It’s always nice to spend some time at Specialized HQ out in Morgan Hill. It is a bit of a tradition to swing by the office the week of Sea Otter. We get to meet up with a bunch of the guys/gals we only see once or twice a year. We get to check out the new products coming down the pipe and of course we get to suffer on our MTBs on the famous Road Lunch Ride. Lucky for me some of the Latin American crew were in town and I got to meet up with Carlos Campos(Specialized Costa Rica) and The Mapache(Uruguay). Carlos takes amazing care of me at La Ruta and is a big reason I was able to win the race a few years ago and just make it to the finish line lately.
After a quick trip to the office it was off to Monterey to get ready for the SOC. It’s less then an hour drive from Morgan Hill to Laguna Seca but the weather is considerably different. Morgan Hill is warm and sunny where Monterey seems to be continually stuck in a cloud and about twenty degrees cooler. Still not bad for early April. It was great to have a good chunk of the team back together with Susi and my new teammate Franny fresh off the Cape Epic along with Christine and Werner(new soigner). Of course all the mechanics were in town along with Patty(Enduro ™/Mechanic) and the team Anika and Curtis. It wasn’t quite the whole team but more then Kate and I as of late.
The races went great since I won the STXC and Susi won the XC. The STXC was on the same course as last year, super fast and not very selective. The only thing to break the race up other then the racers were some gravel pits and 180 turns. I spent the first half of the race trying to break it apart and the second half waiting for the finish. I managed to jump across to Susi and Ettinger on the last lap and win the sprint. Who knew I could sprint? Must have been all those speed intervals Gord Fraser prescribed for me the past couple of weeks. Always awesome to get one of these winner’s Sea Otter!
The XC was finally back to the old style course with two big sixteen mile laps. I don’t know how long the laps were back in the day but I think it was pretty similar. This year they used a lot of pavement in the beginning and single track in the end. I think there was more of each then in the past but less dirt fire road. Either way the increase in the amount of pavement led to the increase in the size of the group. We would go hard in the single track and easy on the pavement so the group would go from seven or eight to fifteen or twenty on the first lap depending on how long we had been on the road.
By midway through the second lap we were a solid group of seven. The group would also split a bit on the single track but come back together on the road. Four minutes from the finish we were still a group of five but the toughest climb on the course was inside of those four minutes and Susi hit it on the front of the group. He upped the pace and Kabush couldn’t follow. The climb is single track so it’s hard to get around someone once they open a gap. I was sitting four wheels back and Finsty finally made it around Kabush halfway up the climb but Susi already had the gap. He hit the pavement with a clean set of wheels and was able to roll it in for the win with Finsty a few seconds back and myself sprinting with Kabush and Zandstra a few more seconds behind. I ended up forth and it was another great win for the team and a really fun race to be a part of. Group racing is pretty tense but makes it exciting for everyone involved.
I used the same bike for both races, S-Works Stumpjumper with S-Works 1.95 Renegade tires, 27 lbs in the front, 28 in the rear. The course is either hard pack or sand and I felt like those tires hooked up great.
I wonder what Cooper and Meg are doing right now….