Thursday, February 10, 2011


What a wonderful weekend of winter biking action we Potters have just returned home from here in Luchon. I must admit I’m nicely knackered after 6hrs on the bike off road action, but loving the aches and pains all the same...although I could do without all the bruises covering most of my body, including my butt! I have definitely earned a day of rest tomorrow and funnily enough am looking forward to it for now. I actually don’t like recovery days, never have, never will...unless the weather is rotten, but even then I have trouble relaxing and love nothing more than braving the weather to mountain bike or hike on all of the wonderful and varied trails we have out here in Luchon. There is something truly magical about breathing in fresh mountain air and looking down over all the small villages that scatter across the Luchon valley. I have seen these views for over 6 years now and I’m always dazzled by the scenery. I have even started a ladies hiking group and 2-3 times each week Marnie, Nina, Helen and of course our four legged companion Miloo brave the cold wintry mornings to see the sun rise over our sleepy town and bring wintry warmth across the Luchon valley.

I had hoped to write the second instalment of my 2011 blog a little sooner (sorry....I can’t believe it’s February!), but training and AQR work have beat me to it I’m afraid and have taken priority recently. There is alot going on with AQR Holidays and Coaching in 2011, but before I go on I shall explain what Ian and I are up to this year and where we are heading to in the future, but in order to understand our new, but not so new direction I need to put an end to 2010 once and for all.

2010 was quite a frustrating year for Ian and I on many different levels, and I’m hugely relieved that we have entered 2011 on healthier, happier and more exciting times. I have always been very fortunate in the health department and rarely suffer colds or flu, if ever (touch wood), but since 2004 have suffered the most incredible pain at times that doctors back then were unwilling to investigate further. I remember the last 24hr solo I finished back in 2007, for most of the ride I felt like shooting stabbing pains were my constant companion, as well as the usual 24hr solo discomfort you learn to expect from such an event. I swore I would never give birth, nor compete in a 24hr solo event again. So I turned to XC only to give my body and brain a break from the frustration I was feeling at the time, although a different level of pain, full time XC would be a new challenge and perhaps I would finally rid myself of the stabbing feeling that seemed to be joining me on nearly every long race and training session back then.

I felt rather guilty that my team Cotic Bontrager who wanted to support me in my ultra endurance endeavours were now supporting me as an XC racer which wasn’t their intended goal at first, especially as Cy had developed the awesome KP24 full suss machine for endurance racing purposes and I hadn’t put her to a proper test yet. I couldn’t face the thought of another 24hr solo challenge back then though because I’m the type of person who has to give everything 150% in order to feel happy about my performance, and only riding at half of my ability due to the pain was not good enough for me and causing me alot of distress. I was also starting to think I was imagining the pain since doctors ignored my symptoms no matter how many repeat visits and ongoing tests didn’t lead to any concrete evidence that something was actually wrong. I decided a new racing direction would prove the best medicine for body and brain at the time, so XC it would be and why not try and race for my country.

2008 and 09 were fantastic years and I loved all the XC challenges that came my way. It meant a step back from guiding full time leaving Mr Potter to take on the extra responsibility that my absence would bring to our Luchon AQR guiding team, and then there were times we would be forced to close AQR in Luchon altogether when Ian would be supporting other Aussie racers which meant no income, but again we would earn a variety of life experiences instead that we could add to our personal life CVs as I call them. I was fortunate enough to have the support from the Australian national mountain bike coach during this time and learnt alot about myself as an ‘almost’ full time mountain bike athlete, as I was still juggling racing all over the world with running a full time holiday and coaching business over the internet, as well as sponsor commitments. I have always believed in the old saying: ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’, because along the way I met wonderful people, visited new places, and rode different types of terrain and loved what I was learning from all these experiences because I knew it was making me a better person. I was relieved that I went on to win the 2009 British Cross Country Mountain Bike Series for the Cotic Bontrager Race Team, as well as the 2007 British Marathon title because I wanted to ensure my sponsors didn’t think I was wasting their time as I was so grateful for all their ongoing support. I rely on my sponsors to help me race, and feel the pressure more than most to ensure I do my job as best I can.

Then 2010 came crashing down, and although I believe things happen for a reason well I’m still waiting to find reason in what happened. Through no fault of my own I lost the support of a great national coach and all that Australian mountain bikers had been working towards since 2008 for a crack at the 2012 London Olympics disappeared and those results and points were now worthless. As always I knew there were 2 more years to invest money and time into the sport and help an Australian make it to the Olympics, and I was overeager to give it my best shot. However as early 2010 races proved my energy levels were not where they should be and this pain returned with a vengeance, as well as repeated bouts of other symptoms I shan’t go into detail about, but which started to scare me. I was fortunate enough to have Ian and his family really help me more than they realise during this time because I don’t think I have ever been so unhappy.

