For the men’s team, the Sea Otter Classic was the first ‘real’ race of the season. No disrespect to the mixture of spring series races that some of the guys took in before that, but Sea Otter was the first time we had a full squad out, had full race support from the dynamic duo of Steve and Evan, and the first time we had competed with racers outside of our little British Columbian bubble.
Sea Otter consists of three road races, a ‘cross race, a whole bunch of off-road events, and approximately 8-trillion vendors ranging from an assortment of obscure bike part vendors to, well, Trek. To make things even more interesting, it’s all housed within the famed Laguna Seca raceway. It’s the first time that the team has ever made it to the races in Monterey, California but, after witnessing the amazing spectacle that this compilation of events and vendors creates, I don’t think it will be the last.
We took to one small part of the racetrack for the first race, the Criterium. For just about all of us, this was the first criterium of the season, and, for myself, it was also the first race on my new bike; not typically the best strategy. In true TRT fashion, we attacked hard and attacked often. There was hardly a move up the road that didn't have at least one red Garneau kit in it. It wasn’t to be though, and with a few laps to go, the race had resigned itself to a bunch kick. Jay, with the help of Nic’s thundering lead-out guidance, sprinted to a spot just outside the top 10. More importantly, our guys shook the travel out of their legs, got used to racing again, and proved that they belong at this caliber of race.
On day two we took to the road just outside of the racetrack for a hilly road race. With plenty of climbing, plenty of heat, and plenty of other teams who had just come off racing Redlands, it promised to leg-shatteringly good time. The day’s break jumped off the front almost as soon as the race began. A few kilometres later, Nic road across the break and, for the next 60 kilometres or so, our team had the luxury of conserving as much energy as possible on this difficult course.
With three big laps of the circuit to go, the break was brought back together and almost immediately the shit hit the fan! Attacks came fast and heavy over the climb, and Dylan strong-armed his Emonda into a break of five. Dylan took his #AllGoNoSlow stickers to heart, and rode with this group for the rest of the race. Each lap the group rode away from him on the climb and each lap he gritted his teeth, hummed a verse of Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never”, and clawed them back on the flats. Luis Lemus may have won the race, but Dylan’s fifth place was simply the most impressive ride of the day.
The last race, the circuit race, is easily the most iconic of the bunch. It’s short, it’s fast, and oh, it’s on the famed Laguna Seca raceway. For those of you less familiar with race car driving (as am I), let’s just say the Laguna Seca is quite iconic and it’s most famous feature is a steep, banked downhill section called “The Corkscrew”. Unfortunately for flatland prairie-dwellers like me, the irrefutable laws of circuit racing state that every big downhill means an equally large uphill. In this case, immediately prior. Fortunately, the promise of carving down the Corkscrew on my Emonda was more than enough motivation to lug myself up every lap.
As fun as the race was to do, it didn't quite go to plan. After being active in the very early moves, our guys started to tire as the race-winning break began to splinter the peloton. With ten guys up the road Dylan, again channeling some sort of inner inability to give anything less than everything, tried to power across to the break. And wow, he got close. With one man against nine, Dylan closed the gap to 15 seconds and held it their for a painfully long time. He never made it and on the last lap a group of seven or eight other guys, including myself, made it up to him to challenge for the spots just outside of the top 10. In the end, I was 14th, and, after riding by himself for most of the race, Dylan was 19th.
We may not have had as many sparkling wins as the woman’s team, but we did come together as a team and set the groundwork for wins later in the season. We learned about each others tendencies and strengths in races. We added some valuable intensity to our pasty-white legs, and we got to eat Chipotle Burritos for five days in a row. To put it simply, the first races of the year are hard and, if Sea Otter was any sign, we should be absolutely flying by the time Nationals, Super Week, and Cascade roll around.
Of course, a huge thanks to Steve, Evan, and Chris Wilberg for taking care of us all weekend. For the plethora of volunteers who run and organize Sea Otter, and for a beautiful city of Monterey for hosting a bunch of spandex-clad skinny people. Monterey, we will see you again next season!