2006 Sea Otter (Friday)

The Sea Otter Classic is tons of fun (plenty of Saturday and Sunday events for those who haven't gone yet). It's all of the biking events you can imagine -- road circuit race, MTB endurance, MTB gravity -- all wrapped inside of the famous Laguna Seca raceway. I walked up the hill at the Rahal Straight to the top of the Corkscrew, which plunges riders 50 feet back down (course map). There I watched the Master 30+ and Master 40+ punish each other over the course of many, many laps. I also just barely caught the sight of Women's MTB World Champion Dahle-Flesja fly around the MTB time trial course.

As I walked over to the MTB amateur dual slalom finals, I was a bit more prepared and managed to snap a shot of Jean-Cristoph Peraud midway through his time trial in which he finished second (time trial results). Peraud won the overall in the MTB Omnium event as well as the opening Super CX stage.

Jean-Christoph Peraud-1

I stayed a bit at the dual slalom, which was pure crash entertainment. There were many photographers who were probabaly like me: waiting to get that shot of someone landing in the mud (the riders weren't cooperating with the spots I was choosing). I didn't think the course was very fair: the rain had pretty much made one of the runs a complete mudpit at one of the most difficult points. There was a three-second handicap for the more difficult course, which was fair if you managed to stay on your bike, less fair if you were one of the many people that ended up lying in the mud. The course marshals had to assist one of the riders with finding a shoe that he lost in the mud. The race was a good lesson on never giving up. There were plenty of riders who looked impossibly behind that won when the lead rider crashed. This is my favorite shot from the downhill, which I may end up submitting to the VeloNews contest:

Restart-1

The final event I watched was the MTB short track (19-29 beginners and 30+ beginners). The rain had been the cruelest to that course. One person referred to it as "soupy;" I thought of it as cement mixing. It was faster in many parts of the course to run with your bike then attempt to navigate the mud and taking photographs was easy because the riders were pretty much standing still. The race was torture on both the riders' bodies and their pocketbooks. After suffering for almost half an hour, Al finished with two broken derailers.

The weather on the day was beautiful, though it poured rain shortly after I left. I heard that day 1 was wretched and there was certainly evidence of that on the MTB courses, but Friday's weather was t-shirt weather, possibly the best day of weather we've had in a month.

The funniest moment on the day for me was explaining to Al's parents how many different fun events there were to watch from the road racing to the MTB. I mentioned that there's a crash every minute on the dual slalom course and, right on cue, a rider went flying over his handlebars trying to land a jump. The rider raised his fist in triumph afterwards, so I'm sure he's fine.

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