Mr Potter dragged me back to doctors and demanded answers because we were both starting to worry more about the effects these symptoms were causing to my long term health and well being as they were becoming more frequent and now often at rest too. After several blood tests and some not so pleasant tests I finally knew what was going on internally, and although I needed time to sort myself out I could now do something about it. It turns out I had been suffering a form of kidney stones for many years which the doctors think was brought on by overconsumption of drinks with electrolytes in them and that I also had a sunny D deficiency which brought on parathyroidism. It meant some time away from racing and ongoing doctors visits and tests, but I was allowed to guide again and enjoyed being at home....At the same time I found out that I was selected for the 2010 Cross Country World Championships and again my spirits were lifted because I had a goal and I could feel my energy levels responding to the need to give this event my best shot. I love having goals you see...I love challenges....although uncertain how my body would respond I was excited about training myself up again to be in the best shape possible and hopefully pain free once and for all.

Out in Canada I felt rejuvenated by the extra strength that was slowly returning to my body. My first race back was the Quebec Cup and I could feel all these new sensations that brought a new wave of KP racing confidence and excitement. It was a strange race as I finished first had the race been 5 laps long, but along with other riders we were not pulled or shown to the finish area as you would normally expect at this level of racing, so thought we must have one lap to go when we were leading the field as the organisers didn’t make it clear at the start or during the race as to how many laps we were supposed to do. This decision cost us a result as we were disqualified because we did one lap too many. Although it was a training race, at the time I was happy because I raced pain free, but only later did I feel let down by the sport. Most mountain bike athletes travel a long way to invest their time and money into events knowing you never make any financial gains from it no matter how well you perform, but you take part because you love riding your bike hard and testing yourself for 2hrs and look forward to that post race high....but then I finished on a complete low when told of my disqualification. I could laugh it off at the time but deep down I felt like I had cheated even though I had not interfered in anybody’s race. It made me question what I was doing there as I could just ride hard for 2hrs in Luchon at no extra cost and feel alot more personal satisfaction and elation then I did following that race. I shrugged it off because we were heading to the final World Cup in America the following weekend before the 2010 World Champs at Mont St Anne. Unfortunately both races were plagued by mechanicals and I finished with no sense of personal achievement. So it wasn’t the happiest beginning, middle or end to racing in 2010.

What frustrated me was that I had used British sponsors money to get me to the World Championships to represent Australia because I really wanted to see how far I could go at international cross country level and as always help Australia gain Olympic points along the way. Yet here I was racing as best I could given the mechanical issues, but again only at 50% but this time pain free. I had nothing to give back to my Team Cotic Bontrager at the end of it all, and felt like I had learnt nothing along the way because I endured the same mechanical problems one week after the next at the most important event of the year.

After returning home to Luchon and still gaining new found strength week on week, I realise now that I probably was still only at 50% level of health back then anyhow. Although feeling so much better than I did earlier in the year made me think that I was back to my normal base line level of health and fitness. I returned to full time AQR guiding duties alongside Mr Potter during October and was finding alot of pleasure in meeting new people from all rides of life and challenging a few too to some extra long mountain bike rides before and after the traditional 10am-4pm guiding day. I love seeing how happy guests are when riding our Pyrenean back yard that is filled with trails that we have access to virtually all year round. At the same time I was reflecting on my reasons for racing XC because I wasn’t sure if I was truly learning anything anymore or whether it was truly making me as happy as I am when living out here in the mountains and being part of AQR Holidays. Part of me had lost enthusiasm to race at that level when I was putting so many other important aspects of my life on hold and no longer feeling like I was learning anything about myself.

Then I heard the wonderful news of Anne Dickins finishing 4th at the 24hr solo world championships in Australia on my bike, the first Cotic KP24 prototype. Ian and I tried to support Anne as much as we could leading up to this event as she came out to Luchon for some coaching advice and support in August last year. Anne had only 6 weeks before her international 24hr solo debut and was lacking preparation due to a recent knee injury. From my experience at 24hr solo racing it’s not always about how many hours one can sit on a bike for before the event or even how fast you are at the is the event where your time on the bike counts from the start to the finish and where you face the most uncomfortable 24hrs of your life. It is a race against one’s brain and pain threshold, and no matter where you finish it is a worthy performance that not many people in the cycling world can fully comprehend. I was so excited for Anne when she let me know her result and how pleased she was with her performance, plus the Cotic KP24 finally got the 24hr solo outing she deserved in Australia of all places.

