Adventures of the Cotic - A Quick Release holidays mountain bike race team

Monday, 19 September 2011

Cotic-AQR at the SW Champs & Circus of Dirt Round 5

 Kirsty reports from her last XC race down south at the beginning of Sept...

“When Jay describes a course as "epic", you know you're gonna need to man up.”

“One of those special courses that has you vowing never to do it again and threatening to give up on the way up, but itching to do another lap by the time you've got to the bottom of the descent!”

“The body count from the XC race was probably the highest in a mountain bike race ever...”

Just a few quotes from this weekend’s final installment in the fantastic South West series. Jay and Maddie (Horton) have been instrumental in revitalising cross-country racing in this part of the world, and if degrees were available in “Course Design” I am certain they would graduate with First Class Honours.

A week’s holiday / training in the Pyrenees was perfect preparation for this race. However, our preparation on the day was less than perfect – two caravans over-turning on the M5 and the ensuing delay meaning that Matt and I arrived somewhat later than planned. I had a suspicion that the course would be pretty technical, so was keen to ride as much of it as possible in the short amount of time we had available before the start; we managed to get round ~ 50% of the course but were unable to check out the main descent which was down the local downhill course.

This race was the series finale, as well as the South West Champs, and attracted a decent field. It was nice to have some competition in my category, especially after taking 1st place in the previous round by default when I was the only rider.

At the gun, I went off hard with Carla and Jane (racing elite), and stayed with them up the first climb. They dropped me pretty soon after, so I was back to my usual race against myself (as there was already a gap back to the other female racers).

The course itself was awesome. A fireroad climb was followed by some off-camber rooty singletrack, then a short steep descent with a sharp right-hander at the bottom that caught a good few people out. I cleaned it every time – whoop whoop! Then it was onto the main climb – nothing technical, but long enough and steep enough to sap your energy. The climb was broken up by a couple of short, undulating singletrack sections, and a particularly annoying ‘up and over’ where I did a comedy backwards dismount in lap 1. (Note to self... practice ‘up and overs’...) I kept myself focused on the climb by picking off riders from the other categories. Then just when you thought you would never reach the top, it was straight into the downhill course. Rocky at the start, then a mixture of steep drops (thankfully with chicken lines where you really needed them) and swoopy berms bundled you back down to the arena with a massive grin and the incentive to do ‘that climb’ all over again.

After lap 1’s comedy mishap, I managed to stay at one with my Cotic Soda, and finished well clear in 1st place – my 3rd of the series. Matt didn’t fare quite so well. He got off to a great start and was up there with the fast boys. However, our failure to pre-ride the course was his downfall – literally – as he followed a Southfork rider down the ‘A-line’ on a particularly steep drop and failed to land it. Result – ‘DNF’, a cracked Catlike helmet and a ‘grade 2 Acronis-clavicular joint subjection (mild)’.

Combe Sydenham proved to be a fitting series finale, and I’m looking forward to more of the same next year. Thanks to:

* Jay and Maddie, and everyone at Shred Events, for putting on the series;
* The Drop Off Cafe for excellent post-race carrot cake
* Catlike for ensuring Matt’s head is intact
* Kate and Ian for all the encouragement (!) and the loan of my lovely Cotic Soda
* Chris for bottling for us ;-)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Torq12... another Cotic AQR podium!

The Torq12 race was a cracking event again this year with the usual Gorrick-organised smooth running and great singletrack-laden course.

After her fantastic 2nd place at TwentyFour12 the month before there was really only one place Rachel could aim for... and end up on the top step of the podium she did, racking up 12 laps in 12h32m... a stonking 2 laps ahead of 2nd place!

The mixed team of Katie, Iain, Rich and James put in 16 laps in 12h20m finishing a very respectable 4th in the mixed teams category behind teams including elite and other silly fast riders! ;-)  Simon Usher also raced in the solo category but after a very brisk first six laps unfortunately had to pull out with stomach issues.

