A Quick Release Holidays
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The week leading up to the fourth round of the British Mountain Bike Series was spent in the UK. AQR Holidays~Luchon were taking a much needed holiday. Ian needed time to refresh his guiding legs for a busy summer ahead, Russ, Bene and 3yr old Atika who run the hotel were off camping, and I needed a few days off the computer. Most people would head to an exotic location at this time of year for a holiday, perhaps a few days lying on the beach or relaxing in the mountains....but not us Potters we prefer to do something different....RACE! This time both Potters would be racing and Ian had 6 days to find some speed in his legs. So I decided it was time to hit the gym. Ian hates gyms. Unfortunately in the past my ambition in life, after an intense 5 years at University studying to be a teacher and an honours degree in theatre and film studies I was not to follow the path my education took me....no I discovered I was a gym junkie. The perfect job for me would be one of the following....gym instructor, aerobics teacher, personal trainer....I had visions of leading a spinning class and screaming at my clients (in the nicest way possible of course) to give me 100 pushups now! But then I discovered mountain biking, and I was fortunate enough to find work that still enabled me to exercise, teach, plus work in some beautiful areas of the world.
But every now and then I crave returning to the gym and exercising to music. On what was meant to be a day off the bike, with romantic plans to lunch in style and go see a movie, I decided I needed something more. You see it was Ian’s turn to choose the movie and I just couldn’t get excited about seeing ‘Transformers’. He promised there would be some comedy and a bit of romance, but I needed an adventure to enable me to sit down for over 2hrs in a room watching robots or else I would be a ‘royal pain in the backside’. I’m first to admit I’m not the easiest wife in the world to live with. Anyway I got my wicked way and convinced Ian we should spend half the day at the gym.....it would be a great way to find some much needed race speed I lied.
Ian has always played a huge part in my development as a mountain biker, guide and of course he has always helped me improve my mountain bike skills. But now I was taking charge as we were entering my domain...the gym. My voice suddenly changed and it was time to make Ian sweat (Joolze/Matt/Anth and anyone else who thinks that is an innuendo you are mistaken). Ian needed guidance if we were going to get his muscles in fine form for this upcoming national race. First we warmed up on the treadmill, slow to start with before I increased the speed rapidly....Ian was running for his life as I didn’t show him how to stop the machine. There were plenty of excuses as to why we should only run for 5 minutes, but I soon squashed his whining there was no time for weakness. 2hrs later we had run, climbed, cycled, cross trained and then it was time to row. I think my competitive nature is getting worse, because Ian and I could not just row and enjoy the work out for what it was.....no we were locked in battle. We were both breathing hard and my arms were killing, but I would not be beaten by my husband...doh! He caught me unaware and finished 2000m a few seconds before me. We then chilled out on the floor with some pilates and yoga., before my next moment of wisdom....’let’s see what aerobics classes are on’. Without asking I booked Ian and I on to a water aerobics class. I casually mentioned that swimming will be good for the legs and help them repair for the race. Poor Ian was forced to wear speedos which he hates, but then took one look at the pool filled with ladies of all shapes and sizes splashing about in the water, and instead of jumping for joy, departed as quickly as possible....wimp!
The next few days were spent on the bike and I was convinced that the Potters excursion to the gym would go in our favour.....mmmmm.
The fourth round of the British Cross Country Series was being held at Crow Hill, a beautiful part of the UK that I had never ventured to. I love racing new courses and I had heard great reports from locals and those Brits who raced the national championships at this venue in 2008. Ian and I arrived with plenty of time to pitch our new Potter Palace. We had finally treated ourselves to a new tent since Ian’s 20 year old tent was ripped and unlikely to protect us from the rain which we expected this weekend. It’s huge!!!! I felt like I had just bought a new home.
Anyway it was time to hit the course for two laps. Wow, what a course. Loads of fun single track, plenty of challenging roots and some crazy bomb holes that were a laugh, especially when I kept slowing down right at the top so that Ian who was right on my tail had nowhere to go and had to work a little bit harder....it’s good for him J We stopped a couple of times to adjust tyre pressures as there were some slippery sections and I didn’t fancy slipping off any roots. I was happier with my second lap and went to bed looking forward to another race day.
Race morning is always a nervous affair, especially when you decide to change tubeless tyres minutes before you should be warming up. Ian had ripped his tyre the day before on a root and my front tyre that had done such a brilliant job lately looked a little worse for wear, so after much umming and umming on my part and Ian refusing to make the decision for me, I decided a new front tyre was the go.
Ian prides himself on being able to pump tubeless tyres up effortlessly. I have to admit he aint bad at it, but four air canisters later and there was sealant leaking everywhere and no tyre ready to roll on. Ian blamed his sore arms on my rowing work out a few days before hand and that was why he was struggling to pump the tyre up. Luckily I brought two Soda’s to the race, I thought it best to warm up and so went for a ride on a few sections of the course.
