By Thien Dinh

The annual Sea Otter Classic is just around the corner, which means all those miles you've spent preparing for the 2011 season is just about to pay off. The Gran Fondo ("Great Endurance") ride is a mass participation event that is sweeping North America, with several planned just for Northern California alone. Originating in Europe, the event is not a race, but slots in somewhere between a charity ride and an actual bicycle race. For some cyclists, it is an achievement just to cross the Gran Fondo finish line, while others enjoy lighthearted competition with friends during the picturesque ride. Riders of all levels ranging from pros to eighty year olds take part, registration for the Sea Otter Gran Fondo is open to anyone ages 12 and up.

Sea Otter is offering three routes this year, Carmel Valley - 96 miles, Coastal - 49.3 miles, and Mountain Bike - 20.2 miles. All routes are designed to be enjoyed with family, or with friends, whether they are old pals or friends newly made on the ride. The idea is to have fun in the company of others, while being surrounded by the beautiful vistas of Monterey County.

Registering for the event will include a four day festival pass for each participant. A Timing chip (not for competition, but simply to time yourself during the ride), tickets for bike and bag valet service, shower access, massage, lunch, and one adult beverage at Sierra Nevada's Beer & BBQ Garden. Every participant will also receive a Gran Fondo raffle ticket.

Several rest stops are planned for each of the three routes, refreshments, water, and cheerful volunteers will help you get to the finish line. Those choosing to ride the Carmel Valley Route will be refreshed with light snacks and beverages in the lovely settings of Zabala Vineyards and Los Laureles Lodge, along with two more remote stops, including at Cahoon Summit. Cyclists on the Coastal Route will enjoy snacks and beverages in Monterey, plus a smaller, more basic hydration stop near Pebble Beach. And the Mountain Bike Route will have it's own two refueling spots along the way.

Although this is not a race, some riders will still be able to pit themselves against the clock. All three routes will be timed -- for those looking to challenge themselves.

At the finish line, all riders will get a celebratory lunch. Post-ride shower trailers will be available for all, so you can be fresh when you show up to the special prize drawing that all participants are entered into taking place at 5.pm in the lunch tent. Prizes haven't been announced, but from what we hear, they should be spectacular!

Speaking of prizes, don't forget to swing by the MTBR & RoadBikeReview booth for our daily prize raffle giveaway. Times to be announced.

So get registered! And we'll see you out there at the Sea Otter Classic!

Saturday April 16, 2011
Carmel Valley Route starts at 7:00 a.m.
Coastal Route starts at 9:00 a.m.
Mountain Bike Route starts at 9:30 a.m

Route & Eleveation Maps