Sea Otter Classic: A Personal Perspective

“You guys should put on a mountain bike race”. This simple phrase was the genesis for the original Sea Otter Classic. Hosted at Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey County, California, the Sea Otter Classic is one of the largest cycling events in North America. Sea Otter has been running annually since 1991. The original event was composed of 350 athletes and 150 spectators. Today the event hosts 9,000 athletes and 55,000 fans, including myself.

Pro Dual Slalom is one of the best spectator events.

In 2011 I would never have thought that I would compete in a mountain bike race, let alone the world’s premiere cycling festival. Lucky for me I live only about an hour away from the famed Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. After joining a high school mountain bike team, I decided I wanted to race Sea Otter. Last year I competed in both the downhill and cross country events.

The downhill event was on Saturday. This was only my second downhill race ever, but I was stoked. Being one of the most popular events, the line line leading up to the start gate was packed. I was lucky enough to get in two practice runs on race day. Since the Sea Otter downhill course is not very technical, this was enough for me to feel comfortable. The course, used by every category including the pros, consists of tabletop jumps, berms, and off camber section, and a sprint to the finish. I finished 12th in Cat 3. This year I will be racing in Cat 2 and am hoping to finish in the top 10. Check out this video of race footage from Aaron Gwin’s perspective!

The Cross Country Race was on Sunday. I, again, raced Cat 3 and finished in the middle of the pack. This was definitely a unique cross country race which I will always remember. The start of the race was on the tarmac of Mazda Raceway. Racers ride on the raceway, just like the Sea Otter circuit road bike race, and then turn onto dirt. After riding the raceway, riders are left to battle it out on a mixture of fireroad and single track. Category 3 racers completed one lap for a total of about 16 miles. Even though I had a blast, this year I will be using Sea Otter to take a break from my busy cross country schedule and use the weekend to focus on downhill.

So are you convinced to go to Sea Otter yet? Well there’s more! Not only can you watch your favorite riders race, you can also meet your favorite riders at the expo. Sea Otter is home to an impressive, and sometimes overwhelming, bike expo with hundreds of vendors. You can see new products, ride demo bikes, score some deals and get free stuff. Even if you do not want to ride or race, I highly recommend checking out the expo area.

Photo: Margus Riga
The 2013 Sea Otter Classic runs from April 18th to April 21st, but most of the action is on Saturday and Sunday. The racing events are great for anyone from beginner to expert. If you want to race, there is still some time to sign up.

So are you going? Are you racing? If you have gone in year’s past, what was your favorite part? Any cool stories? Leave a comment below and tell us your experiences. Be sure to post in the Google Plus Community to let us know how you did in your race. See you there!

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