This is a little late, but two weekends ago I was fortunate enough to attend my 4th consecutive Sea Otter Classic, up in Monterey. I love this event, I feel it can overtake inter-bike in the industry as the ‘show’ for the year. Its outside and there is always about 5 cycling events going on at one time. A lot of my friends actually come up with the whole family as there are plenty of activities for the kids as well.
This is my third year in a row that I rolled up there with the Focus Bike USA crew. They set me up with a place to stay and food, in exchange for working the event. This year I was a little more involved, and was tasked with building all of the demo bikes and organizing most of the expo stuff. Ive learned a lot over the years from Dan and Tony so it was kinda just ‘same old same old’. The only thing I forgot was chairs, fortunately Bill Marshall and WD40 had some extras.
As usual, we left Carlsbad at 5:30am on Wednesday morning to avoid LA traffic and, as usual we hit a good bit of traffic in LA. T. Smith and I were driving the sprinter while Dan and J Rowe had the luxury of the town and country minivan. They also had to pickup another athlete, A A Ron Schooler, CX racer from Canada now living in Germany. After the traffic we all reconvened and met at some bagel place somewhere near magic mountain. We finally made it up to the venue around 2, found our spot, squeezed the sprinter in, setup, and were able to cruise on bikes back to the hotel then go get dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant there.
Not much happened thursday except for the standard Expo working, and a fun course pre-ride with Mitch, Brady, Ryan and Tom. I also got the opportunity to go talk to other friends and sponsors there which is really one of the best things about the Otter.
I was anxious to get some racing going, and in my new kit non-the-less. I teamed up with Book a Bike Mechanic this year as my title sponsor, and was anxious to fly the colors for the first time. A big thanks to the guys at Eliel for getting them done in time before the event (and all hand made in CA!)
Friday was the short track race, and it was run in reverse of previous years and quite a good bit shorter, with less dirt, and mostly pavement. It’s usually pretty fun to race as it skirts around the venue and there are usually a good bit of spectators, but it could have used more dirt this year. Not too many people made it on the lead lap, myself included, but at least I got some openers in for Saturday.
I was excited for the XC race on Saturday as its longer than most races at 2+ hours which usually gives you some more time to do some more passing. I was somewhere near the tail end of the second group once we got off of the Laguna Seca racetrack, not great, but not horrible. After about 2-3 miles of pretty open roads, literally pavement, the course takes a sharp right to the first climb up some single-track. Its good to be near the front of your group here, but not too important as it usually gets backed up with all the riders. Which is exactly what happened near the top of the climb, we had a good bit of stopped time just waiting to go again, I don’t think people were complaining too much as it was a little chance to rest.
After that there were some gaps but I was still near the front portion of the racers and riding strong (front portion means like top 40 haha). I missed my bottle handup the first time through the feed zone, we were going through there at 90mph and I didnt really know where Justin was and he didnt really know where I was, haha.
About the last 5 miles of the course is mostly all climbing, and I was in a little group trying to rally the guys to work together on the fire-road because it doesn’t really matter where we are right now. Out of the group Dana Webber was the only other person that realized this, so we took some turns and were able to reel in a few more solo riders.
I looked for a bottle hand-up at the Start finish, again going like 90mph, but couldn’t find anyone offering up a free one. Back to the first single-track climb I knew I was one of the stronger ones in the group so I made sure I was there first. I was stoked I was riding strong and with some of the top guys, and having fun. I was having so much fun the second hour, I forgot to eat my gels every 20-30 minutes, not horrible at the time but…
I was able to grab a bottle this time around from Justin before the last part of the course. Last year, on the same course, I was able to move up 10-15 positions on the last bit of the race as everyone exploded, and I was hoping to do the same this year.
BUUUUUT, that didn’t happen. I realized I was hitting the wall with about 40 minutes to go and quickly shoved as much food as I could in my face. It was too little too late though. I hit the wall, hard, and this year I lost about 15-20 spots in the last 5 miles. I really felt bad and would have quit, but I still would have had to climb out back to the venue, so I just truged along getting extremely light headed and almost passing out near the end, race success!
I haven’t blown up that bad in a couple years and am actually pretty stoked that it happened, and it happened to a lot of people that day. I was on track to go a few minutes faster than last year, but ended up going about 5 minutes slower.
Stoked to have the racing out of the way, I enjoyed the rest of the event, and fun dinners with friends new and old. We packed the Van up in record time Sunday and made the long trip back to San Diego that night, getting in around 1:30. It took a solid three days to recover from the work, racing, and poor sleep but I cant wait to do it again next year!