Sunday, June 3, 2018
Sea Otter Classic - Monterey CA
April 22nd - Sea Otter Classic - Monterey CA
1st Place - Cat 1 - Women and 5th Overall
Sea Otter Classic 2018 is in the history books once again.
What a big race and even bigger is the venue and bike festivities going around for many days.
My last and only time that I raced here was in 2015, the course was slightly different but not by a lot but all the sections were not the same. Few extra miles were added this year as well as some extra feet of elevation climbing as a special treat for those Floridian legs! Ha-Ha. Last time coming from flat Florida, it did work out for me even though I had to climb quite a few thousand feet in such a short amount of time and I ended up winning the race. It was a blast, it was perfection too and those don’t come easy or often.
I was a little apprehensive to this year’s trip, since replicating this perfect day and result was going to be a mission not easy to accomplish. And the pressure of the course would be there as well as expectations. If you win something once it would be natural to be expected to do so once again. Taking all this baggage off my shoulders was not going to be easy, but I had to focus on the task at hand, enjoy the moment, enjoy the scenery, welcome the opportunity and another chance of doing great presented to me.
I was happy to unite here with my Zerouno Team and teammates, ride the course together and spend some time off the bike too and get to know each other. It was really great to meet everyone in person and have some quality time. I also appreciated and enjoyed so much meeting all my sponsors and supporters once again. This is exactly what made this race and trip so much more special, since as I always say, this is way more than a race…
Our pre-ride was fun, the whole course was fast and pretty flowy. Of course, there were lots of climbing and new for me sections with steep and washed out from the rain, narrow ridge like areas and lots of sand. Those were tough during the practice ride as well as during the race, and not just for me but everyone else. We all suffer at the similar rate so the course was going to be hard enough for everyone, especially with those 4 thousand feet of climbing with the full exposure to the sun.
The race day did come quickly enough and I was ready to go. I had 2 bottles on me and had no idea if anyone will be able to get to the feed zone located some 13 miles away to give me more water. I had to make it work and decided to shovel the second bottle in the back on my jersey. By the way, it was time to show off my first ever speed suit custom made by Castelli. It was soft and snug but also very comfortable and my bottle and some Co2 and extra gels fit perfectly.
It was not that cold on the start line 3 years ago but It was not steaming hot. I didn’t know if I will be feeling the pressure or not but I ended up once again being cool like a cucumber. There is something with this far away from home racing that somehow is easier on the mind, maybe because most of the people that we are racing are unknown and you really cannot know what to expect. Only thing that can be controlled here and done right is to be focused on yourself and my own performance and ride to my best ability. Having a great time along the way is a bonus, and that’s something that is constant when I am racing, not a matter of how much it hurts. I simply enjoy the moment!
10 seconds, and we are off. No one started crazy fast but rather at a smooth but strong pace. I made sure I stayed in front and watched the field. We went around the Laguna Seca Raceway and we were all tucked in and staying organized. I made sure to keep my position and keep it there until things will require a change. I was in 5th/ 6th spot and shortly we were about to approach the first dirt climb from the raceway.
The moment we hit the dirt the shuffle began, everyone was pushing to the front but no one was moving fast enough to get away. I was slightly moving forward and making progress toward the front of the field, after we passed the fence and were freed into the main course I had to be in top three. There was only one small downhill separating us from the first long and pretty steep climb. I pushed on the gas and made another pass, seconds later I looked ahead and there was only one more rider ahead of me getting up the hill. I did catch up and had to decide quickly if I stay here or what my next move was going to be. It was the most aggressive rider in the group and I was right on her wheel. I felt this sudden rush of power going through my legs and felt I can do much more than that so I pushed the gas hard. I stood and hammered up the hill like it was sprint to the finish, not the start of a 32 mile race. It felt good, I had Dewet from Squirt capturing the moment and cheering me on when I was leading the pack to the top of the climb.
