Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monterey Musings: Sea Otter

Well, I have nothing better to do.

It’s just after midnight., I did two rides today, I’m tired… and I’m awake. My wife is racing Ironman China, and I must stay up to track Donna’s progress. Steady as she goes thus far. The only downside: I have a 3:45 wake-up call for a 6 a.m. back to Carlsbad.

I don’t know why I do this to myself.

So before I post a nice Sea Otter Redux with some gallery photos, I thought I’d give a nickel tour of my weekend. Thursday: take photos. Friday: press launches. Saturday: fun stuff. Yes, today was certainly the best day; a morning road ride, an afternoon road ride, some cool cross country race spectating,

Friday I took part in a press launch of the newly-re-designed Zipp 303 (which you’ll learn more about in my official redux). The redesign is awesome, and will be more attractive to triathletes with a slightly deeper rim section, a fully-toroidal shape (providing greater brake modulation, and a MUCH wider rim width.

So wide, in fact, that Zipp now as a 700 x 23mm Tangente tire to complement the existing 19mm tire. Aerodynamically, the 23mm tire mates perfectly with the wheel.

Zipp invited select media out for a test ride of the new 303—we were the first to ride it beyond those pros who debuted it at the Paris-Roubaix and a few other classics in the last few weeks.

Apart from the wheels being absolutely silky, we headed out toward 17-mile drive. A light fog was beginning to lift, then finally burned away as we rode along the snaky road that butts up against the Pacific. Salty sea air, sea lions barking, waves crashing against the rocky shoreline… it was a pretty ride.

Along the way back, we happened along a lone local I recognized: pro triathlete Alexis Waddel-Smith, out for a cruisy ride. It was good to catch up with her, and great to hear she’ll be at Wildflower, her first race back after dealing with some injuries. Her pink dyed hair and ever-optimistic smile are the calling card for Alexis—I’m glad to know she’ll be there. She peeled off and we continued back to town.

At the expo at Laguna Seca Raceway, the Triathlete team (myself and new media manager Kurt Hoy) were busy doing interviews. Check our site for some cool videos interviews with Conrad Stoltz and Steve Larsen, as well as a look at the new Zipp 303 (available now) and the new SRAM R2C shifters, which are coming to market very soon.

In the afternoon was the pro cross-country short track race, so I grabbed my camera and shot a bit of that, with Melanie McQuaid and Conrad Stoltz representing Xterra. And representing it well. Mel finished on the lead lap taking ninth, and Conrad (who was jazzed to get a front-row call-up and thus a good starting hole shot) and finished 16th out of 74 athletes. Conrad was jazzed to make a start against a field of top pro cross-country racers.

He’ll get the shot again tomorrow, lining up against most of them in the cross country race, as well as against one Steve Larsen, who has been hitting the MTB circuit a bit this early season. Expect to see him making some Xterra appearances this season, perhaps a few 70.3s and maybe even an Ironman… see my interview with him coming soon.

What was cool about catching with with Larsen? He was with his son Massimo—who finished second in his cross-country race on Saturday. The education has begun…

After the short-track race and a sip of water, Stoltz, his girlfriend and fellow Xterra pro Amber Monforte and I headed out for part of the cross country loop. I got to ride the new, not-yet-available Specialized S-Works 29’er hardtail. I’d never ridden a 29-inch bike, and now I can see why Conrad was lobbying so intensely to get one. The thing is FAST—the bigger wheels just cruise over stuff with greater ease, to put things simply. I’m instantly a fan—I remember when writer Roy Wallack sent us a piece on 29ers years back, saying they would be the next big thing. I thought he was talking, as Mr. T said “jibba-jabba.” Well, he was right.

I was concerned the hardtail would buck me, but I managed to stay upright. With Conrad ahead and Amber behind, I was riding a bit on edge… but had a blast anyway. And it’s always great when you have a guy of Conrad’s caliber telling you to watch out for that poison oak “leaves of three, leave them be—I’d never heard that, thanks Conrad!

But more importantly, he totally saved me on the descent to the fireroad that took us back to the expo. Sandy washboard straight downhill. I would have white-knuckled and summarily put on a yard sale if he didn’t tell me to let the front brake go and allow the front tire to surf over the sand “the moment you hit the brakes, it dives into the sand and it’ll pitch all over.”

Sure enough, against my chicken-ass instinct to grab handfuls of brake, I let it ride… as best I could. And didn’t eat shit, remarkably—the front wheel slotted into tire ruts, but it surfed right through and over everything. Again, thanks Conrad. My skin, collarbone and back thank you, too. Thanks to both Conrad and Amber for letting me tag along for a fun easy loop.

Folks, if you’re an Xterra athlete and want to have a greater race-day experience, go to one of the clincs the athletes, like Conrad put on in the days leading up to the race. You will learn something technical, and it might be the one thing that keeps skin on your forearm. I grabbed a shot of the two with my handy iPhone as we did a climb back to expo that smarted of Nasty Grade at Wildflower... it just went on and on.
The evening closer: a quiet pizza dinner with Kurt and his family, and my VeloNews compatriots; editors Ben Delaney and Matt Pacocha, and shooter Brad Kaminski. Nothing like filling the belly with Hawaiian-style pizza after a dual-ride day.

Of course, the sheer quantity of grub also helps me to be sleepy. Maybe I have to find out how China ends—in the morning. For once, though, I'm leaving Otter happy about the weather. It started cold, but it got about perfect by the end of the weekend—a rarity for a festival that is typically drenched with rain. Stay tuned for a comprehensive gallery of goods I saw that triathletes will dig.


b said...

Sounds like a great time this year as always Jay at the Sea Otter...good fun! by chance have you heard anything on the specialized aero TT helmet?


tour jobs said...

Oh my. How i wish i could have a bike.