Pros Return to Long Course, Amateurs: No License Required for Mountain Bike Races
The Sea Otter Classic is the largest cycling festival in the world, hosting 5 days of expo, Pro racing, amateur racing and fun rides. In 2012, the Classic will run April 19-22 at the Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California. Sweeping changes are on tap for the 2012 Sea Otter Classic.
“The essence of Sea Otter is the long cross country course,” says “Frosty” Jeff Frost, Director of Athlete Services for Sea Otter. “Many, many, many professional riders made the request the last two years, so bringing it back made perfect sense.”
Sea Otter is responding to riders and racers who pine about the old days of mountain bike racing, where courses were longer and the races more interesting and challenging.
“We think all the changes will improve the customer’s experience and continue to put Sea Otter in the forefront of North American cycling,” says “Frosty”.
In 2011, Epic Rides founder Todd Sadow set the bar high for mountain bike race promoters with the Whiskey Off Road, a 50 mile mountain bike race in Prescott, Arizona. In April 2012, Sadow offers $30,000 (split evenly between men and women) pushing the envelope even further with the biggest one-day prize purse in mountain bike history, in addition to providing an authentic mountain bike experience.Whiskey attracted over 1500 riders and racers in 2011, with more expected in 2012, as participation in the National series dwindles.
Alongside Epic Rides, many mountain bike stage races and endurance races of 50 miles or more are taking the limelight in mountain bike racing, taking up arms against the new status quo of US mountain bike racing.
And in the wake of Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski’s commentary in Velo News’ print edition, news of the big changes at Sea Otter make perfect sense. In recent years, the Sea Otter Classic followed UCI World Cup rules when it comes to course design. The Pro course went from a 20 mile loop to a short loop less than 5 kilometers. And according to Horgan-Kobelski’s commentary titled Gain the World Cup, lose your soul?, “… the new courses feel sterile and the racing faster but more predictable.” While the UCI and race promoters of even the US National Championships reason spectator-friendliness, the racers and spectators are the losers and the sport of mountain bike racing as a whole is a loser, losing its original caché.
In 2012, the Pros will return to the original long course and race again the same course as the amateurs. For the men it’s 2 laps around for a total of 40 miles, and one lap for the women. The race will no longer hold UCI sanctioning since the course is longer than the 5k – 9k race format, according to “Frosty”. That being said, the prize money will remain the same and the prize list will be published in the next 30 days.
Amateur mountain bike racers have even more to cheer about as the Sea Otter Classic will not require licenses to race. With amateurs flooding the long distance, non-license requiring events such as the Whiskey Off Road and the Leadville 100, it appears to be a good move on the part of Sea Otter organizers.
Mountain bike racing, it seems, is returning to its roots, with a little extra money on top.