The good, the bad, and the ugly. That sums up the Sea Otter Classic for me; although the later two were involved I’d like to emphasize the first. When events don’t go in your favor I guess you just have to appreciate that it is a part of life and there’s much to learn. I have a long history of fighting the otter for a clean race that goes my way, and this year was no exception. One thing is certain I come each year with a clean slate and focus on the races to do well. I put a lot of mental energy into my first event because it was first. I like to put my mind into one race at a time. As soon as the race is over it’s time to recover then prepare for the next one.
I arrived Thursday morning in order to pre ride the course and determine my gearing for the single speed race Friday. I met up with a couple buddies from Colorado and rode the course at a light pace with a few openers to get my legs prepared for the Friday grind. I was ready come Friday and I felt certain I was going to have a good race like the week before.
The gun went off and it was on. We spun down the track and I marked the wheels of the necessary men. As we left the race track and hit dirt it was time to stick to my plan and take the lead so I have a fast clean shot down the fast fireroad descent. I hit 44mph down the fireroad, not bad for riding rigid. As the race continued we spread further apart and I followed the eventual winner with one other not far behind. Once he and I exited the first single track to the wide rollers I took the lead. My gear was a few up on his so a gap was forming at a steady rate. I knew that a rutted out steep descent lied ahead from the previous day. It could be ridden at speed which I intended to do, but if you got off line it surely would be a disaster. Leading the race with good ambitions suddenly everything went wrong. Since the descent comes in blind you have to know whether to stay right or left anything causing you to change your line could lead to a crash, and it did. As I flew into the descent full speed much to my dismay there was someone not racing on course descending at a crawl. As she was going downhill right in my line with no speed I was coming in hot and hit my brakes hard. This spastic braking caused me to slide into a rut and hit my brakes even harder as my bike went one way and my body another. There was so much force of bike and body twisting opposing directions my front wheel ripped the lawyer taps off one side of my fork, mangled my burning hot rotor (which burned my leg) and severely bent my front wheel. My Marin CXR29 held up fine obviously! I frantically hopped up and got out of the way to start working on my mangled bike. Jerry rigging tools of metal, wood, and
stone my rotor was not going to straighten. At that point had no idea of the damage my fork had seen.
After watching more and more racers leave me behind I knew the time was nearly ending for me to get back in the race. Then, Phil the owner of the shop I wrench at during the week came down the hill nearly crashing himself to see if I was okay. He graciously offered me his rotor and we began the swap. Ultimate good samaritan award for Phil’s kind deed! As I was almost done with the swap I saw the shredded condition of my fork dropouts and still had no idea how wobbly my wheels was. Done and out I quickly replaced the rotor so Phil could get on his way all the while he was tending to a young racer who broke his collar bone. It was mayhem on this descent! From the time I went down to the time I left the course I saw forty to fifty racers go down. At one point there were at least six racers scattered in the fine sandy dust. One of the most notable crashes was when someone slid their face on the ground and asked me if his ear was still attached.
The race ending crash story gets a little worse, as I’m making my way back to the cut off road I cautiously backtrack the trail and find a course marshal relaxing. Course marshals are sent out to danger areas or where there are splits to keep racers safe or on track. I know some of them don’t have much experience with bike racing and are simply hired for the event. But….since he was a short distance from the area where everyone was going down it only makes sense he was likely instructed to be standing there warning of what lies ahead. Instead he was sitting in his truck A/C blasting and tunes flowing watching the race go by in oblivion. Of course I stopped at let him know the situation and suggested he should probably take post down trail a bit.
From here I took the ride of shame back to the expo area, a shortcut road directly back. On my ride back I came across the finishing miles of the women’s road race, so I gave some short pushes to the ones struggling up the last climb as I made my way home. All I could think about on my ride back was how things could have unfolded in the race. This went on for a few hours until I finally realized that it’s time to begin preparing for the next day.
While Friday’s mid-day race was very hot the pro xc was even hotter the following day. The race started in a blaze like usual flying down the track with a few near crashes. Unlike last year we all made it out with a scratch. Not to say we all stayed on the track, nearly every sharp turn ending up shoving a few guys into the gravel. One of the final turns exiting the track I was caught in the slow line as about fifty guys went flying by. Not a time to panic I picked up the pace and tried to make up some spots before the fast fireroad descent. The race went on moving up, and then back. The heat really got to me, my body wasn’t responding and my arms began pricking with goose bumps. Usually those bumps rise when it’s cold, but in this case it was too hot. I fell pretty deep and lost a lot of time, but knowing a feed zone was ahead armed with the Marin Bikes team crew I could get some nutrition. I was planning on taking one bottle, but yelled out as I approached; two, two, two! I slammed an entire bottle almost vomiting and kept on pedaling. It was hard to put that fluid down, but it was necessary and it proved to help on the long climb back. Fifteen minutes later I started to come back around and was able to push it harder, finally passing up more and more racers on the climb out. Even though our race was short it is extremely taxing and you have to be 100% to do well.
The great stuff I noticed about this weekend was everyone around was upbeat and happy to be at the event. It always relays back when everyone is having a good time. I got to meet the remaining members of the team that I haven’t met before. Everyone with the Marin Bikes crew is very approachable and friendly, if you see us around please come by our tent. Special thanks to Gravy, our living legend mechanic for keeping everyone rolling like they should. Gravy knows more about bikes and big time racing than anyone you know and I’m stoked to have him on our side.
Post race I made it back up north in good time and took some rest. I rolled out for a nice easy spin on the road then, my buddy from Colorado rolled through for a couple days to work, ride, and hang. Now I’m rummaging through all my stuff to get some clean clothes and my bike prepared for the Whiskey 50 out in Arizona this weekend.