Thanks to Joolze Dymond as usual for the ace photos!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Pit and the Podium

Preparation for Bontrager Twentyfour12 was not going well for the Cotic-AQR race team. All 11 of the XC/endurance racers were entered for the event but with two days to go we were down to just six fit (or fit-ish in some cases including my own) riders. Some major changes were required but somehow by Friday evening we managed to have teams and riders organised and we were ready for the event.

Following a fantastic performance at the National 24hr championships back in May we were delighted to secure the services of Carole the mother of all pit mothers. Carole was assisted by Ant who due to injury was unable to race. Between the two of them all the racers were kept warm, fed and watered; the Cotic Sodas, Souls and KP24s were clean and shiny; and everyone in the right place at the right time.

Cotics waiting.
Cotics at the ready

Anne and Simon took the hard option and raced in the 24 hour pairs. This was Simon’s first experience of riding in a 24 hour race but had gained plenty of experience from supporting Anne in the pits on previous occasions. A strong and well-paced performance saw them convincingly take first place, five laps ahead of second. You can read more about their race on Anne's blog.

Anne setting the pace

Kirsty and Ruth were competing in the female 12 hour pairs hoping to build on their impressive race at Bristol Bike Fest last month. Another fine performance saw them complete 12 laps in 12 hours 4 mins, a lap ahead of their nearest opponents making it two years out of two that the team have won this category.

Kirsty & Ruth

Riding in the mixed pairs competition were Ian and Katie. They had already won the prize within the team for the furthest distance travelled to the race racking up a distance of nearly 2000 miles between them. If the travel had made them weary it didn’t show and they completed 13 laps in just over 12 hours, gaining the team another first place.

Ian & Katie

Thanks to our guest riders despite the team’s injuries we were still able to compete in the team 12hr event. An excellent performance saw the Matt, Mat, Eelco and Dan gain fifth place in the male team category against some stiff competition. This was a fantastic performance by the boys who were brought together only hours before the start of the race.

Matt leading the way for the boys

And finally there was me racing in the 12 hour solo. Originally I was due to ride in the team event, a nice way to get some more racing experience following my injury back in March and long lay-off since. But, due to Kate’s injury, I took her place just a day before the race. Now, there are some advantages of only having 24 hours to prepare for your first 12 hour race, namely there is little time to get anxious about it. Unfortunately the advantages are far outweighed by the disadvantages and to say I was slightly unprepared would be somewhat of an understatement. Fortunately for me I had the brilliant support of the rest of the team so managed to make it to the start line ready to go and with plenty of tips and tricks to employ throughout the race. Having never done this time on the bike before my race was largely trial and error with my main objective to use this as a training ride and gain experience rather than to race the event. After a few laps I seemed to get a good rhythm going and started to really enjoy myself. The course was great fun with loads to think about which meant that I never got bored or mentally had to convince myself to keep going. The trouble is I probably got rather carried away and probably went a bit too hard which left me hanging on a bit for the last few hours. At this point I really benefited from my Cotic KP24 which as a super-lightweight full-suss bike didn’t slow me down on the climbs but evened out all the lumps and bumps of the roots and rocks allowing me to save energy to turn the pedals. With the support from the pit crew at the start of each lap and my team mates as they whizzed past me I kept plodding on and was delighted to come home in second place having completed 11 laps in almost 13 hours of riding.

Reaching the top

So all in all, despite some last minute changes, it was a fantastic weekend of riding and racing for the Cotic-AQR Race team. Maybe we should approach every race with a half fit team.

Race stats

The Pit

Carole – 11 happy riders, 100s cups of tea, several bacon sandwiches

Ant – At least 55 bikes washes and lube’s, countless energy drinks made

Pits, pits, glorious pits

And the Podium

24hr mixed pair – 1st – Anne and Simon

12hr mixed pair – 1st – Ian and Katie

12hr female pair – 1st – Kirsty and Ruth

12hr female solo – 2nd – Rachel

12hr male team – 5th – Matt, Mat, Eelco and Dan

Thanks to Snapperchick and Ant Jordan for the photos

Monday, 25 July 2011

TwentyFour12 2011 - Cotic-AQR storm to 4 podiums incl. 3 wins!

