Thursday, April 28, 2011
Tara Wins Sea Otter
This years running of the Sea Otter Classic was April 14-17 in Monterey, CA. Sea Otter is a SPECTACLE!! At no other time in all year of being a bike racer, I have expereinced roadies and mtbers living in such harmony!! The race is centered around the Laguna Seca Race way. Which is surrounded by green sandy mountains. So literally, as you are being staged for your dirt race, right next to you are roadies killing it on the pavement! WILD (and very cool at the same time)!!
The expert race was on Friday. My race was one 20.2 mile course with almost 4000 feet of climbing on a combination of the FR/ DT/ ST and some pavement. I had no expectations heading into this race, I mean its Sea Otter after all and its where the big kids put it on the table and measure. I was just hoping for a respectable finish in the middle of the pack. One really neat thing about bigger races is taking the line with people from all over the country!
I love that people know Campmor! There was about 30 seconds to the start of my race and the announcer says "and we have Tara Walhart on the line, representing the east coast with Team Campmor!" I gave him 2 great big Jersey fist pumps for that!! Lol!
The race started on the Laguna Seca Speedway which was kinda cool- love that my old road racing skills still come in handy! I was able to settle into 3rd wheel on the speedway and just sit in as we went up a hill and made our way into the single track. I was still 3rd wheel as we hit the dirt, feeling ok, dealing with the short steep loose power climbs ok and feeling very happy that I was on Sue (my Racer X). I started to loose ground on the descent. The descents are different then back home, super fast and I still acquiring the skill set. At times they were off camber and hard packed- tight and FAST! Other times blind with deep sand pits in the turns (kinda like riding at Allaire!). The little bit of true ST on the course was fun! Tight and twisty with trees to play with and the only shade on the course! There were also some super steep descents that were just acres of sand and going down hill was more like surfing then riding, have to say that was FUN!
So the rhythm of the race we set for me, I would make up ground on the climbs and try to loose too much on the descents. Well I lost a little, I had been in 3rd for about half the race and I was passed by a women in gold. Now I was in 4th. There was a women leading the race in red and women in green in 2nd. I did not panic. The wm in gold was descending way faster then me, but I was still feeling ok and climbing ok so I get keep pluggin' away!
On a long ST climb called Goat Hill, I passed the wm in gold back, now I was back in 3rd. YAY! As we started to tackle the end of course- more and more hills to climb up were thrown at us. This was a good thing for me. The final climb to the finish was a 3 mile middle ring grinder- as we approached this climb, we were coming out of another long rolling ST climb, right before the end of the ST I caught the wm in green, now I was in 2nd! I thought, cool beans, I might have a chance to podium if I can get up this climb with enough of a gap not to get caught on the descent into the finish! And so I started to climb, I felt good! Found a good gear, tapped out a good pace and just went up, up , up!
The CX course finished on the top of the short track course. Narrow, bumpy, grassy, hard pack and OMG the ruts! Glad I didn't get victimized here, being at the end of the race and not seeing straight and all is a terrible time to toss it!
So, I crossed the finish line I thought, cool beans, I think I'm second! Super happy with my ride- stayed calm, didn't panic when I got gapped or caught- race my strengths...all good stuff! I never saw the wm in red. At the podium presentation, I was super happy to take the 2nd place spot. Here's where it gets interesting, Long story short, I received an email from the race promoters that the wm in red was not in my category, she mistakenly thought she raced on Friday when she was actually racing on Saturday in the Pro race! Ooopss!! So a correction was made to the results, that put me 1st!
When it all said in done....my no expectations for this race, just gonna ride, have fun and hope for respectable finish, found my on top of the podium! I never expected to win Sea Otter, so it was a sweet surprise. Even better that LBW was at Sea Otter as well on Friday and I got to share it with her!!
Oh, and its totally true, Sea Otter does not have one single rock in the course!