Every year, thousands of bike enthusiasts look forward to the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California. The bike festival boasts a huge expo area for companies to show off their new products and racing for nearly every discipline you can think of. Not only limited to mountain biking, Sea Otter offers road racing and even an unseasonal cyclocross race. The only discipline I can think of that is not represented is a fat bike race.
Like any major event, Sea Otter gets a fair share of complaints from racers. As an amateur racer who has been racing at Sea Otter for four years now, I’d like to chime in on my stand on a few points.
I competed in Sea Otter’s rendition of an enduro race and was able to do well with a fourth place finish. The morning of the race, I read an article by professional mountain biker Carl Decker. His argument was that professional riders should not complain about the courses at Sea Otter. Professionals are primarily there to represent their sponsors and team.
The enduro course at Sea Otter is very lackluster. The course was composed of the Downhill course, dual slalom course, and two trails that can be considered xc trails at best. I do not mind the course design since race promoters used the terrain that was given to them. My main concern is with the downhill course used in stage 1 of the enduro race. It appeared that no work was done on the course at all. The overgrown grass was cut down but not raked away, leaving slippery grass over the trail. Not to mention everything was completely blown out. I think the promoter should re-evaluate the course. The course has not changed in years, so it would be cool to redo a few sections at least in order to keep it interesting for racers.
I also raced in the XC event. The common complaint with the XC course is that all of the climbs are on single track, but lots of descents are on dirt or paved road. I read in an article by The Angry Single Speeder that this is due to the number of racers. Thousands of people race the XC, and that many people going down a single track trail would absolutely ruin it. The thing that I found annoying was that the Tandem category started in front of the Cat 1 category. This meant that cat 1 racers had to pass loads of tandem racers. This slowed down cat 1 racers and sometimes emotions ran high. I found that in sections where I would normally be able to keep a lot of speed, I was caught up by the difficult to pass tandems. I think it would be more enjoyable and safer if the tandems had a different start time.
As for course design, it is of my opinion that racers should not complain. Races are supposed to be hard. The very nature of a race is to test the fastest riders over any type of terrain. Some terrain is more technical than others. There are plenty of technical races in California that are the complete opposite of Sea Otter. Anyways, it is the individual who makes the decision to race. If you are going to complain, save yourself some money and don’t sign up.