25 Years of the Sea Otter Classic: A Harper’s Index

25 Years of the Sea Otter Classic: A Harper’s Index*

MONTEREY, Calif. – 25 years ago the Laguna Seca Challenge zipped the first of thousands of zipties and hung its first foot of coursetape. This later became branded snowfencing extending six miles (2.7 times around the Laguna Seca Raceway) for the 2014 event. The inaugural event, renamed the “Sea Otter Classic” in 1993, had 150 percent more spectators than racers. From 1991 to 2014, Sea Otter racing participants increased by 2,743 percent. That first event pre-dated the web browser, Playstation (and consequently its Mountain Bike Adrenaline game), YouTube, tubeless tires, carbon fiber mountain bikes, disk brakes, aerial drones, and widespread mobile phone use with GPS navigation (which some people still shun).  It’s no surprise that “I am driving to Sea Otter right now. How do I get there?” is still one of the top Sea Otter Classic hotline questions of all time.

This year’s Sea Otter Classic takes place April 16-19 and the momentum is already building. If participation is pending, now’s the time to commit since an event like this only comes around once every 25 years.

Racing has always been central to the Sea Otter Classic. In order to stay competitive, innovative organizers created new events to sustain veterans, attract newcomers, and inspire curiosity. A pro mountain biker competing at Sea Otter in 2006 could race both the shortest (>4 min.) and longest (2.5+ hours) races of his/her entire season, while a self-defined road racer could try out downhill in the morning and still make it to the start of the road race in the afternoon.

The evolution of bicycle equipment and technology has found a home at Sea Otter.  Companies like SRAM have used the event to debut new products by taking advantage of Sea Otter’s timing, setting, and international crowds to reach a large audience in one place. Sea Otter attendees in prior years have seen previews of innovative SRAM products such as the X-Ray grip shifters (1993), ESP derailleur system (1995), and the sensational XX groupset (2009).

2015 marks Sea Otter’s 25th anniversary and to punctuate just how long that is in bike years, we’ve put together a list of relevant facts designed to show you just how far Sea Otter has come.

*The Harper’s Index was introduced by Harper’s Magazine in 1984 as “statistics arranged for thoughtful effect.” – Harper’s Magazine, in Wikipedia, retrieved January 21, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harper%27s_Magazine

Geoff Kabush raced his shortest and longest mountain bike races at Sea Otter in 2006.
(photo Gibsonpictures.com)

Sea Otter Classic, A Harper’s Index

Sports events like the Sea Otter Classic are the only initiatives to “do battle” at Fort Ord, which counted 15,000 resident soldiers when it was shut down in 1994.

Number of racers who descended upon Fort Ord to face their rivals in 1991: 350…in 2014: 9,600

Number of years multi-national mountain bike champion, Marla Streb, has attended Sea Otter: 20

Number of times Marla has entered a pro racing event at Sea Otter: 16

Span of Marla’s pro racing career: 17 years

First online story published by mtbr.com about the Sea Otter Classic: “Sea Otter Classic Results” in 1998

One of the muddiest races of Olympic mountain bike racer, Adam Craig’s, career: the 2006 Sea Otter Classic Short Track, which he won ahead of Jean-Christophe Péraud, who finished second (again) in the 2014 Tour de France

Number of Sea Otter Classic race starts in six different categories for Adam, who competed in his first Sea Otter as a junior in 1999: 37

Total race results that one of the founders and influencers of mountain biking, Keith Bontrager, has posted at Sea Otter: 2

Number of times Keith has been to Sea Otter in the last 25 years: 24

Crafted with Bontrager’s crown design, amount of travel on the first batch of RockShox RS-1 in 1989: a whopping 50 mm of bump-eating bounce

Year that RockShox debuted its longest-travel fork (the BoXXer) at Sea Otter: 1998

Year in which longtime Sea Otter sponsor SRAM acquired RockShox: 2002

Same year in which multi-national Canadian champ and Olympian, Lyne Bessette (of the mighty Saturn team), dominated the Sea Otter Classic road stage race: 2002

SRAM’s longest-racing star racer (and Bessette’s husband): Tim Johnson

Team with which Johnson tested SRAM’s new Force groupset at Sea Otter in 2005: Jittery Joe’s Number of team jerseys Tim Johnson has worn at Sea Otter during his pro career: 5

Number of individual jersey designs available at Primalwear.com: 300+

Least popular cycling kit color: skin tone

Amount of dollars in cash and in-kind trade that was donated through Primal’s Give Back Program in 2014: $1.3 Million

People who donated their time to volunteer at Sea Otter in 2014: 2,000

How long an average day lasts – from “o’dark thirty” in the morning until the daily staff recap meeting – for the 130 people who descend on Monterey to produce Sea Otter each year: 16 hours

This isn’t all. We’ll be sharing additional Sea Otter facts via our social media channels so stay tuned to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.