Slogging Through The Sea Otter Mudfest

 

My first race this season was the Sea Otter Classic, mountain bike racing’s annual pilgrimage to Monterey, California. This race is a big festival with downhill, bmx, dirt jumping, road racing and cross country mountain bike racing mixed in with some fun rides and a big consumer trade show. It is a gigantic circus at the Laguna Seca Race Track where one of the toughest challenges is to find the start and get there on time while riding through thousands of spectators. Mayhem is always on the menu.

I was racing the stage race which was done in Omnium format so each stage carried points rather than time to determine the overall GC. However, the biggest race was the cross country on the final day since it carried UCI points which eventually will determine who goes to the Olympics for their country so most athletes were focused on this final day. There was a star-studded female field with reigning Olympic and world champion Gunn Rita Dahle, cyclo-cross world champion Sabine Spitz, Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist Kiara Bisaro, three-time world champion Alison Sydor, and two-time Olympian Jimena Florit (who has left us to go back to mountain bike with Luna Chix!). I was super excited to test my fitness against the best to see where I am at in this early stage of the season.

 

Although not every race was a great one, I did have at least one trip to the podium and I got some excellent training out of the super marathon of a cross country. I have to send out a big thank you to my bicycling sponsors because this weekend was very hard on my equipment. Thank you to Shimano for the overhaul and to Orbea, Maxxis, Fox Racing Shox and even Saris for your help this weekend (that pump was handy). I am really fortunate to have you guys to help me as well as my coach Houshang Amiri, who was there to see the good, the bad, and the very ugly….Thanks and a shout out go to all this year’s partners (who are all in the Sponsor 2006 section!) but especially Saucony, Nature’s Path, Orbea, Sundog, Shimano, Maxxis, Fox, Aquaman, Gu, Profile, Titec, Fizik, Powertap, Powercranks, Computrainer, Kinesys and Rider’s Cycles for building a top notch machine for this weekend!

 

 

The first day was a circuit race of about 5km with about 3 km of pavement and 2km of sloppy boggy mess. There was a short hill before we went into the muddy mess which on the first lap everyone sprinted up for position to line up in the singletrack. Everyone sprinted but myself, since I was incapable of sprinting. Apparently, I was incapable of anything but riding at a slow pace moving forward inefficiently in the mud, and painfully slow on the pavement. Stage one was a nightmare. Who knows why, it was terrible, I wasn’t really even racing and we will just forget about that.

  

Stage two was the time trial. Since I had a biomechanical and went backwards the day before, I was starting 30 seconds behind the rider behind me in GC. Unfortunately, I caught her right where the single track started and since she had the line I was forced into the crappy boggy line to try and pass her and crashed. I managed to get by only to then catch my minute person as well who also had the line so I crashed again trying to get around her. In all, I managed to crash three times, get by two people, and still finish 12th, 20 seconds slower than the winning time which was reasonable and reassuring since I felt like I was actually racing.

 

Stage three was the short track and finally, my first trip to the podium. If we thought we were riding in the crap for Thursday and Friday, Saturday was another animal entirely. It was horrible. Thick soupy mud was on the menu for the entire way. I did not have a call up so I had a lot of people to pass right off the start. We slipped and slid all over the place, with really only a couple places to pedal hard and the rest of the course to try and balance and stay upright. I moved up from about 30th, to 15th, to 4th, to 3rd, and then on the last lap after a number of bog bumbles, managed to get passed by Mary McConnelog to take 4th. It was fun to actually be racing even if we were doing so at the expense of our bicycles. Everything was COVERED in mud. Gross, as you can see below.

 

 The final stage was the cross country. We got the rain that the weather people had been promising all week so it was cold and wet. Not a nice way to start a 40 mile race. I totally don’t understand this marathon format for Sea Otter but what do you do? Anyways, I was excited to see what I had against the best mountain bikers to see if I am still on track with my cycling training with all the rest of my tri training. From the gun I decided I wanted to race at the front so in fact I sprinted to enter the dirt first! Of course, I took a bad line so I actually ended up third but I was happy to be following Sabine and Gunn Rita. For the first bit of the race I felt comfortable, I was climbing well and descending well so I felt really confident. Then we hit the muddy bits. I obviously had made an error in tire choice. While my competitors were taking fast straight lines I couldn’t keep my tires underneath me and I was sliding on the steep ascents.

I was passed by Kiara and Wendy Simms while Dahle and Spitz went away and I stuck on their wheels up the climb. I was comfortable climbing but in the fast muddy single track I was making too many errors and losing time. It was very frustrating. I bounced between on the wheel for the climbs to off the wheel on the descents and through the mud bogs. Then I had a massive crash on a sandy descent and after I picked myself up with sand in my hair, my pockets, my shifters… a group of 9 riders nearly ran me over. I tried to rush to get on the train but my mojo was suffering. I was getting so frustrated because I had no flow. It was a very long race to fight your bike the whole time. I lost contact with the group and went into survival mode for the second lap just to finish and really wasn’t racing anymore. I ended up 17th, happy I didn’t let myself go as far backwards as Thursday, but disappointed because I raced pretty crap. Oh well, first race of the season is over and at least one stage was decent! I know I have some good legs already at points in my first race without any specific race training so that is good to know at this early stage.

Next up may be the NORBA in Fontana or it might just be the Xterra in Temecula, still in the planning stages. Thanks for reading and until next time, keep the rubber side down!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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