Sea Otter with Elayna Caldwell

April 15 — 2020 | Santa Cruz, CA

Words and Images by: Elayna Caldwell, Juliana Bicycles General Manager

 

Usually, this week is Sea Otter week: my favorite week of the year. I love driving to the race and seeing the central coast of California, the green hills, the poppies and strawberry shacks. 

In 1994, I was a college student and an aspiring mountain bike racer. Mountain biking and mountain bike racing consumed me. Juli Furtado was my idol. I didn’t know her, I just watched her on ESPN and read about her in magazines. 

The Sea Otter Classic used to be held in March, and the weather was quite often completely terrible, with wind and sideways rain. Every year.

This is from 2012 Sea Otter. Jim Brown founded RadRacing - Kona Racing CX for juniors and is one of the greatest cycling friends I have known. He is now fighting lung cancer. Jim is Rad.

 

In the spring of 1994, I convinced my family and my MTB friends to go to the Sea Otter Classic. We camped in a motorhome at Laguna Seca. I was enjoying the spring sunshine in the campground and studying botany when the entire Ritchey team, including Thomas Frischknecht and Henrik Djernis, walked by and said hello. I was such a fangirl I could barely mouth the word ‘hi.’

As many racers over the years have done, I woke up to the sound of rain that Sunday for the XC race. Back then, the Sport racers had to race two laps of the 12-mile course. One of my favorite memories of mountain bike racing is my dad waiting for me in the rain for hours on the last hill of that race. 

Two bicycling legends, Juli Furtado and Leigh Donovan at 2014 Sea Otter. 

 

I raced many times at Sea Otter. When I started working in the bicycle industry, I enjoyed racing in the Industry Challenge, in which companies would field teams of four people — usually three men and a woman — and we would race the dirt criterium and the XC, and in later years the DH and XC. 

It’s been a few years since I’ve put on a race number myself, but I always enjoy watching the sport’s best kick off their seasons at the Sea Otter. I’ve seen names like Juli and Susan and Paola and Gunn-Rita and Kate and Leigh and Missy and Anne-Caro and Anneke and Mitch…the list is long. 

I have memories of dinners and film premieres and really late nights that quickly become mornings that come too early. There were years when shipments of product brochures and swag looked like they weren’t going to show up on time, and years when it seemed like we searched every store in Monterey for a warmer jacket one day, and went back the next day to get sunscreen.

 Frank Yohannan - otherwise known as Lieutenant Colonel Frank Yohannan. He is the owner of the Sea Otter and keeps it all going.

 

Every year, the Sea Otter is a time when all the bike people come together. There is lots of business going on. And whether you’re working in a booth or racing, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into getting to Sea Otter. But it’s all worth it, because the best part is the high-fives and the hugs and the I-love-yous. 

Nowadays, I do know Juli Furtado, and she is still my idol. I wish more than anything I could be driving down Highway 1 and turning off on highway 68 toward Laguna Seca and the Sea Otter Classic. And when we can all get together again, I’ll be there, because I can’t wait to give more high-fives and hugs. 

A huge thank you to Rick Sutton for founding the Sea Otter and for Frank Yohannan and crew who keep it going. 

Previous Next Post Links

Related Posts