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By Karen Kefauver
December 30, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

Four Ways to Enjoy BicyclingThe long stretch of sunny days in December has many cyclists feeling fit rather than fat during this cold but clear holiday season. Regardless of how you might currently look in spandex cycling shorts or baggy mountain bike pants, now is the time to reflect on this year’s rides and plan your two-wheeled adventures for 2012.

Here in Spin City, I suggest gearing up for the new year with one of these three cycling-inspired plans. Mark your calendars for international bike events in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties so you can be part of the action, whether that means racing, riding, volunteering or spectating.

Tour of California 2012

The biggest news of the year for regional cyclists is the return of the Amgen Tour of California to Santa Cruz County in 2012. Thirteen cities were selected as participants in the country’s most prestigious road race — a 750-mile bike race that spans eight days, May 13-20.

The grueling test of endurance attracts elite professional teams and athletes from around the world. They will start the stage race in Santa Rosa and end in Los Angeles. Some will be forced to drop out due to exhaustion or injury, and others will vie for victory.

Santa Cruz County will host the finish of the second stage, which starts in San Francisco on May 14. The finish line location will be announced by the end of January, according to local TOC organizer Maura Noel.

A key difference for 2012 is that, while the Amgen Tour of California was hosted by the City of Santa Cruz the two previous years the race came through in 2009 and 2010, this year, the county is hosting instead. Local organizers continue to seek race sponsors and volunteers.

Details: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com and www.tourofcalifornia-santacruz.com.

Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival

Fat Tire enthusiasts are stoked about the return of the third annual Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival, April 14-15 in Aptos Village. A variety of mountain biking events and competitions that reflect the diversity of cycling styles in Santa Cruz County will be offered for both amateur- and professional-level riders. Popular events returning from last year include: the Specialized/Scotts Valley Cycle Sport Short Track, the 831 Jump Contest, Pump Track Pandemonium and skills clinics. Details are still coming together for new elements of the festival, including the Enduro Race, All Mountain Challenge and the Specialized/Scotts Valley Cycle Sport Kid’s Rodeo. Fox Racing Shox, based in Watsonville, stepped up this year as the title sponsor of the event, hosted by the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz.
Details: www.santacruzmountainbikefestival.com

Sea Otter Classic

One weekend after the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival, cycling fans will flock to the Sea Otter Classic. The world’s biggest bicycle festival is gearing up to celebrate its 22nd year, April 19-22, at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey.

Hundreds of locals participate, volunteer and watch the races, which range from beginner to pro levels in road biking, mountain biking [cross country, downhill, dual slalom, mountain cross, short track] as well as trials and special events for kids. The Sea Otter Classic also boasts a huge shopping expo with more than 300 vendors showcasing the latest cycling innovations. Not only can you shop for bargains there, the expo is known as the social hub for cycling industry folks, including many bike shops and manufacturers in Santa Cruz County.

New this year at Sea Otter: Cyclocross. The Sea Otter Cyclocross will take place Saturday afternoon, April 21, and will feature all men’s and women’s professional and amateur divisions, as well as single speed, messenger and industry cup races.

“During the last few years, cyclocross has grown with a cult-like fanaticism as a participatory and spectator sport,” said Frank Yohannan, president and CEO of the Sea Otter Classic. “It fits right in with the festival atmosphere and the celebration of everything cycling that makes up Sea Otter.”
Cyclocross joins Sea Otter’s other newer events, which include recreational options. There are three Gran Fondo routes: a 96-mile Carmel Valley route, a 50-mile coastal route, and a 20-mile mountain bike route.

Also new this year is the Sea Otter Classic Women’s Escape Weekend, March 2-4. Directed by Lorri Lee Lown, founder of Velo Girls, the inaugural Sea Otter camp will be a weekend filled with rides, clinics, seminars and opportunities to learn about nutrition and bike mechanics.

Trips for Kids, Santa Cruz

Established in April of this year through the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the local chapter of the national organization Trips for Kids provides disadvantaged, at-risk youth with an opportunity to learn mountain biking in a supportive environment. Spearheaded by local attorney and avid cyclist Allison Cruz, the group wants to expand from its monthly rides in order to serve more children.

“For many cyclists, getting out on the trails on a Saturday is a regular weekend activity, but for the kids in the program, getting on the bike, in nature, opens up new worlds,” said Melissa Cline, Trips for Kids treasurer.

Volunteers are needed to help lead rides and repair bikes, and more financial support is requested.
Details: www.tripsforkidssantacruz.org.

Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a sports and travel freelance journalist. She blogs weekly about bicycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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