There after reaching the top things became beautiful, whole view just opens up and you can see for many miles in every direction, the sun is up, the wind is strong and the only thing waiting for me is this long and loose and ridiculously fast descent. I am the leader here now and can dictate my pace. Toward the end of the decent and the long way of rolling hills I did catch up already to the rider from the group ahead. I thought it was crazy fast to see already people from other groups in front but it happened. The moment I got on her wheel we did hit the first small section of single track, I didn’t have anywhere to go and ended up having the other aggressive girl from my class catching up and making a quick pass when the path finally opened up and spit us out on the road. So, we had this trio of us now on the long stretch of asphalt. The speed was high and we were going mostly downhill, half of the road was conned away and girls were using up a big chunk of the middle. I just sat there and didn’t bother to stress about it or try to take risks here to pass. It took some patience and minutes were ticking away, but there was a light, I saw the next marker into the first true single track which was facing uphill and was going to be really winy and will last what seems like forever. I got closer, waited, waited, and made the move the moment the last cone disappeared. I rounded both riders and charged into the dirt path with wings filling up my soul. I knew it was the moment, this was the time for me to once again hit that gas and never look back.
I felt strong and the path narrowed quickly. Small and dense poison oak bushes were the only thing here, besides really sudden blind turns and coming out of nowhere roots that one had to dodge. Sun was already beaming full strength down. In a matter of minutes, I was catching up to other riders, male and female. It was really hard to pass here, it was hot, I was pushing hard, breathing hard and had to find a way to ask for a pass and make a pass in those narrow corridors. I looked back a few times but didn’t see anyone familiar besides people I just passed. Path did finally open up. It was a gravel road, I saw groups of ladies ahead, I was tired but I pushed on the gas even harder. I was determined not only to catch up to them but also to pass them as soon as I could. The wind was strong again and not only was I fighting the gravel, the small grade but also a headwind. I was still making passes and moving forward with a lot of force. One girl sat on my wheel and hung with me for a bit, other in front let me go by again. I didn’t cozy up with any of the groups for much amount of time, it was the Hi and Bye approach, I tried to be quick here. The next single track was rough too, much steeper, also narrow and ground was bumpy and washed out. Tons of new riders were ahead and waiting to be passed, little to their knowledge. It was all going by smooth but taking a lot of energy. So even though it was costly it was still worth the effort to keep getting away and covering the distance as fast as possible. I had on the horizon another group of girls and once again we were in a new section of single track, I had no way to pass here and had to wait. We did come out to the gravel road which shortly culminated with this crazy steep, deep sand, hike a bike section with the ridge like riding on top. I was making my passes on the climb and the top of the dirt, I had to stay with some of the riders however on the descent with was like a never-ending sandbox and bike was just sliding left and right. For some reasons we were catching up to some younger riders. The trail opened up again and I was on the gravel, I remember passing here a few guys and catching one girl ahead. I asked her if she knew what position she was in and she said she was in 3rd. A few seconds later I did my thing and I was gone. I jetted away in the pursue of whatever was lying ahead. I was already on the second water bottle which I was able to switch on the hike a bike section, now I can only hope it will be enough to finish the race. I passed the feed zone, the only feed zone that was there, I remembered this section well from the last time I raced here. It turned quickly to a beautiful single track with olive tree looking like orchad feel. It was pretty narrow, fast, I had more riders to pass. After that there was another section like this with a very steep climbing and more olive like trees, it was a pretty part but also very painful, everyone suffered here and it showed. It was a busy area and I had to ask a lot of riders to be able to go by. The climbs were steep now and all the time, it was not going to get easier, it was the testing time. Somewhere toward the top I passed another girl. When I asked, she confirmed what positing she was in, she was 2nd in the whole class ahead of me. Apparently, I was doing really good, not only I was leading my whole class but was in front of class that started 2 minutes before me. I knew exactly who was in the winning position here, the only person left was my team mate Monica and I was sure she was already far away gone. What took place after that was even more testing, the trail opened up once again into a few constant miles of pure climbing, double track, full sun, tons of tired riders ahead, empty water bottles and half way through the climb, monster inner thigh cramp. I never got that before when riding and I looked ahead and there was much more climbing and it was getting even steeper. Some people defaulted to walk. This was a true testing time now and I looked back and I saw someone in a red kit, something that reminded me of the girl from my class that was trying to fight me from the start and was anxious to lead.
