With a backdrop of brilliant blue skies and lush green hills, hundreds of colorfully clad cyclists stood Saturday morning on the Laguna Seca Raceway track, awaiting the start of their 7 a.m. mountain bike tour. When the announcer said, "Go!" no one tried to sprint ahead. Instead, families cheered and friends waved to one another as the group rolled out together at a leisurely pace.
"We are here to have fun. We just want to be outside, work-out and laugh," said Kelly Crandall, 42, of Seaside, who was riding with her friend, Maureen Greeves, 39, of Ohio.
At Saturday's recreational mountain bike tour at Sea Otter Classic, the world's largest bicycling festival, mountain bike enthusiasts of all ages were eager to explore one of three routes: 10, 20 and 40 miles. This year's mountain bike tours featured new routes and included an exciting blend of wide fire roads and narrow twisting paths. I selected the 20-mile mountain bike tour because it was a glorious warm morning to bicycle and because I wanted to preview the course that the professional mountain bikers would race on Sunday.
During my mountain bike ride, which took nearly four hours, including breaks, I took time out to admire the scenery, snap pictures and talk to my fellow cyclists. While I was pedaling uphill, huffing and puffing, I caught up to a group of three cyclists who looked very relaxed as they tackled the steep climb. I learned that Pierre and Christina Vettier had come from Lyon, France, to participate in the Sea Otter Classic mountain bike tour with their brother, Patrick Sinnott, 30, of San Francisco.
"This is a great outing for our family," said Christina, 33, who regularly rides in the Alps. "It is beautiful here," added Pierre, 36.
At the rest stop, where I refueled on Clif bars and water, I met brothers Blair and David Kirk and their friend, Steven Hardy, who had set out to do the longest route, an epic 40-mile ride.
"It's an all-day adventure for us," said Hardy. For Darik Thunstrom, 12, and his dad, Erik Thunstrom, of Santa Cruz, a 10 mile tour was the perfect amount. "I have to save my legs to race cross-country mountain bike tomorrow," said Darik, who summed up the appeal of Sea Otter's celebration of cycling: "That's why I come to Sea Otter - to ride, to race, be with my friends and watch the pros."
About Sea Otter Classic LLC
The 16th Annual Sea Otter Classic is a four-day 'Celebration of Cycling' held April 6 - 9, 2006 at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, Monterey, California, USA. Considered the world's largest cycling festival, the event will host nearly 10,000 professional and amateur athletes and 50,000 fans. The Cypress Youth Fund is the Sea Otter Classic's philanthropic arm. The fund provides funding to organizations that benefit their communities in the areas of youth, sport, education, and environment. More information can be found at www.seaotterclassic.com, or by calling 800-218-8411.