Monday, September 13, 2010


Mechanicals are part of the bike racing and riding game I’m afraid....but it doesn't mean I can't grumble :) That is what I keep telling myself every time my overactive Potter brain starts going into ‘what if’ overdrive. I have had a race season that I would rather forget, but on the plus have become a stronger and much happier person all round. A few months ago I thought I was losing the plot as I didn’t recognise the person I was, nor remembered how I used to be, and had become this slothful hermit that struggled to get out of bed in the morning. Instead of taking joy in thrashing my husband up the climbs out here in Luchon, I was left trying to pedal my bike uphill whilst Ian would track stand on every bend waiting for me. Whilst I was becoming the female version of Homer Simpson, I was also suffering kidney stones that have convinced me that I am too much of a wimp to even consider wanting babies in the future....full respect to mothers :)

But with all health issues behind me now I had 6 weeks of quality training and new found working sensations in the legs that were motivating me to commence racing again. Once the medication kicked in I was able to perform double training sessions on a daily basis and even had the pleasure of making Ian hurt as my times improved on racing loops I use out here in Luchon as part of training. All was on track as I headed to the Australian Mountain Bike Team training camp in Mont Sainte Anne. Coach Neil Ross seemed pleased as to where I was at right now considering the lack of training and racing in my legs, plus I felt so much stronger in my upper body on the descents that my confidence was at an all time high. I was riding all the technical sections on the world champs course, including the rocky shoot that was by far the scariest section because it only took one bad line choice to send you over the bars and into the jagged rocks at full force.

Unfortunately I experienced one such crash on my final timed effort in training, but fortunately as I flew over the edge of the trail, missing the bottom switchback and finding myself with a face full of hay I was fine...... before my bike clobbered me in the head (doh!). Without thinking about it I was back on the bike and completed the timed loop in a pretty good time for me considering my bad line choice, but from that moment onwards I had mechanical issues that may have been brought on by this crash.

I’m not going to go into detail about all the mechanicals that followed me around like a bad smell at both the Wyndham World Cup and also the World Champs. Mechanicals happen to us all at any level of racing and/or trail riding, but in many ways you can be more prone to mechanicals at a world cup when you are riding on the edge and taking more risks to body, brain and bike than any other type of riding I have ever experienced, including 24hr solo racing.

When I lined up for the Cross Country World Champs wearing the green and gold for only the second time in KP biking history my goal was to finish no matter what! I knew I was on the start line with the best preparation that I could have managed given the time I had to prepare. I also had the luxury of being supported by an amazing crew of people who made me feel like I was on holiday as I had a daily massage, mechanics who even washed my bike, staff to take all the daily stress out of our lives so that we could start and finish the race in the best form possible, and then hopefully earn points for Australia’s cross country Olympic bid.

All week the course at Mont Sainte Anne was dry, in fact the area had not experienced rain for weeks. The dust and sand was actually making the course very difficult to ride in places and the heat was definitely going to have an impact on how we felt before and during the race. But you can never predict the weather and on race morning as we started our warm up the rain commenced. I knew my water proof layers would come in handy (see Mr Potter over packing does come in handy) as I found them at the bottom of the clothes pile. I was wearing waterproof jacket and trousers as well as my winter over shoes to stop myself from becoming cold and wet. It was a day for ducks and not lycra clad cyclists unfortunately, but we were all in the same boat...I just hoped we wouldn’t need ‘life jackets’ as the whole area was surrounded by rain clouds and didn’t look like easing off anytime soon.

On the start line I was at the back of a very talented and strong bunch of elite female mountain bikers. As we took off I avoided a collision of bikes, but was sent off the tarmac slightly and had to work extra hard to catch up to where I should be. There was a huge climb to look forward to with ample overtaking space, so I attacked at that point and found myself mid field. Then the running started through the rocky single track, and I was pleased that my legs felt quite comfortable running on the slippery rocks. There was one more climb where I knew I could make some overtaking manoeuvres, but then as I started the descent I realised the bike was completely rigid again, as I had experienced the same problem at the Wyndham World Cup the weekend before. For some reason my forks were locked solid (gulp). I had trouble riding the lines I was used to and as I started to back off I could feel my whole body tensing and felt fear creep into my mind. I knew better than to tense up, but no matter how much I spoke to myself and even sang to myself, I couldn’t relax. The Mont Sainte Anne course is brutal at the driest of times, but in the wet it really is a course of survival because one bad line and you can do both yourself and your bike serious damage and the fact that I had no suspension made my ride all the more challenging and my arms suffering from pain overload.

