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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel Correspondent
April 1, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

April Cycling Festivals Santa Cruz and MontereyTrails are slowly drying, roads are being cleared, and cyclists are welcoming spring sunshine and enjoying more daylight hours to ride, spinning into better shape for some big events in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties this month.

For starters, mark your calendars for April 17 to race, volunteer or watch the action at the 43rd annual Santa Cruz Classic Criterium, better known as the “Beach Hill Crit.” The longest-running bike event in Santa Cruz will have $2,000 at stake as road bikers, including amateurs and pros, go round and round the .9-mile loop that includes a hairpin turn on Beach Hill.

Here’s the scoop on what’s new with two other popular cycling events, the Sea Otter Classic and the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival:

Sea Otter Classic

The 21st annual event, one of the biggest bicycle festivals in the world, is expected to attract 8,000 athletes and 50,000 race fans and bicycle enthusiasts during its four-day run. Every year, hundreds of Santa Cruz County residents participate in varying ways. I’ve attended this event every year since 1994 and am especially excited about two new things: the mountain bike Gran Fondo and ladies’ activities.

Last year’s debut of the Gran Fondo road event went so well that a Gran Fondo mountain bike route has been added this year.

Gran Fondo, meaning “great endurance,” is a mass-participation cycling event, not a race. Falling somewhere between a relaxed charity ride, tour and an actual race, the Gran Fondos inspire some cyclists to sweat just to cross the finish line, while others enjoy lighthearted competition with friends. Riders of all capabilities can register for any of the three routes — the Carmel Valley route [96 miles], the coastal route [49.3 miles] and the mountain bike route [20.2 miles].

The Gran Fondo courses will be timed, pitting you against the elements and the clock. I’m going to try the mountain bike route and see what happens.

Also new this year is a day of women’s events. Coordinated by Lorri Lee Lown, founder of Velo Girls, a varied slate of free events is designed to increase the involvement of women and girls in bicycling April 17. Activities include a women-only road ride, a mountain bike skills clinic, a bicycle fit session, a class on bike maintenance and cleaning and a nutrition seminar. In addition, there is a 90-minute panel discussion with some key women in the industry.

I have volunteered to moderate this group. Following the panel, at 2 p.m., there’s a wine and chocolate reception — a sweet way to wrap up the final day of Sea Otter Classic.

Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival

The Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz is pumping up the second annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival to a new level this year with a packed weekend schedule at the Aptos Pump Track and Post Office Dirt Jump Park in Aptos Village.

The festival encourages riders of all abilities to participate. It will include a mix of competition, fun rides, skills clinics and industry demos. There are jump contests and short-track races, endurance cross country rides and Soquel Demo Forest shuttle rides. Beginners can hone their dirt skills with clinics focusing on bike handling and pump track skills.

“Our goal is to celebrate mountain biking in Santa Cruz County,” said MBOSC President Mark Davidson. “In this festival, we bring riders together, to participate and spectate in competitive and recreational dirt events. We focus on an active outdoor lifestyle in a world class mountain biking destination and our vibrant cycling industry in Santa Cruz County.”

Proceeds will be used to create a permanent bike park in Aptos.

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