Sea Otter Classic 2023 Fuego, La Gravilla, et al

I spoke to a few gravel racers last year that complained the course was too hard., they basically ran the XC course and started an hour before the XC waves…I ran into many gravel guys way over their heads on single track. I complained to the race director that they needed to run the gravel race on a different day or on a different course. If they didnt change it I was going to skip it this year…the course was a total cluster.

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Well it’s on a Friday this year so that’s good… but it looks like the course is nearly the same as the xc course but skips 50 North and heads down the road. What is crazy is they actually add some singletrack off crescent buff but but then skip the singletrack in the xc race to stay on the fire road. I’m sure pros can handle it but couch canyon, 82 and a few others would be sketch on a gravel bike in my opinion for a participation event like sea otter. Can you ride a mountain bike in this race?

Seriously… why even do this event with this course? If you are riding 65 miles might as well do the XL cross country race. There’s good gravel out there but you’d need to do loops or go out on county, CSUMB land which may be permit issues. But it seems pointless to have a gravel race the same as an xc race.

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Well they are doing both and wave starts for each age group in all XC and Gravel races.

IMHO this is like the Rock Cobbler in that there are some sections where a Gravel bike IS the right bike and other sections where an XC bike is the right bike.

I’m just asking myself if the sections that are better on a gravel bike are long enough that I personally couldn’t make it up on the rutted technical bits on the XC bike or that my XC bike wouldn’t leave me less beat up and better equipped to face lap 2.

That said, both bikes weigh about the same and have droppers, so that part is a wash. MTB has full bounce, less aero, smaller water bottle capacity (2x500ml vs 2x800), wider tires (Nanos are my tire of choice for the course in a 53mm vs 40mm)

I’m leaning towards the right tool for the job over “the spirit of gravel”

Well in the course talk they did say they might remove Couch from the route. Either way I’m coming down Thursday and I’m bringing both my gravel and XC bike. If they cut couch out, that might be enough for me to swap from XC to Gravel.

Im bummed that due to complaints of many female racers they are now running them first in XC on sunday then waiting an hour before they run the men…usually we go off before 8am now my group goes off at 11:10…makes for a long day to drive 6+ hours back to Reno after the race.

So skipping Couch Canyon on the first lap of the Gravel race. Hmmm

I was hoping this was mistake, and they would fix it… guess not. We are also from Reno, have 2 kids in Reno devo, by the time we finish, hopefully eat lunch pack up the camper and start heading back we are going to be on pace for a very late night.

Nope…bunch of female racers petitioned to get to start before the men because the faster racers were running into the slower men and getting held up. I’ve been racing sea otter since 2013 and that has always been a problem. Its just the way it is there. I ended up taking monday off so if we get home late it wont really matter.

And faster riders of older age groups pile up behind slower riders in other age groups… And last year MTB riders were stuck behind gravel riders (who they put on the XC course). As you said it is just the way it is there.

That said a rotation of who starts first is fair and should have been implemented a long time ago. However in years you are a later start it is my understanding anyone can sign up for the pro division and start before the age groupers. So a fast woman can go before the age-group men every year and vise versa.

Yep…it was better when USAC ran it…CAT1 started first and there was less bunching up. But they always seemed to start tandems first…evey year I would catch a tandem on a section of single track…really hard for them to stop and let you by, you just need to aggresively pass them. Last year I must have lost 10+ minutes to being held up by gravel riders on dh single track or a freight train of slow riders on a singletrack climb. Im hoping the 5 min staggered starts and 10yr age groups will help this year or it may be my last sea otter.


Since they stopped being USAC sanctioned, the racing events seem to have dropped a bit in quality -road too. Road had standard age categories in addition to your USAC category and XC felt like 2-3 year brackets in the larger fields. I guess seeing 130+ riders in a single field dice it up on the racetrack is fun to watch.

The Fuego still starts on the track this year but you do the entire paved climb to just before the corkscrew descent before dropping into the single track. Last year, it was only the first half of the climb so things were still pretty bunched up at the gate.

Warning: The first singletrack descent has one section about a mile from the start where water has eroded a central channel that felt like about 12" deep at its deepest. A few inches rideable on either side of it. I expect there to be some bodies scattered about at that spot.

Couch Canyon (Trail 47) has a nice oh 2 1/2" / 63mm wide rut right in the middle of it in a LOT of places. Glad that the Gravel race is skipping it on the first lap, but yes there will still be bodies of folks that blew it out on lap 1 and don’t have the mental energy to make smart decisions on lap 2.

I’m hoping 45mm Ramblers at 28psi with tire liners will be enough to survive the gravel race. Also dropper is a MUST HAVE with all the sketchy loose over hard descents.

As far as dropper - I prerode the Fugeo course last weekend with the same 29er hardtail and high post I’ve raced on for the last 5 years and it was manageable. There was some sketch but no big drops or rock gardens where you really need to get back. But it’s a MTB with 2.4/2.2s, not a gravel bike with drop bars.

While I was riding, I noticed they changed the signs so the return leg of the Fuego adds some singletrack sections and more water crossings. For a mile or two, it did not match the course provided on the website that I had in my Garmin. This leaves some opportunities to pull a Rosie Ruiz if someone follows the navigation file on their Garmin instead of the signs.

Webdev511, Are those Ralph / Ray 2.25 or 2.35 tires? Just reference for size, thanks.

Which Flavor of Fuego were the changes for XC or XL? Either way I hope they update the posted route. The GPX for XL and Gravilla also still had some turns on to trails that haven’t existed for years.

2.25 where what I was running 26 psi F / 29 rear as I’m Clydesdale with kit and osprey

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TBH, I was only looking for the Fuego (40K) signs but I seem to recall that the post had the XL and Gravila signs on there too. It was maybe a mile loop west of Addington.

The course for the XC course (actually closer to 50k) now runs Trail 14 and up 18 rather than up Addington and trail 17 per the map.

No, you’re not wrong, Gravilla IS going there, just not until lap 2. IMHO it should be skipped on lap 1 unless they can add at least a couple more miles of fire road before it chokes off. Gravilla shouldn’t be using it at all, but the course creator has been doing it for so long I don’t think he wants to cut it out. IMHO if you want to do Couch, you should enter an XC race, if you want to run fire roads and double track, then Gravel.


Also from a friend that’s camping out at the track.

The entire “P” camping section is flooded/super damp/ uncampable so they’re trying to figure out where to move people. Volunteer trying to do sign in of campers has no info on where to put people.

Volunteers make these things happen, but boy do they get handed a crap sandwich from time to time.

FYI it was hot on course for the Gravel race last Friday.

248 Started 124 finished. I made the last climb on the bike both laps, so that’s something. Cramped at mile 20 (was behind on hydration) and ended up riding alone for a good 70% of the race. SUPER hard to stay on pace with just the head unit prodding you along.

Tough course on a gravel bike! And the 8-ish miles of climbing at the end is brutal (and you did it twice). Well done!

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