Rolf Prima athlete Emma Maaranen got the chance to race at the one of a kind Sea Otter Classic. See what she has to say about the race, the festival and more. 

So… how was it?

Awesome, just awesome!

With that being said, what was your favorite part?

Sea Otter is a giant bike festival where you can learn to set up a pack bike with Rebecca Rush, do morning yoga with trials rider Ryan Leach, sample unreleased waffle flavors, race a loaner eBike, spectate dual slalom, watch the DH’ers jump two cars in the campground late night, connect with your bike friends from all over the country, get turned onto a new bike thing you had no idea you needed, and celebrate how diverse and joyful the bike community really is.  I loved being a part of the festival, and racing was the icing on the cake.

What were you looking forward to most racing during the Sea Otter? And now that you’ve seen it (done it) did it live up to your expectations?

Sea Otter was the second stop on the US Cup circuit this year earning it a UCI HC rating (the only bigger race is the World Cup), so I knew the best of the best in the world would be there to lay down a blistering fast pace over the rolling hillside terrain.  This would be the largest and most talented women field I have ever raced in.  I was most excited to feel the World Cup pace, anticipate the team tactics, and see where I stacked up next to the greats.  Getting to race with over sixty pro women was a dream come true, so yeah – Sea Otter lived up to my expectations.

How was the training? I know you did a race the weekend before Sea Otter; did that change your approach for this race?

My early season training was adapted to record level snows in the Cascades; meaning I focused on building an endurance base ski touring and did intervals (speedy climbing) on my fat bike exploring snow mobile trails.  I have a new race bike (Trek Top Fuel 9.8) that I got familiar with on dirt the week before Sea Otter in Reno, NV (there are really awesome trails being built there by motivated cyclists – go check it out - really) on my way to SoCal for the US Cup at Bonelli.  Racing back to back weekends requires meticulous recovery.  On Sunday, as soon as I crossed the finish line of STXC at Bonelli my recovery began.  I spun my legs out and dropped my heart rate over forty five minutes while drinking Fluids cinnamon vanilla recovery mix.  I ate a protein packed dinner, lounged with my legs up, gently foam rolled my whole body and slept with compression tights on.  The next day I went for a mellow spin on the pedestrian paths through Orange, CA before driving to Santa Cruz.  After the long drive I explored the Santa Cruz oceanfront on bike being showed around by local Jim Gentes of Giro for a few hours to keep my legs loose. Tuesday I rode the Demo trails getting to know my bike on more technical terrain, Wednesdays rest day included a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Thursday I socially pre rode the Sea Otter course with some friends, and Friday I raced short track.  If I slowly warm up and cool down properly for Short Track, the effort acts as a tune-up for racing XC the next day; and again I follow my post-race recovery regime.

Think you’ll do it again next year?

Absolutely! 

How does Sea Otter differ from other races? What do you think makes it so special?

Sea Otter is not be the most challenging course on the Pro XC circuit, but with a large field strategy becomes key.  Getting a good position off the start line (I nailed it), being able to go around inevitable crashes on the first lap (I was not so lucky here), avoiding time trialing the long climb up the speedway in headwinds (I was 4 for 6), and executing passes when you (think you) understand your competitors strengths so you can stay ahead are all part of the game.  A racer with a road background and a team to work with would really excel here.  Sea Otter is a tactical race, and the short course/ multiple lap format makes it exciting for spectators to watch the race unfold and, in turn, the spectators made the race special for me.  At every turn on the course people were cheering and friendly rousing the riders by name.  It was fuel; I was not going to slack a moment when the crowd was watching and supporting my every move.  My only regret was not taking the ice cream cone hand-up from a spectator on my fifth lap through the venue; I wished for it’s coolness as I climbed the speedway a final time in eighty degree temps.  I have never felt like such a celebrity racing before – that was pretty cool.

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