Sea Otter race tracks may seem lightweight as compared to, say, an EWS track. but the bottom line is that it's a level playing field. No, there isn't 8,000 feet of elevation gain, nor are there hour-long liaison stages that will crush your soul. But that's because this is the Sea Otter. It's serious racing, for sure, but at the same time, it's meant to be fun, and other than the poor bastard who blew a corner on the bottom of stage 3 right into a massive shrub of poison oak, I'd say that all the racers had a good time pinning it on tracks that give a nod to all aspects of MTB racing at Sea Otter: DH, XC, and Dual Slalom.
This year saw an exact repeat of last year's tracks, which was good, as racers had only 90 minutes of open training on stages 1 and 4 - the Sea Otter DH and Dual Slalom tracks - before it was go time. Stages 2 and 3, on the other hand, were non-technical, heavy pedal XC type tracks that demanded every last ounce of fitness to excel on; but racers could run as many laps as they felt were prudent the day prior to the Classic - ample time to dial in their lines.
It was obvious that Jared Graves came to win today. During practice, on his first run of the day, he seemed to be much faster than everyone else.
Marcelo Gutierrez was hoping to get on the box here at Sea Otter, but even though he went full gas, it wasn't good enough to get on the box.
Former Road Bike Action editor, Spencer Rathkamp is no stranger to dirt and his top 20 time today shows that he can put 100% effort down on both road and dirt.
Mr "Everything MTB" from Taiwan, Danny Chiang, getting loose on stage one. Chiang's the real deal, but finished 20th on the day.
Rachel Strait's been putting in some training time with Kyle Strait and it shows, with Strait airing it out whenever she could. No backflips or suicide no handers from Mrs Strait... yet. But the race season's young.
What could have been: Joanna Peterson ended up one second back behind Rae Morrison. That's a handful of strokes on a pedal heavy course. My guess is Peterson will have a rough time sleeping tonight.
Lining up to drop in: the view of the top of stage 2 from the midpoint of the slog out to stage 4.
Stage two was only a ten minute or so pedal from the bottom of the DH track, and racers were in position in short order. Giant's Marcelo Gutierrez may be known only as a DH racer but he's definitely not afraid to pedal. He was one of the first pro racers to drop in on the second stage of the Enduro.
Martin Maes putting the power down at the end of stage two, coming around Mark Scott on a sprint for the line at the end of the stage.
The kind of thing that makes Enduro racing so much fun: those quiet moments between stages when riders talk shit, kick it, and trade war stories. Martin Maes, Mark Scott, Sean Bell and Ryan Geiger taking it all in at the end of stage 2.
James Eves pulling the "local kid done good" card with a third place finish against some of the bigger guns out there racing enduro. Eves was only a second off Keene's time. As in one second off pace from tying Keene for second place.
With rain three out of four days leading up to the opening Sea Otter event, left the trails wet and muddy in many places, including the ridgeline of stage 2.
But lower down on the course, that water made for nothing short of brown pow.
This ain't the first rodeo here for the American Dream, and his mix of aggression and play during the various stages kept the fun factor high for him on the way to Keene's second place on the podium.
Despite rough outings in the first two EWS races of 2017, Anneke Beerten came alive at Sea Otter, and left no doubts in anyone's minds as to her level of fitness and health this year, finishing 31 seconds up on Rae Morrison.
Nathan Riddle cruised down from Ashland, OR to sweat it up a bit.
Josh Carlson had drivetrain issues almost from the start of stage one, and had to battle all day to get into a top ten position - no easy task on such a short race.
Jared Graves might not be racing gates all the time these days, but he's not lost a step there. The Specialized rider crushed the competition, finishing 26 seconds up on teammate and second place finisher, Curtis Keene. That's an eternity on such a short track - in DH terms, that's like Gwin finishing 6-7 seconds up on a 2:30 track. Unreal.
Rae Morrison going hard during stage 4 to claim that second step on the box.
Porsha Murdock may have been snowed in all winter long up in Bend, OR but today she showed that she kept a focus on training by claiming a podium finish.
Pro Men's Podium (L-R) MacKay Veniza (4), Curtis Keene (2), Jared Graves (1), James Eves (3), Mark Scott (5)
Pro Women's Enduro podium (L-R) Teal Stetson-Lee (4), Rae Morrison (2), Anneke Beerten (1), Joanna Peterson (3), and Porsha Murdock (5).