Entering its 26th year, the Sea Otter Classic means many things to many cyclists

March 17, 2017

SEA OTTER CLASSIC 2017 IS NEAR. As a proud tradition ProNet Cycling will exhibit in support of it's brands, riders—and share some insights on what's around the corner.

 

MONTEREY, CA. Located on the grounds of the historic Laguna Seca Raceway outside Monterey California, SeaOtter Classic is considered the world's largest cycling festival and the kick off to the North American cycling season.

Join us to see what's new for 2017 from your favorite brands. Products will be on display and available for sale. Brands on site include Clément Cycling, Effetto Mariposa, IceToolz, Sprintech, BibBits, GUTR, Paincakes and Action Wipes with a special feature from Effetto Mariposa. Visit our booth #545/546 for a free wheel balancing from Effetto Mariposa. More info here: HERE.

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BY NEAL ROGERS CYCLING TIPS | Photography by SEA OTTER CLASSIC. Say the words “Sea Otter Classic” to a cyclist, and their initial reaction will tell you as much about themselves as it does about the event, which enters its 26th year next month. by Neal Rogers | Cycling Tips photography | by Sea Otter Classic

 

What started out in 1991 as a mountain-bike race, held at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, has evolved into one of the largest gatherings of the two-wheeled tribe in North America.

 

Over the years, the Sea Otter Classic has offered almost every type of bicycle racing imaginable — cross-country, short-track, downhill, dual slalom, enduro, road, criterium, BMX, cyclocross, and gran fondos — to both professionals and amateurs. A reported 10,000 athletes participate over four days.

 

The hilly topography of the Laguna Seca Raceway and the surrounding former Army base Fort Ord is unique in that it offers quality terrain for every discipline of competitive cycling. (The area where the racetrack lies was once a lake, thus the Spanish name “dry lake.”)

 

Mountain bikers can enjoy miles of singletrack along the lush, rolling hills of the Fort Ord National Monument; road racers relish the opportunity to dive through the world famous “corkscrew,” regarded as one of the most challenging turns in motorsports due to the steep elevation drop as well as its blind crest and apex on the uphill approach.

 

The expansive venue for the Sea Otter Classic also opens itself to camping, and every year the site’s many campsites are filled with RVs, tents, coolers, and bikes.

 

The list of winners from Sea Otter events include dozens of world champions and Olympians, as well as Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, who took the cross-country title in 1998 and 1999, and won the Tour in 2011. Upon retirement, Evans returned to the Sea Otter to ride the gran fondo in 2015.

 

Other notable riders to take victories at the Sea Otter Classic include road stars such as Levi Leipheimer, Marianne Vos, and Kristin Armstrong, and mountain-bike stars Christoph Sauser, Rachel Atherton, Brian Lopes, and Roland Green.

 

 

In addition to racing, the Sea Otter Classic— which has been sponsored by SRAM since 1995 — doubles as an early season trade show, drawing bike brands from across the country to the expansive expo held on the infield of the Laguna Seca Raceway. Nearly 500 vendors, representing around 1000 brands, display new products and offer demos and samples as well as special show pricing.

 

With everything — autograph sessions, parties, and product demonstrations — happening in the expo area, there’s perhaps no event in the world that allows spectators and participants such close access to their cycling heroes.

 

Because the expo is held outdoors, on the Central Coast of California in April, weather at the Sea Otter is always a factor, ranging from sunny and hot to rainy and windy, and everything in between. Sea Otter veterans, and Monterey locals, will tell you to prepare for anything from summer to winter conditions.

 

Outside the race venue, there’s no shortage of things to do. Visible on a quick trip to Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, is the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, as well as sea otters, the event’s namesake, floating along the coastal edge of the Pacific Ocean. To the north is Santa Cruz, and its world-class singletrack; to the south is the Pebble Beach golf course and the scenic vistas of the Big Sur coastline. To the east is Salinas Valley, which Steinbeck wrote about in several books, including “Of Mice and Men.” North of Salinas is San Jose, aka Silicon Valley, and the international airport which many Sea Otter participants use. (Monterey also has a regional airport, though there are few direct flights in and out.)

 

PHOTO: Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson (left) and three-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson (right) at the start of the 2013 Sea Otter Classic gran fondo.

 

The 2017 Sea Otter Classic will be held April 20-23. As a media partner with the event, staff from CyclingTips — as well as parent company, BikeExchange — will be on site, riding, taking photos, and chatting with riders and industry folks. If you see a CyclingTips or BikeExchange logo, please say hello! For more information visit SeaOtterClassic.com, and follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

THE RIDERS SHARE THEIR SEA OTTER MEMORIES

 

We asked former and current pro riders to send us their most memorable Sea Otter Classic experience. They’re presented here, in their own words.

 

Alison Dunlap: Sea Otter is one of the best events on the circuit, and some of my fondest memories come from that race. I did the Sea Otter Classic nine times, and won the overall four times. There is a lot of history and a lot of craziness from those days, but my most favorite memory is from 2004. I was racing on the Luna Pro Team with Katerina Nash and Shonny Vanlandingham. After two stage wins and a second in the time trial, I was wearing the leader’s jersey going into the final three-hour cross-country race. It was a great race with a lot of tactics, attacks, and crazy descending. The race finished with a lap of the big Laguna Seca raceway. Katerina and I were together along with five or six other women. I love tactical sprint finishes so I told Katerina to sit on my wheel for a leadout. I drilled it with 400 meters to go, and no one was able to come around. Katerina sprinted for her first cross country win! The picture from that finish is my absolute favorite because both of us had our arms raised in victory. It was so much fun helping her to her first win on such a big stage.

 

Thomas Frischknecht: It was a short-track race in the late 90s. The race was on the hill side, close to the start-finish area for the cross-country and short-track races today. There was a big mud hole a few meters before the finish line. Riding straight through loaded up a lot of mud, so everybody detoured around the mud hole. The last-lap