Quick update after the weekend's Bontrager TwentyFour12 down at Newnham Park, Plymouth as the Cotic-AQR teams took the event by storm with 4 podiums including 3 wins...

  • 24hr mixed pairs: Anne & Simon 1st!
  • 12hr mixed pairs: Ian & Katie 1st!
  • 12hr female pairs: Ruth & Kirsty 1st!
  • 12hr female solo: Rachel 2nd!
  • 12hr men's teams - Matt, Mat and guests Dan and Eelco.
More info. & photos soon!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bristol BikeFest 2011: 3 podiums!

Bristol BikeFest 2011: Kirsty, Rachel, Ruth by James Dymond

The Cotic-AQR team had a fantastic weekend at Bristol BikeFest, now in its 10th year, with 3 podiums in the sunday races! Even the rain didn't dampen the spirits and there were smiles all round on Bristol's ace swoopy singletrack :-)

Ruth & Kirsty - 3rd in female (and mixed!!) 6hr pairs!
James & Matt - 3rd in male 6hr pairs!
Rachel - 2nd in 3hr solo!

Rachel reports below on her first race since her big injury back in March

After over two-months off the bike due to a fractured pelvis this was to be the first race of my debut season racing for Cotic-AQR holidays. In fact, this was less of a race and more of an experiment; I’d only had the go-ahead from Anne Dickins, AQR physio, to get back on the bike a week beforehand. The advice from Kate was to go out and use this as a training ride going steadily over the first couple of hours and then doing some interval training in the last hour so this ‘race’ was much more about riding for 3 hours than it was actually going fast or worrying about the competition. I chose to ride my (well, Kate’s actually) KP24; not only is the bike beautifully light and responsive, it also provided me with much required cushioning for my poorly bits and allowed me to sit down and pedal on some of the rougher stuff when my leg strength didn’t allow me to stand up and power through.

The race didn’t start well. I still can’t walk long distances without limping so running up a hill in bike shoes wasn’t ideal! With Kate’s voice in my head I tried to be sensible I didn’t rush into the race, allowing the traffic in front to pace me. I completed my first lap in a very modest time although my inability to press ‘start’ on my watch meant I didn’t know exactly how long it had taken. I allowed myself a quick stop to remove my waterproof and set out on lap two. With less traffic I got into a better rhythm, and tried to maintain a sensible pace. At this stage the mud was playing havoc with my gears so I stopped to clean and lube my chain as well as change my bottle. Lap 3 went well although my legs were starting to hurt somewhat. I was really pleased how I was riding the course actually managing to catch people on the two long sections of swoopy singletrack. I completed lap 3 knowing that to complete two more laps I would need to lap 3 mins quicker than my current average, even without stopping that would be close. Lap 4 went well, despite the pain from unfit legs and lungs and I squeaked in just in just over time. My final lap would need to be my quickest if I was going to do this, as I’d got a bit held up on some of the singletrack I was fairly confident with a clean run I’d make it. The final lap was great and I hardly got held up at all, until right near the end of the course when another ride veered into me. Desperate that this wouldn’t blow my chances of getting over the line in time, I grabbed my bike to jump back on only to find my saddle at a very odd angle. I quickly yanked the saddle round and hoped it wasn’t going to be too far out of position for the remainder of the lap. Complete with crooked saddle I pedalled as hard as I could up the final two climbs and made it over the line with 40 seconds to spare, phew!

