With tens of thousands of bikers and spectators and hundreds of vendors and exhibitors descending upon the 27th annual Sea Otter Classic, in sunny Monterey, this was shaping up to be one of the most action packed, fun filled events in recent memory. Over the last few years, as I have become more and more involved in racing and the industry as a whole through working at the shop and racing, Sea Otter has become an event I attend in part so I can meet with friends, fellow racers from out of state, and industry insiders always excited to share their latest innovation. That and the racing. This was Sea Otter number 6 for me and the racing has only gotten more and more intense from my first year racing, in the Cat 3, 14 and under division.
This year is my first racing in the Pro division, a huge leap from the Junior fields of the prior two years. This leap from competitive Junior racing to Pro racing also has a huge learning curve associated with it, as the races are of a completely different format and the racers are of a whole another caliber.
Things started out for me Friday, with the Short Track race. Going into this myself and the other racers were expecting the usual format of 20-25 minutes of racing on a tight course with 2-3 minute laps. Unexpectedly though, we were thrown a curveball, when we found out the course was actually run alongside the racetrack, running through gravel, mud, pavement, and a deep sand pit on the last descent; and would last for 7 laps, each consisting of around 5 minutes. After a thorough warm-up I toed up to the line, eager to start an intense 35 minutes of dirt-crit style racing. I was able to start in a decent position, about mid pack of the riders who weren’t calledup. When the gun went off, I jumped off the line and gave it everything I had. I bobbed from the left side of the track to the right side, shooting through holes and gaps in the field at top speed (We hit 31-32 mph consistently on this basically flat section of track). I worked my way through the field, bridging between groups and just giving it everything I had to gain positions. I had the best 20 minute power of my life in this race and it hurt sooo good. About 20 minutes in I was gaining on the main chase group, when the guys that had been sitting behind me jumped and rocketed around me, and I had nothing left to respond with. With only 10 minutes left in the race and my energy draining fast I hung on as best I could, finishing on the lead lap somewhere around 63rd of 88 or so racers. Not the result I wanted but super satisfied with my early race performance.
Saturday was the XC race, an 8 lap circuit of a 3 mile course that wound around theDual Slalom hill, through sand, loose dirt, a rock garden, and the pavement. After starting in a lousy position (nearly last row) I struggled to fight my way through the pack. When the group hit the rock garden the first lap, a bobble by a rider ahead caused myself and everyone else to get off of our bikes and run the section. After jumping back on the bike my legs were really feeling it and I was working hard to move up one place at a time. Lap by lap I picked off individual riders and stayed smooth through the rock gardens and practiced my cyclocross dismounts in the uphill sand pit. I held out hope for finishing on the lead lap, but with 10 minute laps and the current World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist in the mix, I was pulled at the end of my fifth lap as so not to interfere with the lead. I ended up 76 of 110, a decent result for my first Sea Otter Pro XC.
Overall the event lived up to my expectations with super challenging racing that had me struggling mentally and physically, but teaching me how to improve. I also had the honor of racing with and meeting the current World Champions and Olympic Gold Medalists Jenny Rissveds and Nino Schurter, both class acts. These are two of the fastest people on the planet right now and it was awesome to get to meet them and even race with Nino. All in all Sea Otter 2017 was a bunch of fun and I’m already dreaming of next year’s event! Now it’s off to the Whiskey this weekend!