LAGUNA SECA – From road races to BMX, tandem races to the weirdness of an MTB time trial, the Sea Otter Classic has lasted three decades. It changed with the trends of cycling and followed the economic tides of the sport.
He is also now coming back after two and a half years of forced abstinence.
Postponed and repeatedly canceled due to fluctuating coronavirus concerns, the four-day cycling festival begins Thursday and continues through Sunday. It has not taken place since April 2019.
Estimates still vary, but organizers last announced around 9,000 participants and 74,000 spectators gathered in and near the recreation area.
World titles and Tour de France champions competed – Alison Dunlap to Cadel Evans, Christoph Sauser to Kristin Armstrong. But above all, the event attracts cyclists of all ages, from young people to seniors, from newcomers to the more experienced.
After 30 years, the Sea Otter Classic will unveil itself with new owners. Frank Yohannan, co-founder of the event since its inception in 1991, sold the festival and its title sponsorship in August to Life Time, Inc. The fitness and event management company with offices in Chanhassen, Minnesota , has several internationally renowned endurance events. Yohannan will remain manager until 2023. Key staff members have remained with the new owner.
Competition kicks off Thursday at 7 a.m. with downhill practice for the enduro stage race. The first professional road event, a race on the women’s circuit, will follow at 9 a.m.
Full daily schedules continue for three additional days, with the festival scheduled to end Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with the awards ceremony for the men’s and women’s category 3 doubles slalom divisions.
According to the event’s website, the “Sea Otter Classic is a 100% outdoor event and takes place over an extremely large footprint. Athletes, volunteers and participants will not be required to enter a structure with walls.
“Based on current guidelines from Monterey County, Calif., Masks are not currently required outdoors. If the mask wearing guidelines change, we will let you know as soon as we know. We encourage people to follow CDC guidelines for outdoor events. Masks will be mandatory on all athlete and media shuttles for shuttle drivers and runners. ”
Hand washing stations will be available to customers throughout the site. All staff, exhibitors and volunteers will be encouraged to wash or sanitize their hands regularly. All exhibitors will be encouraged to have hand sanitizer in their stands and to clean and disinfect their stands frequently. Cashless payment methods or digital transactions for passes and merchandise are expected.
Sea Otter Classic enthusiasts have had mixed reactions to the new owner. Some have spoken on the cycling forums, cynical about the future of the event via corporate ownership versus local leadership and the potential increased registration fees.
Other cyclists have welcomed the change, citing new energy as the sport continues to evolve.
“The cycling industry is undergoing a transformation and Life Time is here to support it,” said Kimo Seymour, President of Life Time Media and Events. “The Sea Otter Classic is a premier event in the cycling industry, providing an unparalleled experience for athletes, consumers and industry partners. With Life Time’s focus on iconic brands that offer exceptional and unique opportunities, the Sea Otter Classic fits naturally into our ecosystem.
Yohannan, who hosted a few hundred participants in the event’s first year, presented the festival with various title sponsors and sometimes decent prizes for professional athletes.
Likewise, lean years have also happened, with token cash prizes and an increase in the event’s focus on amateur participation from age groups.
“I can confidently promise that in partnership with Life Time, the Sea Otter Classic will continue to deliver more of what our community now expects,” said Yohannan. “Steeper falls, higher jumps, harder races and more rides.”
After one of the fastest growing cycling disciplines, gravel events were due to start last year. The races are now scheduled for several hours from 7.40 a.m. on Sunday.
The course will start under the Sea Otter Bridge. Cycling will climb the infamous “corkscrew”, usually round 8 in motorsport events. The route will then progress over the trails and gravel roads of Fort Ord National Monument and continue through remote and previously unused monument territory.
Gravel races combine the endurance of road racing with negotiating rough terrain previously reserved for mountain biking or cyclocross. The discipline has gained in importance because it takes place on more scenic mixed-surface roads without vehicular traffic.
A route may consist of pavement, gravel roads, wide dirt fire trails, as well as dual and single track segments. The discipline is also called gravel or adventure riding.
Beyond the varied participation, the Sea Otter Classic is also a trade show. Dozens of bicycle manufacturers, clothing and accessories companies, and dealers will showcase their products and services.
Exhibitions, demonstrations, signing sessions, prize-giving and children’s entertainment are on the program throughout the festival.
Tickets, route maps, supplier details, parking information and other details are available on the website www.seaotterclassic.com.