Last weekend, for the first time ever in its 22 years, a cyclocross race was held at the Sea Otter Classic and the question that I asked a few of the competitors after the race was simply: was it good or bad to race cross in April? Does it make any sense?
“It’s cross it’s not supposed to make sense.” Georgia Gould (Luna) told podiuminsight with a laugh.
On one hand, it was hot, sunny and April. On the other hand, Richard Fries was on the mic announcing the race, making it seem, well, real. Fries roped in Tim Johnson, who was at the event for sponsor work, to assist.
“I think it was fun.” said Teal Stetson-Lee (Luna). “Obviously, we’re pretty fatigued, those of us who did the short track and cross country but I think it’s a great spectator sport. To have something like that at a venue as big as Sea Otter, why not? You can’t get stuck in that box of this is seasonal so therefore I can’t touch a cross bike until September, I just don’t buy that.”
Stetson-Lee finished second behind her teammate Gould. Katerina Nash took third for a Luna sweep of the podium. But only eight racers lined up for the women’s race which was held on the same day at the cross-country race and a day after the short track mountain bike event.
“It’s just a show. I was hoping for much bigger field, people chose not to come. It was real fun.” said Nash.
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Starting and ending on the racetrack, the course took advantage of the terrain around the Laguna Seca Lakebed to offer up a long straightaways, two sets of barriers, a couple short uphills, some technical corners, a gravel pit and a run-up. And, to the pleasure of the fans, the course meandered in the expo with one set of barriers right in front of the beer tent. A perfect spot for shenanigans. And shenanigans there were. While the front of the men’s race was going hard, the back was having serious fun, stopping for beverages and dollar handups. Heck, Gould even got a salad feed.
“You’re going so fast it’s hard to get a good handup. I got some dollars out there, I think I made four bucks. I think I like punched somebody, they were holding this dollar out, and I was like I’m going to grab it, I think I really punched him hard. I didn’t mean it.” said Mitch Hoke (Clif Bar Development).
Hoke added, “So I made it four dollars, it was worth it.”
Hoke was locked in a three-way battle for third place ultimately won by Craig Richey (Raleigh). Ben Berden (Raleigh) didn’t stop to enjoy the silliness to solo to the win.
“It’s difficult, I don’t know if it’s the beginning of the season of the end of the season so it’s hard.” said Berden, who added, “It was really nice. I’ve never been here so it was fun to be here.”
Second-place Aaron Schooler (H&R Block) laughed and replied, “Interesting, let’s put it that way.” when asked if it was good or bad to have a cross race in April. “It’s fun, it really changes it up and makes it more interesting. I hope more people come out and stay a little later.”
The consensus on racing cross in April seemed to be simply why not? It’s fun and maybe it will bring new fans to the sport.
“People are out here, it’s a good spectating thing for Sea Otter. Sea Otter needs to bring more races right through the venue. I think that aspect is good. I don’t know about doing cross-country this morning and doing this, I feel a little burnt.” said Hoke.
Schedule change for next year would certainly be a good idea.
“There’s a lot of potential here, I think so.” said Berden. Which leads to the question, what should be done to make it better? The Belgian replied with a laugh “Rain, mud.”
It might happen, Mother Nature has been known to throw some doozy storms in the past at Sea Otter.
The final word on the subject goes to Gould. “There were so many people out there, it was awesome, it was really fun. Everyone that didn’t do it, you totally missed out, sucka.”
Good or bad? What do you think?