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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel correspondent
January 22, 2010
Link to Sentinel article

Sea Otter cycling eventEven stormy weather won’t slow down determined cyclists.

We keep training indoors or at least make plans for sunnier spring days.

January is the month of resolutions and a time when cyclists lay the groundwork for their training programs and select
bicycling events.

Ranging from beginner cyclists, who are learning the rules of the road, to downhill daredevils, who bomb down mountainsides, there are events locally and regionally for different cycling disciplines and skill levels. Here’s a list of five major cycling events that are popular with Santa Cruz County riders and spectators [in chronological order], so mark your 2010 calendars and get ready to roll.

Sea Otter Classic

April 15-18The 20th annual Sea Otter Classic is one of the world’s biggest bicycling events and one of my favorite places to shop, socialize and race — and report on biking.

Held at the Laguna Seca Recreation Area in Monterey, the festival attracts scores of local participants as well as cycling stars from around the world, including former Olympians and national championship riders.

In addition to the lineup of the road race, circuit race, and criterium for the road cyclists, there’s a full slate of mountain bike events, including downhill, Super D, dual slalom, cross country and short track. New for this year, the Sea Otter added Gran
Fondo and collegiate cycling categories. The Gran Fondo, or “Big Ride” as it’s known in Italy, is open to all riders. Neither a race, nor a century ride, the Gran Fondo challenges cyclists to push themselves against the clock and the elements.”It promises to be a great opportunity for recreational cyclists to get out and ride with friends,” said Frank Yohannan, president of the Sea Otter Classic.The Gran Fondo will feature three supported ride distances on April 17: a 28-mile coastal route, a 45-mile coastal route and a 100-mile inland route.

Amgen Tour of California

May16-23 Unlike last year, Santa Cruz cyclists probably won’t have to hold umbrellas and pro riders won’t be shivering in the cold when the Amgen Tour of California races into Santa Cruz on May 18.

For the second year in a row, the city has been selected to host the finish of Stage 3.

Thousands of spectators thronged Front Street last year in a February downpour to watch the best cyclists in the world duel it out. This year, it will start in San Francisco and end in Santa Cruz — hopefully under sunny skies.

Organizers boldly pushed the event date into the spring, creating a tough choice for professional cyclists, who typically
race in prestigious European races at that time.

Nevertheless, Lance Armstrong and defending TOC champion Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa are among the world’s elite cyclists who have committed to return to the multi-stage race. Great Western Bike Rally www.greatwesternbicyclerally.com May 28-31 The 46th Annual Great Western Bicycle Rally is a three-day bike event and ride on Memorial Day weekend at the fairgrounds of the Paso Robles event center. Featuring 27 rides varying in difficulty and distance, the GWBR is designed for cyclists of all levels, with an emphasis on family events.

It is primarily for road riders, but there are two guided mountain bike rides. Some of the most popular events are the
metric and century rides and the women’s ride. With rides ranging from 3-100 miles, the event attracts a mix of cyclists — new riders, club
riders, families, kids, and more experienced riders.

Typically, the GWBR does not attract road racers or other top athletes. There is friendly competition at the 3-mile hill
climb and 22-mile time trial. You can also sign up for a geocache ride: Caches are hidden and contain a log book for you to register your find. [Bring your own GPS.]

When I went, I camped at the fairgrounds and enjoyed the social events as well as the rides.

The Death Ride

www.deathride.com July 10. Recognized as one of the premier cycling events in the West and notorious amongst cyclists for selling out its spots
quickly, this is an endurance ride that I have not tackled.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Death Ride, which takes place in Alpine County. The event returns cyclists to the infamous five-pass course, including Monitor Pass [8,314′], Ebbetts Pass [8,730′], and Carson Pass [8,573′].

“The Death Ride was absolutely amazing and the hardest ride I’ve ever done,” said Santa Cruz resident Mary Straley. “I was definitely ready but it’s tough to be in the saddle 10.5 hours.” Straley completed the whole, grueling ride last year.

If you’re going to do it, “start training way in advance,” she advised.

Ending at Turtle Rock Park just north of Markleeville, the five pass ride includes 129 miles and 15,000+ feet of gut-busting climbing. There’s also the option of riding one, two, three or four passes.

Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge

www.santacruzcycling.org July 31The 12th annual Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge is designed to challenge riders on the steepest climbs in Santa Cruz County.

Starting at Scotts Valley High School, cyclists have options to ride a challenging metric century [65 miles] or a turbo-charged, full century [100 miles], although the route has yet to be finalized.

No matter the distance, an advantage to registering for this event is the fabulous lunch that is served to hungry cyclists afterwards. Advance registration is required for the SCMC and proceeds from it benefit the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club.

Event organizers also expect that the Jamison Creek Time Trial will return this year.

These five events are some of the biggest, but don’t forget Santa Cruz Bike to Work/School Day on May 20 and the Santa Cruz Classic Criterium on April 18.

For more dates on mountain bike races [both downhill and cross-country series] and road races, visit the Web site of the Northern California and Nevada Cycling Association at www.ncnca.org.

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

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