So, I’d made it – over the finish line (achieving my first goal of completing the 3 hours), completing 5 laps and pleasingly onto the podium in second place. I was delighted to finally start, let alone finish, my first race for the Cotic-AQR team and I certainly enjoyed my post-race recovery cheering on my team mates in the 6 hour event.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Erlestoke Twelve: 2011's first team event podium

Erlestoke12 - 6hr mixed pairs by James Dymond
Erlestoke12 - 6hr mixed pairs, a photo by James Dymond on Flickr.~Ruth and I only decided to race 6hr pairs at Erlestoke Twelve about 3 weeks before the event when I realised that it was nearly June and I still hadn’t raced yet this year... having a year off from individual xc racing has been great for freeing up weekends but I’ve still got the competitive bug!

Anyway, despite my idea of only entering once we’d seen a definite forecast for the day, I turned up at Ruth’s place the night before the race to find a rather soggy forecast for the next day. It’s probably this that helped her persuade me to have a bit of a lie-in and turn up without enough time for a practice lap... after all, 3hrs of racing each would be plenty to get to know the course.

Or so we thought! ...I can now confirm that taking the long way to get there, rushing to arrive on time and having a virtually empty fuel tank in the car are most definitely not recommended pre-race preparations! Once our camp was set up I had enough time for a few laps of the car park before the race was on!

Being honest, my first lap was dire! Stuck in traffic, not knowing the course and not being warmed up all added to that “what the hell are we doing this for?!” feeling! Being stung 3 times under my jersey on that lap didn’t help either!

Luckily though, there is a ‘but’... the course was fantastic; lovely dry woodsy, natural singletrack, fun bombholes, decent enough grassy climbs and some semi-technical sections to catch riders out at speed. And so as the race went on we settled into a great rhythm, blasting out nice brisk laps and leaving each other pace and timing notes between laps! About 1/3 of the way through we were 2nd started to take notice of our competitors, with 3rd only a few minutes behind and 1st a few ahead: the race was now properly on!

Luckily for us, the pressure eased when Emma Bradley (MXC) in 3rd punctured and lost about 25 minutes but we couldn’t back off if we were going to give the leaders a run for their money. Despite some really consistent lap times and a totally mechanical-free race we couldn’t quite catch them (Progression Fitness) – but were delighted to finish 2nd, just 2m33s down – having reduced it from 6m. Massive credit is due to Ruth’s really speedy laps and mega-consistency and I was really pleased with my own times too which got quicker as the race went on!

Great start to the team-racing season with some valuable lessons learnt... warm up, warm up, warm up!*
* Oh & don’t be late for lap handovers otherwise your team-mate gets rather angry - & rightly so! Sorry Ruth!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Exposure 24 - National & European Solo MTB Champs 2011!

Wow, what a weekend that was!  Newcastleton, Scotland played host to the national and European 12 & 24 hour solo mountain bike championships for 2011 and the Cotic-AQR Holidays race team headed there in  force.

The beautiful setting supplied a superb race course from SIP Events but unfortunately the weather didn't play ball and nearly 20 hours of rain aligned itself perfectly with the race!

Never mind though, as the Cotic-AQR team shone through anyway...
  • Kate Potter: 1st in 24 hour women's race
  • Anne Dickins: 2nd in 24 hour women's vets race
  • Anthony Jordan: 15th in the very competitive men's 24 hour race
So a massive congratulations all and huge thanks to sponsors Cotic, KCNC, Magura, Skins, Purple Extreme, Industry Nine and Torq whose kit kept the team going through the race.

To read more, see
...or scroll down for a selection of the photos...

For the full race gallery, see Flickr.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

BMBS Round 2 - Ruth's view from the front!

Ruth's slightly belated write up of my recent experience at the second round of the British Mountain Bike Series at Dalby Forest on 17th April 2011...

Photo by Darren Ciolli-Leach of XCPIX
Initially my goal for the 2011 season in the Expert Women category was to get a podium. I wasn’t too worried about which position on the podium I achieved; I just knew that after putting in some hard work after an unimpressive season for results in 2010 I really wanted to earn myself a national level podium.

At round one of the BMBS I surprised myself by not only achieving a podium, but also achieving 2nd place, just 30seconds behind 1st place! Well, never in a million years did I think I would achieve my goal for the year at the first round.

