Back in 1991, Rick Sutton and Frank Yohannan decided to create a major event for the Central Coast cycling community called the Laguna Seca Challenge. With a mountain bike cross-country race, a road race and a mountain bike dual slalom, the festival’s debut drew about 150 competitors and around 300 spectators. All in all, the Laguna Seca Challenge was a modest success.

In 1993, the Laguna Seca Challenge became the Sea Otter Classic. With an estimated 10,000 cyclists and 40,000 spectators projected to attend this year’s festival, the Sea Otter Classic is now considered to be the unofficial kickoff event for the North American cycling season.

Though Sutton admits that he is surprised by the event’s success, he believes that there are a few reasons why the Sea Otter has become so popular. Sutton believes that the event’s location—the world-class historic Laguna Seca Raceway—is one of the Sea Otter Classic’s main draws. “I think the venue is really suited to the event,” he says.

In addition, since the Sea Otter Classic is scheduled before the height of racing season, elite mountain bikers, road cyclists and BMX jumpers are able to attend. Sutton says that the festival is the only event other than the Olympics that brings together both internationally recognized cyclists and mountain-bike competitors.

With 25 competitions, here are a few events that should be very exciting for spectators. In addition, we have included a couple of events for those wanting to hop on their bikes for a ride.

Ticket info: $10/day, $20/four-day pass for all spectators 13 years and older. Free/children 12 years and younger, registered athletes and families accompanying registered athletes.

thursday 4.15

ELITE MOUNTAIN BIKE SUPER CROSS COUNTRY

Combining the best elements of road biking and mountain biking, the four-mile circuit for this event is made up of both dirt and paved surfaces. Women riders will compete for 75 minutes, while the men will be racing for 90 minutes. The good news for spectators is that this competition starts and ends on the Laguna Seca Raceway.

9am, women’s competition; 11am, men’s competition. Laguna Seca Raceway.

friday 4.16

LAGUNA SECA CIRCUIT RACE

This could be considered a cycling version of a NASCAR race. Male competitors will circle around the 2.25-mile racetrack 27 times, reaching a distance of 60 miles, while female cyclists will end up pedaling for 38 miles. Unlike Sunday’s Mountain Bike Cross-Country Race or the 100-mile Carmel-Salinas Valley Road Race, spectators will be privy to all the action at this event.

Noon, women’s competition; 3:30pm, men’s competition. Laguna Seca Raceway.

saturday 4.17

MOUNTAIN BIKE DUAL SLALOM PRO FINALS

As if it wasn’t enough to just race down a hill against your competitor, the Sea Otter’s Dual Slalom course features berms and jumps. This is one of the last dual slalom events in the world.

3pm, dual slalom course starts on the top of the hill and ends above the bleachers at turn 5 on the Laguna Seca Raceway.

DIRT JUMPING INVITATIONAL CONTEST

People just love it when riders pull off a flawless back flip or a huge air. Unfortunately, only landed jumps result in a score for this event, while good old-fashioned crashes receive no points.

After the dual slalom pro finals. By the finish of the dual slalom course.

NEW MOUNTAIN BIKE TOUR AND EPIC RIDE

Mountain biking is not just for professional riders who can easily ride for hours on end. Mountain biking is also for kids, parents with demanding jobs and anyone who enjoys being outside. All sorts of riders are invited to ride on a 15-mile or 50-mile ride through Monterey’s rolling Bureau of Land Management land. After working up an appetite, chow down on some barbecue while waiting to see if you won any prizes in the big raffle contest.

9am, outside turn 11 on the Laguna Seca Raceway. $45.

sunday 4.18

MOUNTAIN BIKE MOUNTAIN CROSS RACE PRO FINALS

The Sea Otter Classic’s official program describes Mountain Cross as “an exquisite blend of mountain biking, BMX and professional wrestling.” Watch as four riders race over jumps and through hairpin curves on this exciting 600-yard course.

1:30pm, between turn 7 and turn 8 of the Laguna Seca Raceway.

KID’S BIKE RODEO

A lot of children will probably be inspired to ride by the world-class athletes at the Sea Otter Classic. This event will give children 12 years and under the chance to learn important skills and ride AAA-approved courses.

11am, lawn near the main awards stage. Free.

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