When I returned the 2009 Cotic Soda was ready to roll and Ian was looking rather pleased with himself. I headed to the start line and prepared for battle. I wanted a good start so I could find my rhythm on the single track. As the gun went off for a second time I dug deep and sprinted for the first narrow piece of single track. Legs felt a tad heavy, but the front end of the bike was bobbing too much. When I looked down I thought my front tyre didn't have enough air in it. Jenny Copnall (Look RT) surged forward and looked very aggressive as I followed her into the woods. I tried to take an off camber line on the outside which I was riding in practice as I thought Jenny was going on the inside, but next minute we were tangled and running. I calmed myself down and just focused on riding smoothly as the single track had so many roots that criss crossed in different directions that you had to really concentrate to keep the bike moving forward. I had no idea who was behind or if the two of us had made any gap. I didn’t look behind as it wasn’t a course you could risk making a mistake on so eyes were kept forward all the time.
I’m not too sure at what point I took over the lead, but Jenny was right on my tail the whole time. I finished the first lap with a small gap, but not enough to feel relaxed, and I certainly wasn't going to ease off the gas, especially with four laps to go. I was concerned about my front tyre that I felt needed some air in it as I didn’t want to puncture on the fire road sections that had sharp stones bedded into the dirt. I also felt like my legs needed a firmer tyre as they weren’t feeling too zippy today. However there wasn’t time to make a quick pit stop and so I just tried to ride smoothly hoping that I might increase my lead so that I could stop and use my air canister. I was out of the saddle and really trying to make every second count. Jenny is a very experienced and smart rider, and I knew she would be biding her time and ready to make her move. I wondered if I would be able to maintain the pace I set on the first two laps. By the third lap, I wasn’t convinced. It was a physically very demanding course and difficult to take regular sips of my Torq drink, plus the weather was warming up. I was starting to feel uncomfortable from the heat. I have a skin condition that makes me over heat, especially if I’m stressed, one reason why you occasionally see my zipper down as far as it will go J .
Ian was a fantastic team mate and he appeared at both feed stations on every lap so that I could drink or take a gel if I needed to. He also shouted encouraging words and reminded me to do ‘World cup laps’ that lifted my spirits, got me all excited as I love racing world cups and forced me to find some extra ‘oomph’.
There were two laps to go and I knew Jenny was still close. I pretended that it was in fact my final lap. I love that feeling when you know there is only one lap to go. My best lap has often been my final lap, so I tried to use my imagination to get the best out of my legs.....but I don’t think it worked this time J Suddenly Ian called out that Jenny was 15 seconds behind (gulp). Now it really was my final lap and I decided to focus on a 20min extra hard effort like what I have been doing in training. 20 minutes may not sound like a long time, but when your legs are screaming at you it feels like a few hours.
I was riding ragged I felt for the first half of the course, when I heard a noise like I had burped air out of my back tyre....nooooo! I pushed on because I knew there was no point stopping to check the tyres, if they go down they go down. They seemed to be fine, so I pushed on. Every short climb I was in big ring and forcing myself to go harder. I didn’t think I had the legs to out sprint Jenny, so I charged out of every corner and let the bike go on the faster sections of the course. There were other riders to pass from different categories who shouted encouraging words as well as cheers from spectators which is always nice to hear....thankyou.
When I saw the 1km to go sign I knew there was one more section of single track to go before the last few hundred metres of fire road, I rode my heart out. I still thought Jenny would pass me at any point and even when I saw the finish line ahead I dug deep to make sure I crossed the line in first place.
I crossed the line in 01:55min, only about 40 seconds in front of Jenny Copnall (Look RT) and Jenn O'Connor (Patterson Training) in third. I was pushed hard from the word go, and had to really hurt today to win. These are the races I enjoy the most. I know this effort should bring on some good form in the next couple of weeks as I prepare for the next two world cup rounds in Canada. This battle against the UK’s current national champion could have gone either way and I know Jenny is going to have some great form as she heads into the British National Championships in a couple of weeks time. I wish her all the best and hope the rest of the British girls are ready for a hard race. It will be an exciting race to watch that’s for sure.
This weekend I wasn’t the only Potter racing. Ian loves racing and was lining up against Britain’s top Vet racers. He was gridded on the last row with over 60 riders out in front. I was in charge of feeding Ian, but luckily for Mr Potter there is no tech support as speedy mechanics are not my speciality. Ian was racing his new Cotic prototype which consists of a Hemlock full suspension triangle and KP prototype back end. Cy didn’t know about this one until Ian had finished building it, so it has been a little bit of an experiment.
Ian had alot of riders out in front, so when he came through in the top 20 I was lucky somebody in the pit area pointed him out as I was sunbaking J He was looking strong, but I wasn’t too sure if he was enjoying the experience as he wasn’t smiling, but I guess who does smile when they race, in fact Ian’s not known for ever showing a cheesy grin J . Ian had to race four laps and by the second lap he was begging for a gel. I could tell he was hurting, but he had made up more places and was close to being in the top 10, in fact I think he was around 11th position. I was jumping or should I say hobbling for joy, as my legs had stiffened up. Ian ended up finishing in 14th place. He said he lost a few places in the end from a crash as his brain had fried and he decided to wake himself up by riding into a tree. Perhaps if I told him that his Mrs did faster lap times he would have tried a little bit harder at the end J
Anyway what a wonderful weekend it was to race in glorious sunshine and experience dry dusty trails, instead of the mud that we had expected. Now we Potters return to Luchon for some AQR guiding action before I check out the world cup scene that Canada has to offer in three weeks time.
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.
Plus lots of thanks to Joolze Dymond photography, Neil Ross (Cycling Oz) for coaching me, and Mr P. For all your endless support.
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