So, in the run up to the second round of the series, I was apprehensive – to say the least. I knew that I needed to prove that my result at Sherwood wasn’t a one off! So I decided to get up to Dalby nice and early and spent time getting used to the course and the way my new Cotic Soda race bike felt on the terrain. With Kate’s expert coaching and guidance behind me I had my mind in a good place and tried not to put too much pressure on myself and just practiced the lines on the course that I was comfortable with and that I knew I could ride easily during the race itself.

On the morning of the race, I worked hard to keep myself calm and focussed and keep my nerves under control. Dalby is a technically challenging and mentally demanding course and I knew I would need to stay focussed the whole way.
The race got off to a good start – I led the pack out into the first corner, with only a couple of Juniors overtaking me initially into the first bit of singletrack. At the end of lap one I was in 3rd place, with 2nd in my sights and legs feeling good.

Unfortunately by the middle of lap two my front mech, which has been on its last legs for a while, finally gave up and I was left to race the remainder of the race with no big ring, which didn’t help for those sprinty sections where time can be easily made up – or lost!

I fought hard during the 2nd lap and came through the arena in 1st place, with 2nd right on my heels and fighting all the way into the first singletrack section.

After some switching around with various overtakes on the nasty uphill sections at the end of the third lap I was back in 3rd place and hot on the heels of both 1st and 2nd place! I knew this was going to be close and I knew I couldn’t let the two riders in front of me get away.

So I gave my last lap all I had left and kept with 1st and 2nd right until the bitter end. We dropped down through Medussa’s drop and up the final big climb. When we dropped back down onto the last fire road I decided to make a go for it and sprinted past both riders into 1st place. I then led into the singletrack passed Worry Gill and up the climb to the final bit of singletrack before the arena and that last drag up to the arena felt like an age with two competitors breathing down my neck! I knew that I just had to keep them behind me through the singletrack and out into the arena and then hope for the best that I could sprint fast enough with just my middle ring to hold onto my win!

As we came into the arena we heard the shouts from our supporters and at the last corner there was nothing in it. I sprinted out of the final corner, giving it everything I could with only my middle ring for power, and could see 2nd place creeping up on me, but thankfully I just held it and took the win with 1 second between me and 2nd place, and only 3 seconds ahead of 3rd place!

I was over the moon to win the second round of the British Series, and it was such a great race – one of the best to watch for a long time according to a friend! My new race bike was amazing, and I am now treating it to some TLC with a new front mech and a fork service to make sure it’s rearing to go for the next round, I just need to make sure my legs are too – and with Kate and Ian Potter and the AQR team behind me, I’ve got all the support I need!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Post-Portugal Sodas & sunsets

Kirsty sends an update from Bristol...

What could be better then a cheeky post-work ride in the early evening sunshine? How about a cheeky post-work ride, where you find an even cheekier new downhill trail that your husband hasn't spotted first :-)

After a fab week in Portugal - full of sun, Soul (of the Cotic variety) and waist-deep river crossings - I was bursting to get back out on my bike. A quick spin around Ashton Court and the local woods on my Cotic Soda fitted the bill, and I was treated to a beautiful sunset, as well as several deer and squirrels crossing the trail. There is something about these early spring rides, when the trails are dry, the weather is warm and the air is full of anticipation.

I've decided to take a rain-check on the first couple of rounds of the nationals, as I have some fairly major commitments away from mountain biking. As I write this, I'm pretty gutted that I won't be on the start line at Sherwood, but evenings like this serve to remind me that what I really enjoy is simply being out in the fresh air, having fun on my bike.

Here's to a summer full of cheeky new trails :-)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

BMBS Round 1: Ruth takes 2nd on board her Soda!

Sunday saw Round 1 of the 2011 British Mountain Bike Series at Sherwood Pines with just Ruth racing due to other members being tied up elsewhere around the country.

What a great race it was though, with Ruth coming in 2nd just 30 seconds or so down on the winner in the women's Expert race.  The first race of the year for her on board her new Cotic Soda and a podium too, so a huge well done from the team!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A week of riding in the Portugal spring sunshine? Count me in!

