's stomach starts grumbling and he needs my help to feed him whilst he's driving. Then he has to apologise and be nice to me or I continue to ignore him and his stomach makes all kinds of strange noises. Anyway he knows I eventually get my own way, but every racing road trip always starts the same way.

So we head to Avilles in Spain, and make our way across the coastal roads. I visited this area 8 years ago when I started travelling and fell in love with the area. The beaches are beautiful and the green landscape and mountains are unlike any area I have seen in Spain before. I looked at the map and believed that Avilles would be a tiny place right on the sea front. In fact I had grand visions of racing near the beaches and diving into the water at the end of the race. I just had this feeling it would be a really small place, so who needs directions to the race venue.

Sometimes I wonder how I actually qualified to be a mountain bike guide. We arrived in a concrete jungle and my vision of a mountain bike course with coastal views was not to be. Instead we found ourselves lost in a city of tall buildings and cramped appartment spaces, with endless traffic lights and plenty of traffic to dodge as the road signs weren't clear as to which direction we should be travelling in. I was not in good books as Ian asked in the sweetest voice he could muster, 'so where to now Mrs P, grrrrrr?' He was stressed. So I took it upon myself to calm the situation and told Ian to follow the signs to the 'Olympico' park. It was a wild guess and I had no idea whether I was on the right track, but today lady luck was on my side and there in the distance I could see a mountain bike track.

Registration wasn't as straight forward as I hoped it to be. Nobody spoke english, and my limited spanish vocabulary consists of 'si' and 'hola'. I thought speaking bad french may help, but that just confused everybody, including Ian, alot more. They took my race license and seemed to get very excited by it. I can't imagine why as the photo of me looks like I had just woken up, with crazy hair, red eyes and a lopsided smile. It's not a photo I'm proud to be associated with. Anyway 30 minutes later my race license was returned and I had number plate on bike, so I was ready to rock and roll.

Ian has become a runner lately and he decided to run the course whilst I was on my lovely 2008 Cotic Soda. I'm using Magura brakes for the first time this year, so I was looking forward to testing them out, plus I have my new 2009 Magura SL forks as well, but everything else was part of the 2008 set up. The 2009 Cotic Soda will be on show at this year's Cotic Big Day Out on Saturday March 21st at Sherwood Pines (plug plug), and I will have full details and photos of that very special Soda soon....but I can tell you that she will be christened 'Syliva' after my Grandma back in Oz.

Anyway, I'm getting side tracked here, back to first race report of 2009 season. So I'm riding the course and loving it. There is nothing too technical, except a very steep climb that is too muddy to ride. I managed three quarters of it, but it was quicker to run. There are some really fun flowy switchbacks and fast sections of road and grass. It was a very fast course, and carrying speed out of bends and on the descents would be very important. Then when you had about 750m to go you reach this horrible boggy flat land that is unlike any mud I have ever ridden before. But fortuntely sunshine was predicted the next day, so I was feeling quietly confident that I was going to have a good time on Sunday and that the course would dry out.

I rode a second lap, and this time picked the pace up and was uplifted by how quick the bike felt beneath me. I have been training on my purposely heavily built up Cotic Soul, so that when I jump on my race bike I feel like I can fly. I was buzzing during practice and having so much fun. If anything, I had to try and get used to how quick the Soda felt, as my brain was lagging behind at times and I had to keep telling myself to look further ahead. I planned to do another lap, but then a few spots of rain started and when it became heavy I knew it was time to head back to the mini bus or drown.

Ian and I were staying at a lovely hotel that I found on one of those cheap hotel websites that give you deals at the last minute. It was very cheap, but was supposed to be three star, so thought it would be suitable. An hour later we still hadn't found it. According to my spanish directions we were on the right road. Unfortunately this road was over 100km long. Again Lady Luck saved the day as out of the corner of my eye I spotted what looked like the yellow building in the picture I had ben given of the hotel. Once again my guiding skills got us Potters where we needed to be, just a little later than expected.