At the same time I started meeting more and more people, ladies in particular who wanted to face new personal challenges on the bike such as 24hr solo events or stage racing and I could feel my excitement for the sport return. I have been involved in teaching and coaching from the age of 16 and I have always felt more comfortable teaching and supporting people than being competitive against other people, except myself...oh and Mr Potter J. I don’t know why but in the past I used to feel intimidated and confused by the fact that people thought I was their competition, even though I know that was what you do when you race, but I could see how it changed certain people off the race track and not always for the better. For me I always go into races just wanting to give it my best shot and finish with sore legs and a smile on my face and what will be will be....I absolutely love feeling completely knackered after a day on the bike and hate it when I don’t feel like I have given a race my best shot at feeling tired by the finish line. When I stood on the number 1 spot on the podium knowing I had won the 2009 cross country series I thought I would be more excited by this plaque I was holding in my hands, but it was just this huge sense of relief that I had won a series for my sponsors because it gave me more credibility as an athlete begging for product and/or financial support so I could continue racing for the next season. Deep down I was more excited by the effort it took to keep up with Annie Last to the end of the final national round race that made me truly I was shattered and so earned my sleep! J

This made me think about the past and why I started racing in the first place....and suddenly I caught myself thinking about personal challenges and before I knew it or had time to think about the implications of what I was announcing, I had signed up to do the 24hr Exposure National solo Championships in 2011. The thought of Ian and I joining forces again, KP as rider and Mr P doing all the pit crew work and overdosing on coffee which I personally think is much harder brought a smile to my face. All my 24hr solo memories really excited me again after I thought I had laid them to rest....but I shan’t repeat Ian’s thoughts J Since then I have been loving training again for myself and testing myself against the bike in every possible way....and as yet I have remained pain free, well except for the sore butt when sitting on a saddle for too long, and the blisters from my endless mountain hike challenges, and the massive crash yesterday when we went all day trail exploring, oh and the 3am turbo brain training session as I like to call them. I’m feeling remarkably good, even though the body, brain and my pain tolerance are being trained on an almost daily basis.

 So now I guess it’s time to explain what 2011 is all about for Mr Potter and you can probably guess it’s all about the personal challenge of riding a bike in whichever way we fancy....whether guiding, coaching, trail exploring and of course racing.....from my experience there are multi layers of success one can achieve from riding a bike and yet it is the personal experiences without material gains that have brought the greatest satisfaction to me over the years, this also includes seeing others put the hard work in too and knowing they have improved and feel like they have achieved on the bike no matter where they cross the finish line. Right now I hear so many reports of athletes feeling forced to take banned substances by the pressure top level racing brings about where winning is the be all and end all. It saddened me to find out that a girl I raced in Italy felt the need to take a banned substance to improve her performance possibly because winning was her only means to experiencing material success and/or personal worth as I can’t understand why else one would risk tarnishing the sport or themselves in doing so...but worst of all how could you take joy in any personal success when you have chosen that path. Anyway that is another subject altogether that I will leave the media to report on.

In any case it’s time to say goodbye to one half of a wonderful team who have supported me since 2007. Andy Gowan originally from Bontrager and Andy Griff from Bontrager really looked after me in more ways than one over the years and I’m so grateful for all the support they have given me. It was an honour to meet Keith Bontrager two years ago, and actually be interviewed by the man himself and I hope to still support Bontrager where I can in the future.  

Now it’s time to announce the start of a new team that I’m really excited to be part of and where personal success within the team will come about through hard work and dedication to the sport, and alot of laughs along the way too. Cotic are again our number one bike choice and it makes sense that AQR Holidays play an integral role into the development of this team as it is a long term project, not a one year team plan that we hope to create and that I will be part of now and in the future. 12 riders have been selected who also have their own personal mountain bike challenges that we aim to support so they too can experience personal success and feel excited about the personal challenges they have set themselves for 2011 and beyond.

The new team for 2011 is called The Cotic AQR Holidays Race Team, and we will be at UK events such as –











*plus select regional race series that are situated close to team riders, including those in Wales and Scotland.



IAIN COLLINS – XC & Team events.

KATIE COLLINS – XC & Team events.

ANNE DICKINS – 24hr solo and pairs.

JAMES DYMOND – XC & Team events.

ANTHONY JORDAN – 24hr solo and pairs.

RUTH OWEN-EVANS – XC & Team events.

IAN POTTER – XC & Team events.

KATE POTTER – 12 & 24hr solo events.

KIRSTY PRIOR – XC & Team events.

MATT PRIOR – XC & Team events.

ROBBIE RICKMAN – 4X & Endurance downhill events.

RACHEL SOKAL – 12hr solo & Team events.



THE COTIC AQR HOLIDAYS RACE TEAM would also like to thank the following companies for their support in 2011 –























Right that's me done for now....but in 2 weeks we Potters head off to Portugal for three AQR holiday weeks of fun on the bikes in the Algarve, so plenty of upcoming news to add very soon :)

AQR - A Quick Release Holidays
AQR - A Quality Ride Coaching

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