That was the view of 20 riders ready to expose themselves to AQR Holiday’s inaugural training week in the Portuguese spring sunshine. Amongst these dedicated souls were the majority of the new Cotic AQR race team keen to get to leave the cold and wet UK behind for some pre-season riding and skills alongside bike- and body- setup.

This little corner of the Algarve is somewhere the Potters know well but this was the first time that AQR had offered guiding in this area. And what a perfect setting it was us to hone our skills with a combination of fast and loose or techy descents alongside some short and sharp (and long, sharp, leg and lung busting) climbs. And river crossings….

Day one started with a bike-set up session led by Ian Potter. After running through some of the basics in the ‘classroom’ we headed out onto the trails to see the importance of this in action with the first of many ‘climbing challenges’. It was amazing to experience how much a change in stem length or height of the front end changed how well many of us climbed up this steep loose section of trail. I for one have really benefited from Ian’s expertise here; I’ve spent 3 years convinced that the front end of my bike is too low trying longer forks, higher stems and bars to little avail. And now I’m riding flat bars, a flipped stem and minimal stack headset and what a difference it makes both up and down hill. (I won’t dwell on my reaction when Ian first suggested this to be but it’s safe to say that I’ve since retracted my comments!)

We were also introduced to a local cafĂ© and there range of cakes including the infamous figaloo. A cake, as the name suggests, made of figs, and figs, and more figs. My excuse is that it wasn’t really cake but a natural source of vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates which I required after a day’s riding to ensure my body was in tip-top condition for the next day.

For those of us keen / stupid enough day 2 started with a morning run and dip in the pool with Kate Potter. This all sounds rather idyllic until you realise the gradient of the hills and the temperature of the pool! But it was a lovely way to start the day – fresh air, perfect temperatures and a smug feeling of having achieved something when everyone else is lounging in bed. The other plus is that it helped us all justify extra helpings of breakfast, ideal!

The day then properly started with a ‘bikers’-bodies’ session led by Anne Dickins, not only a Cotic AQR racer and 24hr national champion, but also a physiotherapist specialising in core control and how we can use this to improve how our bodies work on the bike. It’s amazing how much time and money we spend looking at how our bike can improve our performance but ignoring how we use our muscles to control ourselves on the bike. Again this session continued out on the trails with Ian and Anne videoing us all on another one of those ‘climbing challenges’. Both Anne and Ian used these videos to help them and us identify what tweaks to bikes and bodies that we might benefit from.

On day 3 the much awaited sunshine appeared and it was definitely worth the wait. The skies were a glorious blue and the trails quickly changed from their fast gritty damp state to super-fast dry and dusty. The overnight rainfall meant for some additional challenges in riding across streams that suddenly appeared on the trails. Apparently this crossing is ride-able…

On our rest day most of us took the opportunity to have a 1 on 1 assessment with Anne who identified which bits of us were working well and which bits not as well (or in my case not at all!) on the bike. By using those videos taken earlier in the week and simple demonstrations on the bike Anne even managed to convinced the most cynical of us (I’d love to mention names here but in the interests of team harmony I won’t, well for now anyway….). Later in the day we headed out with Ian and Kate for more skills practise – skidding, cornering and switch-backs.

The rest of the week followed in a similar vein. More glorious sunshine, more great trails, more tips and tweaks to our bodies and bikes and more figaloo. We also benefited from sessions led by Kate and Ian discussing nutrition, training and race psychology and race preparation.

We all headed after a fantastic week’s riding having learnt loads with a noticeable improvement in our skills. I’ve even started working on my cyclists’ tan line, not bad for March. Now I can’t wait to keep getting back out on the trails to keep working on all those tips and tricks I picked up, even the UK sun has started to come out to help me on my way. All I need to do now is find a recipe for figaloo.

Photos courtesy of James Dymond, Kate Potter and Hannah Reynolds.