The weekend of April 18th, my buddy Scott (from Lumpy Gravy) and I converged at the Sea Otter Classic at the Laguna Seca Raceway. We were registered for the XC mountain bike race in the Sport class. I arrived late Thursday afternoon to our campsite, in the parking area overlooking the bottom of the racetrack corkscrew and the Sea Otter village in the distance. Scott and I shuffled down to the registration tents and picked up our race packets and took a quick cruise through the village and the first of many stops at the Cytomax tent to load up on free gels, Muscle Milks, regular Cytomax and all the other stuff they make and give away by the ton. We brought backpacks.
Our race day was Saturday so our plan was to pre-ride the course on Friday (I’d never been on it) and then take in some of the other races and check out the circus of vendors and check out all the cool bikes and components. Pretty much everything under the sun bike related is there and there’s lots to drool over. First things first, we headed into Monterey to get dinner and QC the numerous British style pubs downtown. Starting at the Crown & Anchor, the Cutty Sarks curry was top notch and with a few pints of Scotland’s own Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA, the combo was a notable one. From there we made a few quick stops before winding up at the Britannia Arms and its lively crowd, well-populated with Sea Otter participants. We’re happy to report that all of the various taps we sampled passed with flying colors.
Friday morning dawned and we greeted the day refreshed and excited and happy to be alive, confident that our pre-pre-ride preparation could not have been better designed or executed. Wanting to get an early start, we took off at about 1 p.m. to begin the ride, which went well. The race course is fun with some great single track through the trees, a decent bit of climbing (a lot of it in the last few miles) and some nice scenery. It’s not a very technical ride for the most part with the exception of a fairly steep and very sandy descent that kept you on your toes but that was fun as well, provided the traffic was light. Overall, a cool ride.
The wind arrived early Friday evening. And lasted all night. And got stronger and stronger. We hit the hay early since we had an 8 a.m. start time. The tent flapped like it was at Camp IV on Everest and the easy up canopy, anchored to both our vehicles and the chainlink fence sounded they would take flight at any minute.
Contrapuntal to the tent noise, were the little plastic bags, sheathing the leveling jacks (to prevent scratching I’m sure) on our neighbor’s RV, flapping at a frequency an order of magnitude higher than our shelter. Immersed in this fugue, neither of us got much sleep.
The wind was still there Saturday morning as well as overcast and quite chilly. I was glad for the extra layers I brought. Fortunately, much of the course was sheltered from the wind, which was nice.
The final few miles, the ones with all the climbing, were not sheltered, which wasn’t nice. Maybe it was the head- and crosswinds (and tired legs), but at times I felt like I was riding on something drawn by M.C. Escher and even losing elevation required going uphill.
When someone yelled “that’s the last climb”, I was happy to hear it. I found out later that Scott, who loves wind, especially on climbs, was smiling the whole time.
The last little bit of the singletrack to the finish line was fun and fast and lined with enough spectators yelling and cheering that it makes one feel fast, even when sprinting for 83rd place.
Even with the wind and cold and dead legs toward the end, it was all worth it. Every bit of it. Especially after that first taste of beer.
Sunday? Clear, sunny. And calm.