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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel correspondent
January 11, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

Cycling Events in Santa CruzJanuary means it’s time to plot your cycling plans for the upcoming year and make resolutions about finally getting fit or just getting stronger. Here’s a list of four major cycling events that are popular with Santa Cruz County riders and spectators. Mark your calendars and get ready to roll.

Surf City Cyclocross, Sunday, and Central Coast Cyclocross, Jan. 15

Many Santa Cruz cyclists traveled to Bend, Ore., last
month to compete at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships. But that signature event does not mark the end of the ‘cross season. There’s still plenty of mud to make cyclocross riders happy as they jump on and off their bikes, sprint up steep hills while shouldering their bikes, and leap over barriers in this hybrid form of bike racing.

For the Surf City Series, race No. 4 will take place Sunday at Harbor High in Santa Cruz, followed by the series’ final Jan. 23 at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville.

For the Central Coast Cyclocross Series, the final cyclocross races promise to be fast and furious. They are scheduled to be held at Fort Ord in Seaside and anyone can sign up to compete. There are events for juniors and beginners through advanced levels. Visit www.ncnca.org for information on both series.

Sea Otter Classic, April 14-17

The 21sth annual Sea Otter Classic, one of the biggest bicycling events in the United States, will draw hundreds of local cyclists to race, watch and work at the Laguna Seca Recreation
Area near Monterey. The festival features cycling stars from around the world, including former Olympians and national championship riders who compete in a variety of cycling disciplines: road race, circuit race, and criterium for the road cyclists and mountain bike events including
downhill, Super D, dual slalom, cross country and short track.

There is also a daily expo, where bicycle and related outdoors companies showcase their latest goods.

Returning this year is the Gran Fondo or “Big Ride” as it is known in Italy. Open to all categories of rider, the Gran Fondo is neither a race nor a century ride, yet it challenges cyclists to
push themselves against the clock and the elements. Scheduled for April 16, it will feature three supported ride distances: the Carmel Valley Route [96 miles], the Coastal Route [49.3], and new this year, the Mountain Bike Route [20.2 miles]. The mountain bike ride on Fort Ord trails will include short, sandy climbs, fast downhill sections and almost 20 miles of singletrack. Visit www.seaotterclassic.com for details.

Scotts Valley Grand Prix, May 15

While Santa Cruz County won’t host Amgen’s Tour of California this year, race promoter Mark Davis of Syzygy Sports remains enthusiastic about launching the Scotts Valley Grand Prix for a second year in a row. This year’s Scotts Valley Grand Prix [www.syzygysportsgrounp.com] will be combined with the Cat’s Hill Classic [www.catshill.org] to create an omnium.

Last year’s event featured a 1-mile [1.6-kilometer] circuit in the business district of Scotts Valley and included full road closure. Stay tuned for details of this year’s course and added
activities for kids.

Downieville Classic July 8-10

Known as a challenging race course, the Downieville Classic [www.downievilleclassic.com] offers a chance for both cross country and downhill mountain bike riders to strut their stuff. The small mountain town of Downieville comes alive with music, bike expos and cyclists everywhere you look for one weekend.

The cross country race is one of the few remaining point-to-point bicycle races in the United States. The 29-mile course follows a rugged “Gold Rush” era route that departs the mountain town of Sierra City [elevation 4,100 feet], climbs to the crest of the Sierra Nevada [elevation 7,100 feet], and then plunges 5,200 vertical feet into downtown Downieville. Best of all, it starts with a grueling, 8-mile climb.

The Downieville Downhill is the longest and most demanding downhill mountain bike race in the nation, dropping 5,000 vertical feet over 17 miles from Packer Saddle to Downieville. If you like the idea of doing both the cross country race on Saturday and the downhill on Sunday, register for the “All-Mountain” category. It’s so popular it often sells out.

This is just a sampling for the year. There’s Bike Week in May and lots of fun, non-competitive rides like the Strawberry Fields Forever Ride [May] and the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge [July]. Check with the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club for an events’ calendar
at www.santacruzcycling.org.
For more dates on mountain bike races [both downhill and cross country series] and road races, visit the website of the Northern California and Nevada Cycling Association at www.ncnca.org.

Karen Kefauver is a freelance sports and travel journalist based in Santa Cruz and an avid cyclist. She blogs about cycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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