I was not really sure if it was simply someone else and I had nothing to worry about. Either way I had to figure out quickly my cramp situation, I had to slow down, massage my leg while still biking and take it a little easier until things settled. I got to the top and I was crazy happy to see my Pax here, who thankfully had a little extra drink for me here, it was much needed. He was happy to see I was going pretty strong and there were only 5 miles more left to go but he was not sure what position I was in since there were a few other women ahead. I did catch up to another girl from a previous class again and ended up going back and forth with one of the top riders from 19-29 class and trying still hard to make as good time as possible. We were working together making passes on the male riders ahead. The climb to the top was steep but I got my wings back, the mountain opened up once more and in seconds we did get on the fast descents. There was lots of single track now with varying terrain, bumpy, lots of turns, narrow, constant up and downs, all fast and all painful. You forget here however about all the exhaustion and everything else, you can almost taste the finish line. So even though it does spread for few miles, the feeling is there, the end is so near, no matter what energy is still there is being put out and into good use. I was still charging, I looked back again and saw one more time the red kit, I mentioned it to the girl I was riding with, she confirmed she was from her class. I could have backed off but I didn’t. I said to her “you can do it” and we were charging forward not letting her catch me or her. I was leading again and let her stay on my wheel. We were still passing guys, lots and lot of riders. There was only steeper climb ahead, I remember how painful this one was later in time, lots of people opted to walk, but not me. I knew I will be making it all and I will be going fast no matter how much it hurts. I think the girl could not hang with me anymore, there was a little section of single-track left, sharp left turn that I remember so well, steep sandy climb and crazy rewarding feeling of my tire hitting the pavement of Laguna Seca raceway once again. Fast descent and big right turn into the monster bridge with a batter Sea other classic written across it was all that was left. I flew to the finish once again, with a thrill, with a joy, with a huge feeling of accomplishment.
Right away after crossing the finish line I saw my Pax and Ronny waiting for me, my team mate Monica was right there too. Instantly my eyes started to tear up. I don’t know why but emotions took over and it did get me just like it did last time. It was so rewarding and incredible to win here one more time. I won, I won this amazing big race once again, not only winning my group but placing 5th overall.
I felt like now I can finally relax and enjoy. What an incredible moment, what a nice finish to all the work that I put into preparing for it this year. I was happy to win here not just for me, but in front and for all the people that had been supporting me for so many years. This is where all my supporters could experience first-hand and share my victory with me and I could bring to them my Sea Otter winner’s jersey and medal.
I wanted to make them proud as well as my Pax. I was happy I was able to make it happen once again. Monterey had been really good to me and I am very grateful for that.
The following day was wonderful, myself and my husband decided to take our time and drive in a lot of scenic areas of the coast and had a beautiful breakfast off Carmel beach where we took the most gorgeous and amazing morning walk.
Drove through the famous 17-mile drive and Pebble Beach. And continued the trip all the way up to San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge with numerous stops along the way with the most scenic view and really good times to remember.
Had some time to catch up with some of the Pro's as well.
What a trip!
Thank you goes to:
ZeroUno Bikes, Spaziale Compositi, Riders Only Bikes, Castelli, Magura, Removu, NDTuned, Limar Helmets, Schwalbe, Rotor Bike Components, Squirt Lube, SelleSMP, Trainer Road, ESI Grips, Clif, Xpedo, Garden of Life, Kuat Racks, Oakley, KMC Chains
at 12:17 PM