Thredbo, New South Wales
Round 3 of the Australian national points series, and my second race out here in Australia was held in Thredbo, N.S.W in real mountain bike territory. Yes, I'm afraid out here in Oz we don't just have beautiful sun kissed beaches and never ending rays of sunshine, but mountains that reach over 2000m.sorry. After my last race report three weeks ago I have been inundated with emails calling me every name under the 'SUN' (woops slipped up again) for not braving the UK winter like all my mountain bike buddies back in Britain.
Mr Potter and I began our 6 hour long journey to Thredbo on the Thursday morning before the race. The last time I visited Thredbo I was four and my folks were forcing me to walk to the top of Mt Kosiosko, which is Australia's highest summit, in search of snow. Thredbo sits at (1364m) and as always I was prepared and packed for all weather occasions, with my waterproof, winter coat and even my skivvy (Ian says they're called neck warmers in the UK) thrown in just to be on the safe side. As you can imagine Ian was not impressed, especially as the temperature continued to soar as we made our way inland towards Thredbo. I guess I should have known better then to pack my beanie and gloves as well, as we passed a huge dried up lake that hadn't seen rain for months.
Ian and I had two days to check the race course and acclimatise to the change in altitude. In hindsight we probably should have arrived earlier in the week to get used to the altitude, but more importantly to ride more trails here, as the mountains surrounding Thredbo had a lot to offer.
During my practice lap Ian and I were told by one of the trail builders that the cross-country course was thought to be too difficult and that it might be changed. The course was tough, well and truly on the bumpy side, but absolutely brilliant. Every rider we spoke to loved the technical sections and the only complaint I heard was that a small section of tarmac had to be used at the start. It reminded me of a dry and dusty version of Fort William. In the end no changes were made.
The course started on rough ground, with a couple of narrow bridges, before a short section of road, then the fun really started. The first piece of single track climbed over roots before descending down a set of steep steps onto a narrow bridge, before a long technical climb over rocks, roots and steps that twisted up the mountain side. Unfortunately ol' Big Foot Potter here has a tendency to trip over her own feet, so I had to really choose my lines carefully to avoid clipping my toes on the rocky sections.
The next piece of single track was 'rock & roll city', huge boulders and rocky steps all the way down, including tight switch back corners that could easily stop you in your tracks if you didn't have enough speed. The course then turned to a steep fire road climb, where even at slow speed breathing hurt as the air thinned. Each time the top drew near, another steep section appeared.
At the end of the climb riders were treated to one of the best, varied and longest pieces of single track I have ever raced down. I'm afraid this section demands extra attention to detail, as it's well worth a ticket to Oz, just to ride this part of the course.
The first 30m starts on wooden board, not too narrow, but as it twisted through the trees it stopped before a huge boulder that you had to ride over before a tight steep trail over rocks, off camber roots and wooden steps. The course designer had warned us early on that this section demanded riders to do their homework and check out the available lines, and that we did. Once I was confident with my lines, we moved on to more steps, then a few more steps, a couple of fast dusty straights separated by a couple of fast dusty corners, then more steps again. The Cotic Soda was very forgiving and I didn't feel battered to pieces even though I was on a hardtail. The trail then turned to fast and flowing single track along a river, with short sections of rocky corners and plenty of drop offs of different sizes that really kept you smiling. Suddenly the trail turned to road, which was dull, but it didn't last too long before you started the loop all over again.
I finished day one feeling very excited about race day, as the bike felt superb, my confidence was high and I simply loved riding the course which is always a bonus.then as always I was reminded that where the Potter's go the clouds usually follow. It rained, not just a little bit, but so much so that the locals were dancing in the street as they hadn't seen rain for such a long time. Then the temperature dropped to 5 degrees and my breath started condensing, unheard of at this time of year. As you can imagine Mr Potter was begging and groveling to borrow my beanie, coat and gloves. Luckily the course remained mud free, and surprisingly the rocks and wooden steps weren't too slippery either.
Race day was an early start, earlier then expected as the crows decided to wake the village up at 5am. Our black feathered friends had landed on our balcony waiting for their feast of old bread and porridge oats.
There were more girls attending this race, a few familiar faces, including my mate from the UK Caroline Jackson and race favourite Tory Thomas. As the whistle sounded I found my legs had a mind of their own and before I knew it I was overtaking the group leaders on the first stretch of tarmac. As I lead going into the start of the first technical climb I noticed a strange feeling from the front of my bike.I had no feeling of suspension. Ian had told me he had adjusted the air pressure and that they might feel a bit hard, but I was certain they weren't moving at all.
The bike had felt amazing over the rocky sections during practice, but now I was struggling to stay on line. Tory overtook me towards the end of the first lap and I hung on to second for the next two laps with Tory about a minute in front. Once the third lap started I was feeling more settled and in control as my nerves disappeared and my brain returned. Only then did I realize that I must have knocked the lock out on my forks at the start. With a flick of the switch suspension had returned, I was feeling like I had in practice and my arms let out a sigh of relief.
By the end of the third lap I could see Tory. As I passed the feeding zone for the last time I was right on Tory's back wheel. I decided to go as hard as I could up the next climb and managed to take control of the lead. Down the descents I imagined myself as Steve Peat in full flying mode, actually I should have imagined Sam Hill, but Steve it was. My elbows were out and I was gliding over the rocks without too much braking. I wasn't sure how close Tory was behind me, but I decided to really enjoy the last descent, and that I did. I held my lead all the way across the finish line for my first national win.
I was a bit shocked as the media surrounded Ian and I and bombarded us with questions, but more good news was to follow the next day.
Ian and I went out for a celebratory ride where for the first time in Potter history I dropped Ian on a descent. The last time I dropped him was on a climb three years ago and for doing so he bought me my first mountain bike for racing, so I couldn't imagine what he would surprise me with this time.I'm still waiting.
I have a lot of hard training and racing ahead of me over Xmas and into the new year in order to be ready for the National championships which will be held on the 27th January.
For more information regarding the Australian national point series check out the site.