Monday, April 14, 2014

Team Mang Rocks the Sea Otter Classic!

Monterey, California.  Last year, only one of us (Eric) braved this classic gran fondo of a ride. A Gran Fondo is supposed to be an epic type of ride - extraordinary in that you remember it as a true riding accomplishment. This year, Team Mang descended to sunny California in numbers. While most of us attempted the 92 mile, 6,000 foot elevation gain ride, a few also opted to simply enjoy the 49 mile Monterey coastline option with a "minimal" 3,000 feet of climbing.  Either way, the team had loads of fun throughout the whole weekend.
We're official!
Team Mang at the SOC Bike Club area
Most of the Mangs and Alings arrived in the Monterey area early, enjoying the Sea Otter Classic bike-a-palooza festival at the Laguna Seca Raceway from Thursday thru Sunday. Over 400 exhibitors from bicycle,  component, clothing and accessory manufacturers, distributors, sponsors, etc. were on hand to show their wares and give out promotional material (like t-shirts, caps and water bottles). On top of that, the SOC is an official stop in the national race circuit - so all the pro mountain and cyclocross racers were there. It was a bike lover's heaven! Because we had a big enough representation, we were given a space for a tent in the bike club area and given privileged parking...but only next to the special parking for Subaru owners (the main sponsor). Oh well, we'll take it. 
Having a fun time at the festival!
At least we had a place to hang out during the day and a place to gather for the non-riders who were waiting for the finishers. That special status also put our name on the official Sea Otter sign boards all over the place.  A couple of us even won a major promotional prize, placing our team in the national spotlight as a major component manufacturer opted to take "promotional" pictures of them in their Team Mang and Aling jerseys.

Pre-ride tour of the Monterey Coastline (see video below)
Before everything, though, we did a pre-ride tour of the Monterey peninsula on Friday morning enjoying the mild coastline temperatures and nice smooth roads where drivers are bike-friendly and most of the roads are car-less (on the weekday).  Tandem teams Boni/Virna and Dondi/Arlene rode with Harry, Jay and Eric around the town racking up almost 1,400 feet of climbing over just 23 miles. Most of the course was flat but coming up from the beach level to the freeway level and past it was a good huffer. That gave them the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings and get warmed up for the next day's major rides. A stop at a coffee shop along the famous Monterey Bay trail was rewarding.

Saturday was the day of the ride and the guys and gals wasted no time getting ready - our vehicles were actually the first ones in the team parking lot at 6:30 AM.  Boni, Cris, Eric, Harry, Jay, Rene and Roland were joined by Josh and friends from H2Velo for the 92 mile Carmel Valley ride.  Jun and San Francisco Manger Kiko met up with Dondi and Arlene to do the more scenic Coastal route.  Everyone made their way to the Laguna Seca racetrack for the starting gun where the 92 mile Carmel Valley riders would start off first followed by the 49 mile Coastal riders.  The atmosphere was festive and fun as over 1800 riders got to the start line.
Here's the whole team at the raceway
And they're off! The course started with a quarter loop around the raceway and then exited out into the back roads with a few short climbs but generally heading downhill for both courses until the bottom of Barloy Canyon road. The 7 mile grades of 6% to 11% would also be the return route for the Coastal Riders.  At the end of that drop, the Coastal riders would turn left towards Monterey while the Carmel Valley riders would proceed up their first challenging hill towards Steinbeck country.
There were a few unfortunate incidents (nothing serious, though) along the way - AC/DC's tandem lost 5 chainring bolts at mile 1 (while still inside the raceway).  With the help of on board allen wrenches and zip ties, they McGyvered their way and got by on just the big chainring through the beginning climbs.  Fortunately, the general trajectory of the first half was downhill.  They were able to crawl their way into a local bike shop for repairs in downtown Monterey so that they could climb back for the second half of the ride.  Josh blew a tire - twice - going down the first hill on mile 2.  He had to walk back to the repair guys who swapped wheels with him temporarily because it would take too much time to do repairs. But because he was so far behind most of the Carmel Valley riders, he had to change his plans and opt for the Coastal ride instead.  All the Coastal riders finished together in a little over 5 hours. The Carmel Valley riders had their own version of fun, racing through the first half in the flat sections.  Eric, Boni and Cris flew towards the front and stayed there; this, in spite of Boni's difficulties with his lower gearing. But Jay, having dropped his water bottle and stopping to pick it up, together with Rene, Harry and Roland, opted to hang back to help each other out.  Their pacelining skills earned them the nickname "the strategic team" from the other riders who observed their speed when they got passed.  By all accounts, the climbs were brutal, specially within the last 3 miles when they were all exhausted and still had to face hills as steep as 16%!  The first Carmel Valley ride Mangers clocked in at just under 6 hours, just a bit behind those quick H2Veloers, while the back of the Mang pack checked in at just over 8 hours. 
SOC Finishers, both Carmel Valley and Coastal routes
The Sea Otter Classic is supposed to be a fun ride.  But it looks like more than the ride itself, it was the company - whether during the event or during our whole stay in Monterey was what made the event even more memorable.  We came back with more than just free water bottles and t-shirts from the festival - we came back with memories of fun times and better friendships, not just with the team but with other friends we met along the way.

Here's a video of our warm up ride (courtesy of Eric)!

And here's a video of the Coastal Riders' ride (thanks to Kiko):