The Sea Otter Classic is more than just a race. It’s an industry celebration of all things bikes. It’s a place where athletes and sponsors get to connect and collaborate. It’s a place where enduro, xc, road, dh, and gravel racers can all find a home under the same sponsor tent. And this year, for a select few riders, it marked the kick-off of the highly anticipated LifeTime Grand Prix.
As I stood in the start chute of the Fuego 80k marathon mountain bike race, I looked around me and was humbled to be surrounded by countless Olympians, national and even world champions. I was nervous to say the least, but as the countdown to racing began, I felt a moment of calm where I remembered I too was selected to be here, and I deserved to stand and race with these women.
The first mile of the 2 lap Fuego 80k course was on a wide dirt/sand path next to the Laguna Seca Raceway. Being at or toward the front for the first mile was going to be crucial to the outcome of the race as there was a pinch point that funnels into a 5 minute single-track descent. I unfortunately got caught up in some sand and made it to the singletrack in about 20th position. Over the next few miles I caught and passed a few riders, and settled in as a group of 4 with 3 other riders. We traded pulls and worked together for the first lap.
As we entered the second lap, our group whittled from 4 to 2 as we pushed the pace to make up some ground on a rider we could see ahead of us. With about 15 miles ago, we caught the rider ahead of us and our newly formed group of three rolled into the final climb in 12th place. The day was heating up as we climbed the final climb, and I had run out of water. The two girls with me pushed on and I fought with everything I had to maintain my overall position in 14th to the finish.
I finished off the day in 14th overall and 11th for the LifeTime Grand Prix. I was so blown away by the support and excitement brought by many of the Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24 sponsors. Excited to keep the momentum rolling for the next stop in the series, Unbound Gravel! - Melisa
Life Time Grand Prix Schedule