Sea Otter Road Race (New course in 2017)
Promoter: Sea Otter
Course: There are many options at Fort Ord. The Sea Otter folks use a nice loop on Fort Ord and then turn off to a finishing climb. The two Strava Segments shown below are the Sea Otter lap and the finish climb. I’m ignoring the neutral section from Laguna Seca to the loop where the race officially starts.
Sea Otter Lap:
Course Description: This is a classic hilly road race with several fairly major climbs and a whole lot of rollers.
Road Surface: The road is in good condition.
Gearing: Make it easy on yourself and bring the big climbing gears. You aren’t going to win or lose this race because you do or don’t have an 11t cog. With the addition of the Barloy Canyon Wall, you might want to bring the 28 to make it easier to ride in the saddle during the early parts of the race and save energy.
Facilities: Everything you might ever need for your race is available at Laguna Seca during Sea Otter.
Weather: There have been some famous rain storms at Sea Otter, but they have moved the event a bit later in the year and that has seemed to make a difference. It can even be kind of hot if you’re lucky.
Feeding: The feed zone is on the Watkins Gate before the turn onto 8th Ave and they provide neutral feeds. Usually both water and whatever energy drink is sponsoring at that years race.
Rules Specific to this race: Most of the course should have a full road closure.
Race Advice: This is mostly a race of attrition. The climbs are hard enough to separate the chaff from the wheat, but not hard enough to shatter the field. There are two big obstacles on this course, the Barloy Canyon Wall just after the start of the lap and the rollers on Eucalyptus. The rolling hills throughout the course will make your legs hurt and get surprisingly large by the end of the race. You’re pretty much always going either up or down on this course.
This course might be more tactical than the previous version. With the wind coming from the west, the whole back half of the course goes into a block headwind. If a person or small group is away the riders behind may be very hesitant to put their nose to the wind to bring the group back while giving everybody else a free ride. It’s a lot of work out there in the break, but if the group is putzing around behind the gap may grow.
On the other side of the equation, if you are behind and want to close on the leaders you need to force a split to get a smaller group away that will work together. The most logical place is on the Barloy Canyon Wall. Every lap the field will stretch on the wall and start to split. Later in the race a smart and strong rider will attack at or over the top onto the false flat. That is where you can break the elastic and get a group away. It probably pays to be patient. You’re not likely to break the elastic on lap 2 or 3. It can be nerve wracking to watch the gap grow, but if they have been out there a while a fresher, committed group can bring back a lot of time in just one lap
You might get away with doing the drift on Barloy Canyon the first two or three laps, but after that you must be attentive and stay near the front or risk missing the move. Also, don’t get stuck too far back at the left turn onto Barloy, especially behind somebody who might open a gap on the tricky corner and make you chase to close as the riders ahead are attacking.
The finish hill is a pretty long slog and with tired legs it will be tough. Be careful though if you are in a small group as there tends to be a headwind that can take away some of the advantage that a strong climber might otherwise have. If there is a headwind, the climb is probably not going to be steep enough to just grind somebody off of your wheel unless you are a LOT stronger than them.
This course is really relentless. It’s always up and down and will slowly beat you up. You definitely can’t fake it here. You’ve got to have the legs to do well. By the way, I recommend this race highly.
Corrections and additions, please email me!