By Geoff Drake
I’ve been able to do pretty well in local mountain bike races, so I figured it was time to do more of a national- level race: the Sea Otter. As of this year, mountain bike categories were changed to better parallel those on the road. So I’d be racing Category 1—how cool is that? I figured it was worth a try.
I work in Monterey, so I was able to pre-ride the course on Friday. This would be important, since we’d only be doing one lap and hence no opportunity to learn the course during the race itself. It was clear from my pre-ride, and my discussions with Jim, that it would be important to be in a good position once we hit the singletrack. Turns out, this was no problem—I was second through the first section, and then moved into first on the next section.
For the next half hour, another rider and I kept swapping the lead—with no one behind us, it was mano a mano. On a long fire road climb, I managed to get a good gap, then pass a few riders from the group ahead of us to try and get out of sight, out of mind. All was going to plan!
There were a number of very steep, technical, sandy descents. I made it through most of them by just letting the bike do the boogaloo beneath me and staying loose. But then, with an air of inevitability, I fixated on a big rut, the front end dropped in, and I did one of Geoff’s patented “flying W” excursions over the handlebars, arms and legs flailing.
It’s actually quite fun to go airborne over the handlebars in a mountain bike race. There is a sense of joy and freedom there. The landing almost always sucks, though. In this case, after I dusted myself off, I discovered my handlebar was twisted about 30 degrees.
No time to straighten them out, though, as my second-place friend was now in first and going up the road. So I just decided to use the handlebars as they were. It’s actually quite remarkable how you can reprogram your brain to pilot your bike toward Monterey while your handlebars point roughly toward Salinas.
We rode closely for a while, but eventually he pulled away on the technical stuff. It's possible I was a little rattled from my little off-trail excursion. I killed myself on the final climb to make up ground, but I never could catch him. Sooo…second place for me.
After the race I conducted an inventory of my body. It never ceases to amaze me how you can feel entirely whole after a mountain bike race, but then discover you have lost a quart of blood and one of your limbs is bent at an unnatural angle. I changed clothes, stemmed the bleeding as best I could and headed for the podium.
The guy who beat me was from Whistler, BC, where he runs a gym. His son won a medal, too. Awfully nice guy. We talked for a while. But in a just and righteous universe, I woulda wupped him.
There were redeeming factors. The guy from Los Angeles that received this huge build-up from the announcer at the starting line (“wins every race he enters, blah blah”)—well, we dropped him like a rock. I also came away with $100 worth of mountain bike tires.
And oh yes—trophy girls! I got kissed on both cheeks by a buxom blonde with lots of cleavage.
God, I love bike racing.