The next few laps consisted of a stuck chain behind the cassette, a puncture and a bent hanger which caused my gears to be dancing all over the place. I lost places, gained places, before losing those places again.....I ran, I fell, I swore politely :) but always picked myself back up again as I was determined to finish. I made decisions to run certain sections of trail that may have lost time had I tried to ride them, but at the end of the day I finished! It was not the perfect race for the Soda and I, but as I fought the conditions and tried to do what I could to help my little Soda battle on to the finish line I remembered where I was 6 months ago when I couldn’t find the strength to finish a race and today I finished in 52nd position in the world.....YAYYAYAYAY!!!!!

The World Championships are a unique event and everybody who competes no matter if you are a podium favourite or just trying to finish on the lead lap aims to be at their very best on World Champs race day. This is only my second world championships and from what I have seen it can take years of racing at this level to know how to race the best racers in the world.

The World Championships show off the best riders in the world in cross country, downhill and trials, but it also shows off a wide range of emotion from elation to pure devastation. I may not have had a good race, but I finished, which was my main goal on race day. I’m happy, so I guess you could say I found the middle ground somewhere between pure elation and devastation. But I’m striving for the elation I felt after finishing 24th at the World Championships in 2009. I’m well motivated for the 2011 season because I have alot to prove to myself and still ALOT to learn.

At the same time I witnessed history and pure gold worthy elation as my good friend Tracey Mosely won her first World Championship GOLD!!!! I don’t know how long it has taken Tracey, but like Steve Peat in 2009 it has been one title missing from a cv filled with national and series title wins. Well Done Champ!!!!!I It was incredible to see the changes of emotion on Tracey’s face as she waited in the hot seat for the two last french riders to finish their run. When Tracey’s gold medal was secure it was the highlight of my world champs because I know how hard she had worked for this moment over the many years that she has been racing at this level. Gold medals don’t happen overnight, and today was finally Tracey’s day!!!! I forgot I was Aussie for a day and cheered my favourite downhill Brit to a well deserved victory.

On the opposite end of the World Champs emotional spectrum I witnessed devastated racers who were unable to finish their race due to mechanicals and broken bikes that could not be repaired. The one rider who really stood out was an Italian XC racer who was a possible medal contender and he was overcome with emotion when he knew his broken bike could not be salvaged and sadly his race was over as he sat looking distraught in the pit area. It is the first time I have seen a grown man cry, and it just shows you how much emotion and mental energy goes into this one day of the year for most mountain bike racers. It is an event of many highs and lows, but to witness the wide range of emotion going on over the three days of competition only makes one feel alive and motivated for the 2011 World Champs in Champery, Switzerland. So I’m already preparing myself for next season so hopefully I can have another crack at experiencing World Champs elation as I did in 2009.

I would like to say a huge THANKYOU for all the time, effort and support that the staff from Mountain Bike Australia put into the 2010 World Championships.

Special mention must go to the following people –

NEIL ROSS – thank you so much for taking the time to help me this year. Once again I have come away from the training camp with new ideas and motivation for the future.

CHRIS CLARKE – I know how hard you worked to ensure all biking disciplines got the support we needed. Please find time to sleep now and see your family :)

RONALD – You stepped up to the plate with your professional hat on and inspired all of us. Thank you for all your mechanical support and coaching. We all hope to see those green and gold undies flash by next year :)

TIM – I learnt alot from you and was inspired by your energy and enthusiasm for the sport. Best training session I have ever had involved foam swords and flour.....thanks for keeping training really fun as it should be :)

CHRISTINE – Thanks for all your constant support and ‘tipsy’ words of guidance. You and your hands are amazing and I can’t wait to catch up again in the future for another massage.

Plus I wouldn't have had the opportunity to start the World Championships without the endless support from the COTIC BONTRAGER RACE TEAM, who have really stuck by me this year.

Special mention to those of you who really helped me prepare for the biggest race of the year -

CY TURNER (Cotic) - Thankyou for your constant support!!!! You have been amazing as always, and a wonderful friend.

GRIFF & HELEN (Bontrager) - Thankyou for all your help, guidance and patience.

TONY, FLORIAN, AARRON (Magura) - as always your support and mechanical teachings have really helped me sort out my lack of a mechanical sided brain.

IAN POTTER – As always Mr Potter is my Number 1 Team mate, and together we have shown that couples can work together and support each other without any marital long as I get my own way :) Thank you for all your help and support over the years, you have always stuck by me and continue to help me improve on the bike. Bring on 2011 for more Potter adventures I say!

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