A Wheely Good Ride…

Wheely Wheely Trying!

Since returning from Canada and the World Champs Mountain Bike experience the Potters have been busy as ever on the AQR guiding front. Ian is starting to feel the effects from not only guiding full time this year and taking up more of the work load during the months I was ill, but now lo and behold his darling Mrs (that be me), is still finding more energy on a daily basis (hee hee hee….my energetic evil laugh has returned)….this is not doing Mr P any favours whatsoever (even I admit that :))!

It’s hard to explain, but all of a sudden I’m trying to make the most of every minute outdoors and even guiding full time is not wearing me down. The last three weeks we have guided every day, with one day off which is supposed to be our recovery day (I now spit on that word!)………….BUT my brain is awake at 5am and I’m falling back into my old, or rather youthful self ways when I used to love nothing more than waking up early by Mr Potter’s clock (that be 5:10am), then heading outside to smell the fresh, but rather chilly mountain air, before running around the Luchon block a couple of times just as the sun starts creeping over the mountainside….this is followed by 1hr session of yoga or pilates, before Ian and I ride 3km to the hotel to meet the lucky guests who we will be guiding that day…all day (yippees all round!!!).

Ian has been using me as his hill climbing marker these past few weeks, because he is a bit over climbing hills at the moment (end of summer season blues and over used legs). So along the way I have set myself these little, rather silly challenges, but what the heck….where I try and use big ring or really tough middle ring gears on the steepest climbs out here in Luchon, just to see whether my brain or legs will outdo the other first. Then as we hit our favourite descents my focus has been on surfing the trail and seeing what happens if I use my front brake really hard when riding into a switchback…..let’s just say practice makes perfect and kissing dirt has motivated me to keep trying to make the smallest attempt at riding switchbacks on my front wheel like Mr P, although leaving me with a permanent dirty smile on my face.

I have discovered something about myself recently…. I’m not too bothered about winning races anymore and feel more challenged by personal physical or technical failure on the bike than success (HUH?). Probably not the best mental attitude to have as a racer, but I love being told I can’t do something or rather – making mistakes and not clearing a trail up or down. I thrive on the frustration of failure….because it feels so good when you work hard and prove to yourself you can do it. But then I get bored of that feeling of achievement only seconds after success and need a new challenge to fail at so I can work at defeating it. I love that feeling of work in progress…..rather than success, don’t ask me why, as Mr Potter gave up on my brain years ago.

In the last few weeks I have been able to tick off a few failures that have been motivating me recently out here in Luchon, one of them being clearing AQR’s famous climbing challenge ‘THE CRUCIFIX CLIMB’ in middle ring. We have many guests who join us every year with the hope that they will clear it before returning home. Once I cleared it I think Ian was more excited than his Mrs, because only two other people have ever cleared it in middle ring in 6 years (that be Ian and friend/elite Aussie racer Andy Blair) and only two guests this year have cleared it at all. But suddenly the climb didn’t excite me anymore because my brain wanted a new challenge. So we headed to AQR’s ‘WALL OF DEATH’, which I have only ridden in one direction before (the easiest direction). The challenge was to ride it in the opposite direction….’ooohhh’….the nerves were there in abundance…..’GO POTTER GO!

But then I cleared it without even a first attempt dab or even fall off the side as I had prepared myself for. I felt really deflated because I had built this technical challenge into something I thought would take me a while to get my head around. I wasn’t enjoying this new found feeling of confidence, but actually sulking that I cleared it so easily.
OK for those of you in the AQR know, I do realise I could go all out and ride with Ian, Russ and Boris on their free ride bikes with local friend Valentin who is a down-hill nutter and who only rides seriously steep trails, actually they aren’t trails at all, but virtually sheer mountain sides with the odd deer track thrown in for short moments of controlled fear before heart pounding scary fun….. Every time Ian returns from an off piste day out with the boys he has either broken something on his bike or his ribs….as the lads are on such steep terrain that they use the trees to stop themselves from falling too far on when riding goes a bit pear shaped (gulp). So for me that challenge is just asking for a death wish on my 100mm little Soda with the carbon fibre seat tube Cy gave to me as a present two years ago (as it is the only one ever made and I shall never part with her as she has been so good to me…thanks Cy), but I can’t lower the saddle…..so that biking challenge with the boys is one for the future when Cy designs a super duper slack Cotic Soda that has a built in parachute and safety net as falling is all part of the Luchon boy’s biking fun :) .

So this week Ian decided he would help me work on a failure that I have ignored recently…..I STILL CANNOT HOLD A DARN WHEELY!!!!!

Ian and I had a week off from guiding this week and so instead of climbing and descending trails as part of my daily workout, Ian decided to test me on my lack of urban biking skill….which included riding on my back wheel. So the baggy shorts came on and I was transported back in time as Ian and I went street riding like Ian used to do back in the day.

Mr Potter kept testing me and testing me on whatever obstacles he could find in our little village, before moving into the town centre of Luchon and then on to a park full of obstacles for me to bruise myself on….but I was loving it!
Ian had me riding up and down steps, cement skinny walls and even bunny hopping side to side over a curb. The back of my shoulders were in bits after an hour worth of manual practice….’push down, spring back, push legs forward, shoulders back, SHOULDERS BACK! BUTT IN! DON’T LOOK DOWN!! LOOK UP!!! ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!!……What do you call that!?!?’

‘SHOULDER ACHE…..OWWWWWWWWWWW…..who needs a gym, just practice manuals!’
Then it was time to wheely up and onto a park bench…YOU WHAT?!?!?
Only Ian forgot to remind me that one needs to use their brakes once the wheel hits the bench….so to the delight of a small Luchon audience…..up and over I flipped with bike still between the legs. WOW!!!! No harm done, but I was having the best fun. As soon as I discovered I wouldn’t hurt myself on grass I suddenly had more faith in my wheely lift.

So I went for it as Ian shouted out ‘push crank down hard’. Woaahhhhhhh, I was in the air and….1 pedal,2pedal,3pedal,4pedal,5pedal…..down and out! DOH! BUT I WAS FULL OF YIPPEES!!!!! Not quite a proper held wheely, but I managed 5 pedal strokes in total. I now have an overwhelming desire to wheely and will be practising on a daily basis….hence the power of FAILURE….in my brain that word does not have a negative overtone to it, but rather a powerful tool that motivates me like you would not believe. FAILURE if used in the right context can be the kick in the backside one needs to make improvements in all cycles of life.

Now thanks to Tom from Single Track I’m starting to get to grips with technology and hopefully I have embeded a video this time. Another thankyou to AQR’s Russ from Le Lutin here in Luchon who has put together a great clip to show you some of the trails the boys have been creating this summer…make sure you watch it until the end to see how not to jump an electric fence….