Ian and I settled in to what was a gorgeous hotel, but instead of my seaside views we were in the middle of a building park estate, but it was comfortable and roomy which is all we needed. I had prepared us a picnic dinner, but started to feel a bit sqirmish half way through. I figured the nerves were starting, but to tell you the truth I didn't think I was feeling that nervous, I mean I was only racing the world champ Margherita Fullana. My aim was a top ten position, but even then I had no idea what to expect and was just treating the event as a fun, but painful training session. Then several toilet trips later and I knew my stomach was not happy. Then my body temperature went sky high and Ian very kindly said I looked like a lobster. He jokingly said I must have given myself food poisening...he was unjokingly told he could prepare meals next time.

A restless night later and I was heading to the race course in terrential rain. I couldn't face any food, so was sipping energy drink to try and get some carb calories back in the system. We reached the venue with 3hrs to spare and I started to feel a bit better, although I was still rushing off to the toilet every 20 minutes it seemed. Anyway I lined up in the elite women's box with only one other racer. There were loads of men racing at the same time and they were in boxes ahead of ours. They were lining them up ready to start. It was 9:55am and still no other elite women had appeared. I didn't think anything of it and just focused on spinning my legs. Suddenly I heard Ian calling me from a disatnce and announcing that the elite women were already lined up at the front of over 200 men. I was forced to climb over a barrier, but was kindly helped by the other racers. Then I realised we were facing the wrong direction. Nobody told me there was a starting loop, then again maybe they did, but I didn't realise at the time and probably just said 'si, si, si' as though I understood their every word.

The siren went and I sprinted after the world champ, well you have to try, only to find myself trying to overtake riders on the outside and sinking fast. Suddenly I stopped to a halt and was stuck. I went from mid pack to last. I had to try and lift bike out of mud and run.....there was alot of running before I managed to get back on the bike. So it was time to chase, and chase I did. I started overtaking some girls, but had lost sight of the leading ladies. I could see a couple of girls in front and managed to pass them, but I had no idea what my position was half way around the first lap. By this point there were young lads sprinting by and then older, but very strong looking men racing too. There were people everywhere and it was quite chaotic on the single track. Legs didn't feel great on the climbs, not as good as I felt the day before. I felt like I was only racing at 20%. It was like my body wouldn't let me go any harder. I plodded on and the mud was hard, not literally hard, just hard to ride. It wasn't slippery at all, and I wondered later if mud tyres were the wrong choice for this course. The mud was sticky and boggy, rather than slippery. The flowy course I enjoyed so much the day before was not to be. As I approached the end of the first lap my gears jammed and I only had first gear. I was overtaken by a few girls as I tried to carry speed along faster sections of the course. There was a long tarmac stretch and I looked like I was doing spin ups as I only had my big ring and first gear. It was mighty frustrating, but instead of using my brain and stopping off in the technical area for some help I plodded on.

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I finished in 8th position, but one lap down. I was not happy avec moi! Not because I had a bad race, but because I missed out on the perfect training session. I'm not talking about fitness training either. Ian is always totally prepared with all the tools and skill to help me if I have a puncture or mechanical. But for some reason I always forget to use him when the bike faces a problem. He pointed out to me at the end of the race that my jockey wheels were full of grss and mud. Instead of wasting a minute sorting it out in the pit area, I wasted two laps. It would have been good practice as mechanicals are bound to crop up again in the future, but oh no I like to make racing hard for myself.

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I spent the next 7hrs asking for several toilet stops and cursing myself. But on the bright side it was still an adventure and hopefully I will learn from this experience. It has also really fired me up for a better race next time round, which can only make me train harder and be a better all round rider.

Now I'm back to bed as I have been crook, as we say in Oz, for two days, so next race Ian is cooking.

As always a very special thankyou to Cotic Bontrager Team and co sponsors for all your support. I will be posting pictures of the 2009 bike and kit very soon, well end of March to be exact. I'm very lucky to have some new sponsors on board this year and I can tell you now that the Cotic Soda is going to make me look good, as she will be looking even more swanky in 2009...another reason to keep training hard in case she decides she doesn't need me :)