Ah yes. The Sea Otter Classic Pro Cross-Country Race... otherwise known as the California National Championships World Cup Pro XC race. It's always a good time.
Like the DH and the enduro, the XC track appears to be a bit watered down as compared to, say, Mount St Anne. But appearances can be deceiving. Let's take the track stats for starters: 2.9 miles (just shy of 5km) of distance ain't no big thing, now, is it? And 373 feet (114m) of climbing over that distance isn't overly challenging, either. But stir in 6 laps for the ladies and 8 for the men, and things start to get real. Add in a wee bit of a rock garden, a semi sadistic sand patch half way up the climb up from the start/finish, and a few high speed, loose, off-camber corners, and shit gets genuinely real. Not legendary real ala Mt St Anne; but real enough to qualify the Sea Otter Classic California National Championships World Cup Pro XC race as no simple walk in the park.
It's those little rituals. Batty preps for the day.
Pre race jitters? Not with the Clif team. Katerina Nash and team manager Waldek with the high five.
Full tilt boogie right outta the gate for the hole shot. But there is no real hole shot for the single track at the Sea Otter. Instead, it's nearly a kilometer of full gas straight up a hill.
The Olympic Champ, Jenny Rissveds, was looking cool, calm, and collected.
Rissveds leading through the rock garden on the first lap.
Kate Courtney of Specialized marked Rissveds early in the race. Rissveds and Courtney would get away on lap two, forcing...
...Erin Huck to chase hard. Huck successfully latched onto the break and eventually parlayed that into a second place finish.
Katerina Nash driving the chase group.
Emily Batty was showing good form today and took fifth.
This section of slippery, off-camber nastiness brought to you by the local trail boss.
Catharine Pendrel sucking down fluids post race.
Women's Pro XC podium (L-R) : Haley Smith (4), Erin Huck (2), Kate Courtney (1), Jenny Rissveds (3), Emily Batty (5)
Nino Schurter and Sergio Mantecon getting ready to do battle.
Full gas with the World Champ in the mix.
The feed zone is always like some kind of wild ballet as riders re-hydrate and seek mechanical assistance, all at full race pace. Sometimes they stop for a wheel change and then its a choreographed chaos that makes Nascar look simple.
Nino took the lead early on in the race.
Schurter swapped leads a bit in the final laps with Anton Cooper, but for the most part, this was his race to lose, although Cooper definitely pushed him.
The off camber kitty litter was absolutely deadly; push too hard and you were going to crash; ride it too conservatively and you were going to lose time. A lot of time.
Geoff Kabush in a race to the beach.
Todd Wells took fourth place today. Not too shabby for a 40 year old.
Cameron Ivory on his way to fifth place.
Schurter boosting the rock garden. Pro XC racers with handling skills don't get nearly enough props. Nino, however, can whip a bike with a full XC post.
Schurter with a half bike length on Cooper
Men's Podium (L-R): Todd Wells (not shown; 4), Anton Cooper (2), Nino Schurter (1), Howard Grotts (3), Cameron Ivory (5)