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Sea Otter Racing Chronicles (by Chuck Coyle)
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 3/25/2002
Sea Otter Racing Chronicles (by Chuck Coyle)

Although my recollections of last night’s post stage race antics are a bit on the fuzzy side (but my team mates told me I had a good time), I will try and remember how the last week panned out…..


As the ’02 cycling season is moving along my "to do" list of races as a pro is progressively getting shorter. I have just finished the infamous Sea Otter Classic and am happy to say that I survived (35th GC), which is more than over half the field can say. At first glance the race does not seem that hard; it is only 3 day’s long for god sake, how hard could it be?

The answer…….. very!

In cycling you always hear tales of what certain races are like such as how big a climb might be or how fast and dangerous a crit is but oftentimes words don’t do a race justice. This is certainly the case with the Sea Otter. I was told how gnarly the corkscrew on the Laguna Seca is and how insanely fast the crit would be. But you never can put into words what so much pain feels like.

My teammate Doug Z. described how hard the crit was when after the race he said, "Hey, Chuck, it’s a pretty easy life racing as a pro don’t ‘ya think?"

The race started on Thurs with an 18 mile ITT in the morning (with 2000’ of climbing) and a 2-hour crit in the afternoon. This is regarded by many as one of the hardest days of racing for the year. I knew that in order to be helpful to our GC guys for the entire stage race it would be important not to go too hard in the ITT. I rode a nice solid tempo and gave it a little stick on the final long climb before descending back onto the Laguna Seca racetrack. I felt great and would loved to have been able to go 110% I know I could have been at least 2-3 minutes faster. I tried to maintain a heart rate in the low 170’s when I normally time trial with it in the mid 180’s. I still somehow finished in the middle of the pack; I think a lot of guy’s must have soft-pedaled the course (going just hard enough not to get time cut).

With only a couple hours in-between events you barely have enough time to grab a bite to eat and a quick shower before it is time to chamois-up again and hit the road.

The crit course that afternoon was on beautiful Canary Row; it is a rectangle course with a short steep bump going up to the backside and a fast hard last corner before a windy 250-meter dash for the line. Everyone was telling me that positioning is everything; if you get a bad start it is impossible to move up. This could not have been truer. Our entire team had a solid start and on the second lap we had 3 guys in a break of 5 that included race leader and eventual overall winner, Chris Horner (Prime Alliance).

The move looked like it was going to stick but the Postal & Saturn boy’s teamed up and managed to bring the break back. When the break was finally absorbed the field already been widdled down to less than 50, it was one of the fastest races I have ever done.

Friday was a 100+ mile road race that had 2200’ of climbing per lap and it was raining sideways. My job was to stay at the front and cover any moves that we considered to be a threat. The main descent after the feed zone was quite the hair-raising experience. I clocked a max speed of over 60mph on roads that were slick as snot and strewn with those little annoying reflective ‘road turtles’. On the first trip down the descent I heard someone crash in one of the corners, I wouldn’t even wish that on my worst enemies.

I somehow managed to stay in the top 10 for the first 3 of 5 laps and ½ way through the third lap I flatted. Since I was a domestique this weekend when I flat the whole team doesn’t drop back to bridge me back to the main field, I am on my own. So I buried myself on the hills and tucked the descents, I finally made contact with the caravan and had a couple minutes to sit in before we had to face the climb for the fourth time, which somehow managed to grow longer and steeper every lap. The field was already down to less than 70 and it shattered this time up.

For the last lap I rotated through with Svein Tuft (Prime Alliance) and Vassili Davidenko (Navigators) just to finish the race.

The final day was sparse to say the least, only 85 riders made it to the start line. This was a cool race; we had to do 20 laps of the famous Laguna Seca racecourse. Let me tell you that when you see Superbikes on the TV going over the top of the hill at 140 mph it only looks like a bump in the road, when actually it is a veritable wall!

Henk Vogels (Mercury) slammed the climb from the gun and I was redlined just trying to hang on to his wheel. The descent after the climb was also insane; the "corkscrew" was single file and all out every time. If you gapped a wheel going over the top you had to put in a big effort just to try and get back in touch with the group.

That is what makes Kirk O’bees (Navigators) solo effort off the front even more Herculean. He managed to build up a 1’30" lead. We knew the move would never succeed but it was still an impressive display of power.

With 3 laps to go the group was down to 40ish and I was dangling on the back. A gapped opened in front of me and I could only just watch it get exponentially bigger. I decided to stick it out and rode in the last two laps solo.

All in all it was a good weekend, we got 2nd in the crit, a guy in the top 10 and 3rd in team GC.

Thurs: 75 miles 3000kj

Fri: 120 miles 5000kj

Sat: 55 miles 2500kj

Ride it like you stole it!


Chuck Coyle

(Coming soon:  Photos of Chuck and lots of Sea Otter action on our US News page.)

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