THE RACE – INTERNATIONALIA D’ITALIA R2 MONTICHIARI, ITALY
This month is all about reminding one’s legs how to suffer and go hard. I have had a great season of winter base training and strength work, and fortunately no major colds or health issues that have kept me off the bike...only a minor collision with a car that left me shaking in my shoes, but luckily no major damage to body or bike.
When it did snow then it was great fun to get out in the mountains surrounding our little Luchon home. Ian and I enjoyed many a snowy mountain bike ride this winter, but also made the most of the days we could go snow shoeing which is not only a fabulous work out, but believe it or not you can get quite an adrenaline rush on the way down, especially when you head away from the main tracks and find yourself on your butt sliding from one switchback to the next. But now I’m itching to become faster on the bike, the fitness is there and I’m stronger than last year, but there is no point being fit if you can’t go fast. So now it’s time to hit the races for my favourite type of training....RACING!
Racing makes you fast, and very quickly points out your weaknesses. It’s not always about fitness and there is so much you can learn by just getting out of your comfort zone and racing the best mountain bikers in the world and of course the best mountain bike courses in the world. I love competing against other racers, BUT I actually get more of a buzz testing myself and my lovely Cotic Soda on different courses. So this month I planned a Potter training and racing camp in Italy, which would also coincide with my birthday.
I do realise I babble on at times, so have tried to condense my writing by turning this blog into a diary, before the race report begins....I just hope that one day when I’m old and knackered I can look back on these adventures and be transported back to this time in my life when I’m fortunate enough to be riding a bike for a living....a living that is not about material wealth, as mountain biking will never pay the bills, but a lifestyle that enables me to BE ALIVE, and not stuck in a concrete jungle suffering from the stresses of the world and CSN....more about that soon!
So here is a little diary of my first week of the 2010 race season....
THURSDAY MARCH 4 – mini bus starter motor stops working AGAIN.....arrive at Ian’s dad’s place at the wonderful time of 10pm after 14hrs of driving. I have finally learnt the art of bump starting a vehicle after countless attempts between southern Spain and northern Italy. My alter ego ‘Veronica Stress Head’ also comes out to play and decides not to speak to Ian for 14hrs because I think he has forgotten my birthday....
FRIDAY MARCH 5 – ...MY BIRTHDAY!!! Ian hasn’t forgotten...oops! I am presented with some wonderful presents and am reminded that I’m the one who likes surprises, so there was no need to ignore Mr Potter for 14hrs was there? Well he shouldn’t pretend so well that he has forgotten my birthday. I had a wonderful day walking dogs, dining on the edge of Lake Bolsema with family, and discovering some urban biking action around the streets of Montefiascone.
SATURDAY MARCH 6 – Discover some great off road on my training ride and the most amazing single track whilst being chased by dogs...legs were truly put to the test today.
SUNDAY MARCH 7 – Another day out on the bikes, but this time Ian and I ride around Lake Bolsema with a goal to beat 3hrs....2.5hrs later with two wrong turns!!! Really pleased, but then my brain tells me that it really wants to do 3hrs, so make Ian keep riding around in circles even though he has blown J
MONDAY MARCH 8 – A huge lunch before we embark on our travels again. This includes the biggest cake I have ever seen. Ian decides it’s time to throw his diet to get down to ‘XC race weight’ out the window and focus on becoming faster downhill with his little saying “FAT IS FAST!” The Cotic Bontrager Race Team now head further north to Lake Garda for the first race of the 2010 mountain bike season. ...YAY!
TUESDAY MARCH 9 – We are staying in a lovely little apartment on the edge of Lake Garda that was very cheap for some reason.....wind, rain, sleet and snow follow the Potters around on their 3hr mountain bike training session. My hope to swim in the pool and bask in the sunshine is not to be as the pool has frozen...DOH!
WEDNESDAY MARCH 10 – The Potters are snowed in and the only English channel on TV is CSN. I’m truly frustrated and depressed by the ongoing news and state of this world we are living in. I’m actually pleading with CSN reporters to report on something happy for a change, surely there is something to smile about, something to keep our minds of the horrors and disasters that confront mankind every day..... ‘Veronica Stress Head’ raises her ugly head once again, but this time I take it out on the turbo. After the most intense interval session that I hope will cheer me up, I’m left hobbling as legs have been truly hammered.
THURSDAY MARCH 11 – Recovery day and I’m banned from watching anymore CSN!!! Snow has finally melted and the sun is shining. It is time to explore the area. Only an easy spin today, but we see so many cyclists riding around the lake that I’m truly tempted to scrap the recovery day. Ian locks the bikes away just in case. By chance we come across a gorgeous old fort on the peninsula where we act all touristy and buy postcards.
