FIRST TIME AT SEA OTTER by Chuy Topete
Sea otter was a great experience for me. Actually that race wasn’t on my plan …. until 2 weeks before when I received a text from Ken. “SEA OTTER!! YOU WANT TO GO”? I respond with a VAMONOS (let’s go)!
Sea Otter is a HUGE bike festival held in Laguna Seca Raceway and the surrounding countryside near Monterey California. It is a week-long event with every type of bike race. We got to Sea Otter on Saturday around 2 pm. The first thing we did was check in to get our number plates and pre ride to see the course. Ken designed the ride taking us to the best and hardest parts of the course (we didn’t do the complete 28.5 miles course so we could be fresh to race the next day). We did a finish climb for the pre ride (2nd from the last climb) and Ken mention to me that there was a 4 miles until the finish line with a climb, that was not part of our pre ride… but I wanted to do it… so Randy and I decided to do the last 4 miles easy pace just to check the final part of the course. While I was doing the last 4 miles I visualize the race (don’t ask me how I did that) but somehow I saw myself on the race and having one of my opponents battling for a good position in that section of the course . We finished riding the last 4 miles, went to the car, told Ken that I like the last 4 miles some climbing and descending, was going to be a nice finish race.
Sunday… time for the race. I went to warm up by myself…got to the start line I saw around 20 rider at my class, so that make it more harder haha having to race against 19 more riders. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy race. The race start with a low pace. The first climb came and oh oh the first attack come along. I position in top ten with national champion Brian Scarborough and a racer from Argentina where putting the pace at that moment. We were climbing and descending really hard. A single track came and I was still in the top ten. It was kind of hard for me because I didn’t know the whole course and there were some points I didn’t know if I had to go harder or low my pace. I was only able to pass 2 guys. I saw that Brian and the Argentina guy just fly and went ahead from all of us and some guys decided to follow them. I saw a group of 4 riders that were working together so I try to get there wheel but they just went away from me, so I rode most of the course by myself. Try to get some wheels but there were too slow. I started passing riders from different classes and was getting frustrated because I didn’t see none of the rider from my class for about 20 miles. Finally, I was about to start the 2nd to the last climb (around mile 23 of 28.5) and I saw one rider in my class… I pass him!! Then I saw most of them, some of them were starting the climb and there was one already half up the 10 minute climb. I knew it was my opportunity and last chance to pass them (I had some gas left)!! I start passing one by one. There was one that try to get my wheel, and I just got out of my saddle but he couldn’t respond!! Finally I catch the last guy I could see, almost at the end of the climb. I knew he was from my class because I recognized his blue S-Works. I passed him and he ask me what category are you ??? I respond truthful “30+ Cat 1”!! Again I got out of my saddle and sprint the last part of the climb and did the same thing with a short climb before getting to the descent of the last 4 miles…. I open a good gap!!
At that point I guessed I was in top 5 (I had lost the count). I decided to keep pushing hard the last 4 miles…passing riders, I was looking at their legs to see what class they were in but I didn’t see no 30+ Cat 1. Then, just about 1/2 mile from the finish line my chain got dropped!!! I don’t know how that happen! I was frustrated and couldn’t get the chain back and it took me like 30/40 seconds but I finally put back my chain. Now I saw the rider with the blue S-Works like 6 bike lengths away from me. So I got back to my bike and gave everything I had left on the last ½ mile. I got to the pavement of the Laguna Seca racetrack near the finish line. I looked back but I didn’t see the guy. Finally I pass the finish line!! At that moment I didn’t really know how I did. I just cooled down and went back to the finish line where I saw some of my opponents. So I decided to introduce myself and tell them was a great race. One of them ask me how I did!! I told him I don’t know probably top 5…and another guy said “did you pass the guy with the blue S-Works? I said yes!!! “So you got 3rd place…we were trying to catch him.” But I didn’t get to excited until I see the results. I went to see the result sheet and yes, I finished 3rd place!!!
It was a great experience for me getting a podium in my first time being in Sea Otter and how the race came out to me, as I planned it and visualize it the day before in the pre-ride!!! Thanks to Ken and Bob. It was a great experience too, being with two pro riders, I learn new things!!!!
I want to congratulate my team mates who also raced Sea Otter:
Rhonda Geiszler got 2nd place in Cat 1 women 50+.
In Cat 1 men 55-59, Ken Winston got 3rd place, Dennis Mudd finished in 4th place, and Greg Fenton pulled off with back pain after running in 3rd place earlier in the race.
In Cat 1 men 60-64, Randy Liechty won 1st place and Bob Wilcox finished in 5th place.