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Sea Otter Classic is Annual Rite of Spring for Local Cyclists

By Karen Kefauver - Sentinel correspondent
April 17, 2009
Link to Sentinel article

Sea Otter Classic Annual Event"I'll wait 'til the wind dies down," said Ryan Leech, still breathless from his last bike stunt at the Sea Otter Classic on Thursday afternoon at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey.

As the wind whipped, Leech, one of the world's best trials riders, perched on a platform five feet off the pavement. "I hope this time goes better. Last show, there were almost tears."

The crowd of adults and kids laughed and hoisted their cameras as he readied for one of many demontrations rides he will take this weekend. I held my breath as the lean and limber Canadian inched forward on his stunt bike, miraculously balancing, then riding across a rounded rail that was narrower than his knobby tires. He made it!

Watching Leech's show [which repeats today through Sunday] is one of many attractions at Sea Otter Classic, which started in 1991 as a mountain bike race. Nineteen years later, the four-day festival, featuring races and recreational rides for both mountain bikers and road riders, draws nearly 10,000 athletes and 50,000 spectators. I have been attending Sea Otter as a fan, mountain bike competitor and cycling journalist for the past 15 years. I always take my bike and my camera, watch races and shop at the massive vendor expo. I also visit the booths of our local bike companies, like Fox Racing Shox, Bell/Giro, and Santa Cruz Bikes, to name a few.

"The Sea Otter is the gateway to our cycling season," said Matthew Potter, co-owner of Spokesman Bicycles in downtown Santa Cruz with Wade Hall. "We see a big influx of riders, a lot of tourists and all the industry people. It's such a long-standing, big event."

Tomorrow at Sea Otter, I will be amongst dozens of locals racing one of the most popular events: the hilly, 19-mile cross country mountain bike course. I am nervous about my first race in years, but I know it will be good training for a 24-hour women's relay race I am signed up for in Cool in May.

If you go to Sea Otter, pack warm clothes and allow extra time for traffic. If you miss it, there's a full slate of cycling
events coming up in Santa Cruz including Bike to Work Week, May 12-17. Stay tuned to my monthly column for biking events and more in our slice of heaven for cyclists of all stripes.

Karen Kefauver has been riding road, mountain and cross bikes in Santa Cruz since 1993. Visit her Web site at karenkefauver.com, or contact her at sports@santacruzsentinel.com.

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