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April 16, 2010

Santa Cruz Sentinel

By Karen Kefauver



Andrew Murray spent a couple of hours earlier this month helping people sign up for the Swanton Road Time Trial, a low-key, monthly event organized by his teammates on Team Santa Cruz.

When a fit-looking rider approached to register, it seemed like business as usual. The rider hadn’t brought a bike or helmet specially designed for time trial racing or done anything to make himself stand out. Then Murray, a competitive cyclist and long-time cycling fan, saw the man’s printed name and was surprised.

“Are you the Ned Overend?” he asked.

“I’m one of them,” the cyclist replied, with a smile. Then he prepared to race against 17 others in the short, individually timed, race down Swanton Road.

Overend is best known for capturing the world mountain bike championship title in 1990 and twice winning the Xterra world championships, a grueling, off-road triathlon, in 1998 and 1999. He was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1990 and the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 2001.

For the past three months, the living legend of mountain biking, nicknamed “Deadly Nedly” and his wife, Pam, have called Santa Cruz home. When they are not living in Soquel part of the year, they reside in Durango, Colo., Ned’s home of the past 30 years.

“Santa Cruz has great roads for road riding and great trails for mountain biking,” said Overend, who rides 10 to 14 hours a week, depending on his travel schedule.

One of his reasons for settling in Santa Cruz was its proximity to Specialized in Morgan Hill. Overend has worked with the company since 1988 and currently helps with researching, designing and testing products.

“There’s no better way to test high-end race products than in a race,” said Overend, who recently competed in a road and mountain bike race in the CCCX series in Monterey.

Overend has been spotted around town on the Saturday road rides in Santa Cruz, at the Swanton Road Time Trial and winning second place at the University Road Race at UC Santa Cruz last fall. Next, “The Lung,” as he is also known, will be competing at the 20th annual Sea Otter Classic, which continues today through Sunday at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey.

The four-day celebration of cycling, draws nearly 10,000 professional, amateur and recreational athletes and an estimated 50,000 spectators to a variety of road and mountain bike races and rides each year.

“What I really like about Sea Otter is it’s a celebration of the bike like no other events that I know,” Overend said. “It brings road racers and mountain bikers, downhillers and freeriders together — all these aspects of cycling in one place. It’s great for spectators.”

At Sea Otter, Overend will race against other high-caliber cyclists in today’s pro men’s road race. Later, he will provide high school students with cycling tips through the Interscholastic Mountain Biking Association. On Saturday, he will be a guest of honor when he joins recreational cyclists on a mountain bike tour sponsored by Specialized [see sidebar].

Overend will have lots of company from Santa Cruz at Sea Otter, as hundreds of locals race, shop and watch the action. Seasoned pros from Santa Cruz County, including twin brothers Andy and Ben Jacques-Maynes will compete alongside some of the world’s best athletes, including Olympic champions and current national champions.

Like at the Swanton Road Time Trial, Overend may not come in first. He will, however, always be a threat and always be welcome.

“I was glad to see him out there,” Murray said “He’s a nice and humble guy — and a phenomenal cyclist.”

Insider Tips
Five recommendations for enjoying the Sea Otter Classic

• Allow extra time for driving to the event due to traffic.
• Leave your dog at home. [They aren’t allowed].
• Dress in layers and bring rain and wind gear.
• Bring your bike [and lock] to get around after you arrive.
• Go watch an event you haven’t seen before.

— Karen Kefauver

Get Moving
Noncompetitive Sea Otter Classic activities

Specialized Mountain Bike Tour
9:30 a.m. Saturday
Ride the trails of the BLM Fort Ord public lands with Ned Overend and world 24-hour champion Rebecca Rusch. Riders can choose their pace on the scenic and hilly 10- or 20-mile loops, which combine singletrack and fire-road trails. The ride is followed by lunch at the Sea Otter Festival. It’s the same course the mountain bike pros will race Sunday. Kids must be 10 or older to participate. Helmets required. Registration is onsite only, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

The Gran Fondo
7 a.m. Saturday
The Gran Fondo [“Great Endurance”] is a mass-participation riding event that welcomes riders of all abilities. While some sections of a Gran Fondo can be competitive because they are timed, most of the ride is a tour. There are three routes to choose from — 100, 50 and 30 miles — that follow the Monterey Bay’s shoreline. Registration is onsite only, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

Yoga with Ryan Leech
7 a.m. today – Sunday
One of the best-known trials riders of the world, Ryan Leech of British Columbia returns to Sea Otter to wow audiences with his amazing bicycle stunts. His talent has been captured in many films and he has performed with Cirque du Soleil. New this year, in addition to his free shows [10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. today and Saturday and 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Sunday], Leech will lead free morning yoga classes, open to all levels of students. The classes will be held at the Chapparel Building in Campground B and will be in the vinyasa flow style, which is typically a more aerobic, faster-moving style of yoga than other forms which require holding poses for longer periods.

“Whether you’re racing, watching, working, exhibiting, or performing, the goal of this class is to charge you up so you’re feeling amazing for the day ahead–loose body, primed muscles, and a clean and clear mind,” Ryan says on his blog.

— Karen Kefauver

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