FRIDAY MARCH 12 – PRE-RACE TRAINING!!! Time to check the course out....Where is the course Kate? What time do we register? So many questions, but not knowing any Italian I say we just rock up and hope for the best. Although Montichiari is not on our map, I see a sign after 20 minutes of driving around in circles and then we spot mountain bikers. Who needs a map eh? When heading to a mountain bike race in Europe, just look for bikers, caravans and concrete steps and you can’t go far wrong. The course has kind of been marked out and we simply follow other mountain bikers and enjoy the single track which I might add is super steep, super muddy and oh so much fun, although grip is an issue on the climbs. I’m also suffering from severe leg pain after training on Wednesday, the DOMS effect (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) has well and truly raised its ugly head. Perhaps choosing to use a double chain ring on a steep course such as this is not the wisest decision, but I remind myself that ‘PAIN IS AN EMOTION AND EMOTION IS TO BE ENJOYED!!!” (gulp) . Plus with the amount of mud on this course I decide to risk more leg pain rather than chain suck. Then we see other riders appearing from nowhere, and we’re not too sure where they have come from. I spot riders heading into what looks like a castle...we follow them inside the castle and next minute we are descending down a long set of steep steps that are inside the building. We are actually racing inside part of this amazing looking, centuries year old castle....I can’t stop giggling as I doubt health and safety in Oz or the UK would approve, but I love it!
SATURDAY MARCH 13 – RACE DAY!!!!
OFFICIAL KP RACE REPORT
Legs are still hurting from that ‘wonderful’ training session three days ago, but I’m really excited about racing on this course. The drive to the course takes about 20 minutes and in that time we notice there is still patchy snow around, and although very sunny, the temperature remains chilly.
There is no opportunity to check the course out today to see if the steep sections, both up and down have dried out, so I choose to have lower tyre pressures and mud tyres. I know I’m going to regret this decision if it dries out, but that is the risk I take as I was out descending and climbing Ian yesterday simply because his tyres were too hard.
I still don’t know where the start loops is, and take myself off for a little exploring on the road sections and through the castle, and of course up and down all the steps that make up part of the race loop. I avoid any mud as the bike and I were a state after yesterday’s practice ride and there is no bike wash close by. Finally gridding starts and there are girls everywhere. It is just like a world cup with some of the world’s top racers here. I find myself on the second row and when I look behind me I can’t see the back of the grid, which is awesome. It is so cool to see how many female mountain bikers have entered not just the elite category, but other categories as well. More than 50 in every category....COOLIO!!!!
So the countdown to the race start begins. I know my legs are not race ready, but I also know this is the start of a long race season which won’t end until October. There are 30 seconds to go as a guy calls out ‘trenta’, and as I pull myself into my start position........suddenly half the field have taken off, including the very front row of past world cup winners and world champs....as if they need any more of a head start. We are called back, so I stay calm and wait with one foot clipped in, but then so many girls have continued forward that the organisers shrug their shoulders and that is my signal to get a move on if I want to race.
So I attack this very long steep tarmac climb with every ounce of energy and mentally scream at my legs to stop complaining. From the back of 50 girls I managed to pass riders and end up around 15th by the time we hit the off road single track which is fast and flowy, and oh so much grippier than yesterday. I realise pretty quickly that I should have more air in my tyres, but remind myself that ‘PAIN IS AN EMOTION AND EMOTION IS TO BE ENJOYED!!!’, This is a training race after all and it is good mental and physical preparation for what is in store this year.
There are virtually no rest spots on this course, as the descents are not very long and always lead into another steep climb. There are so many steps to ride, including a dozen drops offs all in a row and a long climb up a set of steps would you believe that are just spread out enough so you can ride up them. I’m with a group of 5 racers and we are all working at 120% to try and drop one other. By lap 3 I’m fighting it out with one girl now, who just keeps attacking and attacking, but never quite getting rid of me. We soon find ourselves passing other riders who have blown, and I have moved forward to 11th position according to Ian when I start my own series of attacks. I move into 10th position by the final lap and Ian warns me that 9th was struggling and not too far out in front. I am chasing hard and finally catch 9th going into the final piece of single track that begins steeply, before some very tight switchbacks, and then continues on like a roller coaster....one minute you are going down, the next using all your might to climb the short sections without running and then going down again. We end up stuck behind a rider from a different category and both of us are forced to slow the pace. I try to speak French for some reason, hoping she might pull over and let us pass, but perhaps my strange aussie/french accent in Italy came across all wrong as I’m completely ignored would you believe J
At the end of the single track we drop onto a long piece of tarmac, and I remain on her back wheel thinking about where to make my attacking move, but the cobbled streets are narrow and I’m pushed into the barriers by some very aggressive elbow action from Daniela Veronesi who takes 9th by 1 second. I’m shattered, but buzzing from head to toe because that race course has to be one of my all time favourites.....so many steps, a castle and the steepest single track that will keep me smiling until the next mountain bike race challenge comes my way.
SUNDAY MARCH 14 – An early 5am wake up call, although I have been awake all night as I’m still buzzing from the race adrenaline that is a natural part of racing. I close my eyes and I can still feel myself descending down all those steps. Ian and I pack Mini Blue and head home to Luchon.....just 13hrs to go.....now I’m really tired. Poor Ian is going to have to chat to himself again J
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