Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sea Otter Classic Gran Fondo 2015

#SeaOtterClassic turned out to be a great event for the whole family.  I did the 91 mile GranFondo while my wife and kids spent time at the show seeing cool bike-related stuff, riding bikes, tasting food, and getting schwag from vendors.

I was afraid they would find it boring and leave the event.  On the contrary, they liked Sea Otter Classic so much that I appeared to be the least enthusiastic one in the family about coming to this event next year.


The Gran Fondo route decision.  I went back and forth between the 50+ mile and 91 miles Gran Fondos and then decided to go with the longer one called Carmel Valley Route due to a more challenging climbing profile.

Bianchi Vertigo UltegraStart.  It was suggested that we arrive around 6:30am for a 7:35am start.  The parking is a little chaotic.  You park about a mile or so away from the start.  Then you have to either walk your bike through sand, gravel, and asphalt or carry it.

Riding it to the start line is almost impossible since there way too many people at narrow pathways walking their bikes.

Sand was everywhere by the time I made to the start line.  Good thing there was #WD40 booth that offered a free chain cleaning, advertising their new degreaser aerosol product.  It did a good job on the chain.  Followed by some chain oil, my #Bianchi Vertigo and I were ready to go.

43F was the temp at the start. While I had my Pearl Izumi convertible jacket that kept me somewhat warm, I did not bring full gloves and my fingers were freezing.

Tons of people were at the start line.  Good music, talk.  And then it was time to go!

We did a loop at Laguna Seca and started with a fast descent.

I overheard some woman saying that she felt like her fingers were in a freezer.  That's exactly the way I felt too.

Flat tires.  The descent apparently has generated tons of flat tires.  People were on the sidelines fixing flats -- more than during the rest of the ride.  Thanks to my Continental 4 Seasons Grand Prix tires - I did not have a single flat.

First Climb.  After about 10 long frozen minutes of descending, we came to a steep-looking climb.  It took a little while to get going, but it felt great and warmed everybody up.  No more frozen fingers.  It got only to 12% and it was fun to get the heartbeat going.

Long flat ride.  The next 37 miles or so were relatively flat with a slight climbing. Beautiful scenery, but nothing extraordinary. I skipped the first rest stop at 24 mile mark and stopped at the second one at 45 miles.

I have to admit -- I got passed by several groups.  I may have overdid with another metric century 7 days prior and did not get enough rest in between by riding and doing karate.  But I kept my pace knowing that there are big climbs coming.  And I leapfrogged a lot of people by skipping the first rest stop.

Vineyard Rest Stop.  It was a beautiful rest stop at #zabalavineyards.  Mountains.  Vineyards.  Sun.  Blue sky.  Lots of bikes.  Good food.  People being nice and friendly.  What else can you ask?

And then there was a bag service, where you could shed your leg and arm warmers, jackets and send them to the finish line.

Just in time, because the day had warmed up to about 70 degrees and we had a long climb ahead.
Rest stop at Sea Otter Granfondo


First Climb.  The first real climb started shortly after the winery rest stop.  First came rolling hills, followed by a steady climb - between 3% and 10% for about 20 miles.  It was one of the prettiest climbs I have done so far.  The scenery was just amazing.  And it got increasingly beautiful the higher you climbed.

There was a hydration stop 2 miles from the summit and a full rest stop at the summit.  I felt the full stop at the summit was kind of unnecessary since the climb was somewhat mellow and the quick stop 2 miles prior was good enough to rest and refill water bottles.

Fast Descent.  Then there was a pretty descent, followed by rolling hills.  The final rest stop was about 5 miles before the finish.  That was a good one, since the last 5 miles were the most challenging ones.

Climb #2.  It started almost immediately after the last rest stop.  You go up 900 feet in 2.5 miles with grades between 6% and 12%.  It's not a super challenging climb, but hitting it after 85 miles of riding makes it somewhat of a challenging and fun experience.

Sea Otter Classic century
Climb #3.  After a very fast descent, you feel you are almost there. You have a little over a mile to go when you see the 16% grade sign.

I think it's more mentally than physically challenging when you first see the sign, then see the climb, and then you see people getting off their bikes to push it up the hill.

I just thought of previous climbs and pushed through.  It's a moderate climb, not 16% all the time.  It's only 1 mile and it's nowhere as hard as Hicks Rd in Los Gatos.  But it was mentally tough!

I passed almost everybody I met on that climb and finished at Laguna Seca with my family greeting me at the finish line!

All in all, it was one of the best rides I have done.  Well organized, with good directions, decent food, nice people, pretty fast riders, and an atmosphere of a party at the end!

Strava profile is here.

Family Stuff.  While I was riding, my family was having a blast.  They had a bunch of goodies from vendors that were very nice to them.  My son did the #Specialized mountain ride for kids many times and pulled me there again after the ride.  I loved watching him ride, negotiating the bumps and turns, and having fun.  He even got a medal!  And his first road rash.



We stopped by several of my favorite vendors - Specialized, SRAM, Skratch, Chain Reaction Cycles, Mavic, and others.

It was a great family mini-vacation with an overnight stay in Marina.  We will try to come back next year.  Family insists on spending 2 or 3 nights next time!

And a bonus point: we bought my wife he first road bike today.  More on that in the future!

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