Monterey, CA April 20, 2012
Imagine a 5-day “circus” event for cycling enthusiasts–road, mountain, cross, downhill, trial, and trick–add tens of thousands of spectators (50,000 estimated to have attended this year) and you have but one mental glimpse of the Sea Otter Classic. I was in awe of the amount and level of skill, fitness, technique, and commitment exhibited by the racers at this event not to mention the attendance and overall spectacle of the event. With over 300 vendors showing off the latest in clothing, supplements, and gear it was easy to get lost in the sea of giddy spectators and competitors wandering the interior of a massive motor speedway, turned into a “human-powered speedway” for a week. It took me most of Thursday afternoon just to find out how to get to the start area for the road race.
On Friday late in the afternoon the SOC Masters 45+ Cat 5 Road Race followed a 47.6 mi course that was every bit as tough as our Cow Country RR event. The SOC course was a “frying pan” shaped loop course with 2+ mile downhill start that became a mean uphill finish after completing 5 laps on the loop portion that consisted of steep grades (some in excess of 16%), high-speed “S” curves, and acute angled turns that would kill all momentum prior to the grades.
Our 44-man group started just a few minutes behind two other large fields of over 65 riders. Early in the first lap we neutralized the one and only real attack. But the tempo kept being dialed up on each lap on the grades, separating the groups quickly. Chase groups formed and dissolved, as did my resolve in the heat. It was in the mid 80s. My ’53 Chevy was overheating on the last “grapevine hill” and I felt like I would heave a piston by the time I rolled over the finish line. Thankfully, I made some new friends at the event who were waiting at the finish to offer a little encouragement and cool me down with water.
All that effort to barely make the cut so as not to get lapped or pulled, and they missed my time. My electronic “chip” ankle band didn’t register at the finish. I didn’t show up on the initial results sheets. But timing issues were something of epidemic proportions for others, however. The Cat 4 Circuit Race had nearly 150 in a mass start on the motor speedway track and the whole timing and camera system malfunctioned. You can bet a few egos got bruised trying to sort out that mess.
Out of the malaise we happened on Landon Beckner with his mountain bike and MT Velo kit there but couldn’t find him on the results board. We found out later he broke a chain and DNF’s–bummer. All in all it was quite an experience. The riding opportunities, varied terrain, scenery and comradery were fantastic. On Saturday we opted for the 50-mile short version of the the Gran Fondo–the coastal route due to very tired legs. The ride circled out along the Monterey Peninsula and was incredibly beautiful. But the overall psychotic madness of the crowds and traffic made me appreciate riding and racing in Montana.